Watch out for this supermarket wheeze

trolley in supermarket on pale blurry background

trolley in supermarket on pale blurry backgroundI’ve often wondered whether my favourite food items are getting smaller. When I was a child, chocolate bars seemed enormous and a bag of crisps seemed to go on forever.

I put that down to the fact that I was smaller back then – so the food looked bigger. But it turns out it’s not all in my head. We show you how to fight back against shrinking groceries!

Are our groceries really shrinking?

Over the last few years, plenty of evidence has emerged showing that food producers are making products smaller – but keeping prices the same.

US consumers were among the first to pick up on the trend, which became known as the Grocery Shrink Ray. And in 2009, Mars admitted that it had shrunk its Mars and Snickers bars by more than 7%, even though the price remained unchanged.

Then, earlier this year, a change in the size of Cathedral City cheese packs triggered a row between the producer and Asda. The supermarket giant refused to stock some 350g packs (down from 400g) because it was unwilling to go along with the ‘subterfuge’.

Why is it happening?

Some food producers insist cost-cutting measures like these are necessary, because commodity prices have risen. The gas needed for transportation has gone up in price, as have many of the ingredients needed to make the products.

Other manufacturers tell us they’re reducing the size of treats (like chocolate) to help fight the obesity crisis. However, there are many reports of non-food items (like toilet cleaner) being re-sized in the same way!

Many consumers suspect it’s simply a sneaky ruse to increase profit margins.

What can we do about it?

If you have children to feed, you probably operate on a pretty strict budget already. Finding out a pack of sausages will no longer feed the whole family is the last thing you need!

To dodge the Grocery Shrink Ray and find good value items, you need to keep your eyes open for the following tricky sales tactics:

1. Misleading packaging

Many manufacturers are using the same size packaging, and just putting less food inside it. If in doubt, check the weight of the product as well as its size. And be wary of packaging filled with a lot of air!

2. 3 for 2 offers that aren’t worth it

Don’t assume that all 3 for 2 deals are good value. Sometimes bulk offers are used to disguise small portion sizes or individual over-pricing.

3. Displaying weight in a different way

Checking the weight on products isn’t always as easy as it sounds. To hide reductions in size, some manufacturers have altered the way product weight is displayed.

For example, they may tell you the weight of an individual sausage, rather than the total weight of the pack.

Alternatively, they might describe an item by volume instead of weight, to disguise the fact that the contents are now less dense.

Do independent research

If in doubt, try to buy unpackaged items (like fruit and vegetables) and weigh them yourself. At least that way you’ll know exactly what you’re getting!

And to bring down the cost of your grocery shop, take a look at our ten tips on how to slash your supermarket bill.