Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

A 5-Pound Bag of Sugar Isn't Quite What It Used to Be

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

A 5-Pound Bag of Sugar Isn't Quite What It Used to Be

Article excerpt

When I returned from my monthly trip to check out prices and trends in North Jersey supermarkets, I was greeted by a timely email from Donna Ann Hittel, a reader from New Milford.

"I know the topic of the shrinking product is not a new one, but where does it end?" she asked. "Will we be relegated to buying dollsized products?"

I say timely because I had just noticed the completion of the conversion of sugar -- both national and house brands -- being downsized to 4-pound bags, a 20 percent drop from the 5-pounders that were the industry standard for as long as I can remember.

As Hittel said, this is nothing new. Nor is the fact that the smaller bag sells for about the same price shoppers paid for the 5- pounder a year ago.

This is a trend we've seen repeatedly since we launched The Record's Marketbasket Survey nearly 18 years ago; more than half of the packaged goods have shrunk.

For example, the 16-ounce can of Folgers coffee is now 11.3 ounces; Tropicana orange juice has downsized from 64 ounces to 59, and Breyers ice cream has gone in two steps from 64 ounces, to 56, then to 48. Even Friskies cat food contains 10 percent less than a year ago.

Kellogg's is one notable exception with its featured size corn flakes box still coming in an 18-ounce size. But nearly every other cereal from Kellogg's and the other major manufacturers has shrunk.

"Supposedly, the sizing of the products is not meant to deceive, but how could it be otherwise?" Hittel asked. "I assume everything is smaller, from toothpaste tubes to packages of cookies, but where does it end? How do we complain when every producer is doing this? Is there anything the consumer can do?"

Pricing is not that simple, said Brian Todd, president and chief executive of the Food Institute, a trade association based in Upper Saddle River.

"Downsizing package sizes has been happening in the industry as long as I can remember in my 32-year tenure -- from tuna cans to breakfast cereal to coffee and now sugar," Todd said.

While it is another way to increase prices, downsizing is also prompted by demand from consumers who are looking for smaller packages, perhaps because of smaller family size, he said. …

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