Food manufacturers shrink product containers instead of raising prices

LONDON If your jar of Skippy seemed to dissipate a bit faster than usual and your weekly peanut butter sandwich intake hasn’t faced any major increases, you’re not crazy. Skippy, as well as various other food product manufacturers, has cut back its container size and weight while still maintaining the original look of the packaging.

The bottoms of Skippy jars now contain an inconspicuous dimple that accounts for a 10 percent decrease in peanut butter, and many shopper are feeling deceived into believing they are purchasing the same amount of peanut butter for the same price as the old. The jar, once 18 ounces and now 16.3, is the result of what Skippy and other manufacturers are saying is the only solution to the rising food and gas prices.

Unilever, which produces Skippy, also manufactures Breyers ice cream and has similarly cut back on the amount of its product per package. What used to be a container 1.75 quarts full of ice cream has now been reduced to 1.5, and competitor Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream did the same. Ice cream makers had been facing skyrocketing costs in milk, cocoa, sweeteners and energy. “We looked at raising prices to cover these costs, but at some point it just doesn’t make sense to raise prices too high … The ongoing feedback from our customers it that they aren’t ready to pay $7 or more for a carton of ice cream.

Though this change in weight is stated on the product, it oftentimes goes unnoticed because the packaging looks the same and shoppers don’t realize anything is different about the product. Manufacturers are making very subtle changes, thus creating “the illusion that you are buying the same amount,” explained Frank Luby, a pricing consultant with Simon-Kucher & Partners of Cambridge, Mass. Kellogg Co. has cut back on the weight of its Cocoa Krispies, Corn Pops, Apple Jacks, Fruit Loops and Honey Smacks. Dial has eliminated .5 ounces of its soap but maintained the package’s size to appear the same as its old product. Quilted Northern has cut half an inch off the width of its Ultra Plush toilet paper, and a Hershey’s chocolate bar is now 6.8 ounces from 8 ounces.

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