"anyjazz65" via flickr
In the good ol' days, everything was bigger. That nasty thing called inflation, however, left manufacturers with a dilemma. How to pass on higher costs to consumers without losing said consumers.
"Large-scale studies confirm that consumers are extra-sensitive to price changes," says Mary Kat Linge in the New York Post, "leading more manufacturers to maintain steady prices — while miniaturizing products."
So everything gets smaller or fewer.
The New York Post's examples include Ivory soap going from 4.5 ounces to 4 ounces, a pound of Oreos are now 15.5 ounces, 5-pound bags of sugar are now 4 pounds.
The items are not labeled incorrectly, but sometimes clever things are done to hide the shrinking.
"Those classic stacks of Premium saltine crackers proved too easy to count when Nabisco tried marketing smaller packages," Linge at the New York Post wrote, "and consumers protested. So the company rolled out a line of round saltines, packed loose in a bag."
The Consumerist calls this the "Grocery Shrink Ray."
Baker's shrunk its 8-ounce baking chocolate bars to 4 ounces and lowered the price — but not by half.
Kraft, which makes the bars, explained, "Our consumers have told us that they prefer this size over the larger size because the majority of our BAKER'S recipes call for 4 ounces or less. The easy break bar makes it faster to melt and easier to break apart. And they can buy only what they need for a recipe, so the product is fresher."
It also went from 50 cents per ounce to 72 cents per ounce.
Consumerist also found Multigrain Pringles dropping from 6.34 ounces to 6.28 ounces and Nesquik chocolate milk went from 16 ounces and "2 servings" to 14 ounces and "about 2 servings."
Old Spice deodorant shrank from 3.25 ounces to 3 ounces, Rothbury Farms croutons from 6 to 5 ounces, ditto for Mike and Ike's candy. Wheat Thins dropped .9 ounces and Kellogg's Raisin Bran lost two scoops by dropping 25.5 ounces to 23.5 ounces.
This trend is not new. Consumer Reports was the source for a 2011 "Today Show" report showing that Kraft American cheese went from 24 slices down to 22 slices. Tropicana orange juice went south 7.8 percent, Kirkland Signature (Costco) paper towels shrunk 11.6 percent and Haagen-Dazs ice cream shrunk 12.5 percent.
There was a day when toilet paper was 4.5 inches wide and 4.5 inches long according to Patricia McLaughlin at Metropolis. "The whole shrinkage process first began in 1999 when Kimberly-Clark cut Scott's original 4.5-inch-by-4.5-inch square sheet to 4.5 inches by 4.1 inches," McLaughlin says. "In 2006, Scott released a 'Now Improved!' version of its 1000-sheet roll with a 'new soft-textured pattern' — and sheets cut down to 3.7 inches long from 4.1 inches."
In 2010, Scott cut the width down again, so it became 4.1 inches wide by 3.7 inches long.
Mouse Print also weighed in on the Scott 1000 controversy: "The cumulative effect on consumers of all this downsizing is significant. Today's roll is a full 25 percent smaller than the original. Maybe they need to rename the product Scott 750."
Orson Scott Card in The Rinoceros Times says shrinking products such as toilet paper may open the way to new marketing: "Actually, this is a perfect opening for one of the toilet paper companies to offer "premium extra-comfort full-size" toilet paper for a higher price — just to get the size that our dispensers were designed for! Wait for it it's coming."