Among the guilty party? Chicken of the Sea tuna, bags of Doritos, Tostitos, and Fritos, Nabisco saltines, and Honey Maid graham crackers. This phenomenon's nothing new — we first noticed it in 2008 with ice cream containers (case in point: Haagen-Dazs), then cartons of Tropicana orange juice. Still, it's maddening to think that consumers can be fooled by smaller sizes. What have you noticed shrinking in size?
Florida's inclement weather this Winter is no pulp fiction. Due to a deep freeze in January that impacted tomatoes and citrus, Tropicana is saying it has no choice but to raise prices on its orange juice. In May, Tropicana plans to keep the price steady on its Pure Premium orange juice half-gallon cartons, but reduce their size from 64 to 59 ounces. Its gallon-sized jugs will stay the same in volume, but go up in price by five to eight percent.
According to the company, the Florida citrus industry has produced the smallest crop in 20 years. Its yield is down 12 percent from last year, after a freeze damaged a large portion of the produce. Part of this devastating cost is being passed off to customers. I'm not that bothered by the price increase — it likely won't be more than 50 cents extra — but I think the practice of shrinking sizes is deceptive. How do you feel about the move?
Source: Flickr User justinlai
In a New York Times commentary, "Rising Beer Prices Hint at Oligopoly," the op-ed's writers lament that the two companies' abilities to raise prices while customers are hurting "highlights the pricing power that has accompanied industry consolidation" and "begs for an antitrust review."
Anheuser-Busch isn't stopping there. The beer overlord has aggressive plans to transform Budweiser into a global player, using Coca-Cola as a marketing model. The corporation hopes to introduce the "King of Beers" into dozens of new markets, including parts of Africa. Have you noticed rising beer prices? Could Budweiser eventually become an international symbol like Coke? Should Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors face antitrust allegations?
Ben & Jerry's even went after the size of Haagen-Dazs in its marketing campaign, pointing out that the rival company had downsized its "pints" from 16 to 14 ounces. But recently, some consumer products, like Pringles Super Stacks, and certain bags of Frito-Lay's chips, have shot back up to their original sizes. It's unclear whether increased package sizes are going to be part of limited-time promotions or permanent reversals.
Which products have you noticed products increasing in size lately?
There's been some heated public debates between competing brands. The latest two companies to join the feuding? Ice cream giants Haagen-Dazs and Ben and Jerry's. To pay for the high costs of natural and top-quality ingredients, Haagen-Dazs has reduced the size of its pints from 16 to 14 ounces. Despite the decrease in packaging, Haagen-Dazs still calls its container a "pint." Ben and Jerry's is highly offended by this "downright wrong" move, and pledged, in a statement, to provide consumers the same quantity and quality in its product:
One of our competitors (think funny-sounding European name) recently announced they will be downsizing their pints from 16 to 14 ounces to cover increased ingredient and manufacturing costs and help improve their bottom line. We understand that in today's hard economic times businesses are feeling the pinch. We also understand that many of you are also feeling the same, and think now more than ever you deserve your full pint of ice cream.
While I understand that many brands are shrinking their products, I have to side with Ben and Jerry's; it's not fair to call something a pint when it's not one. How do you feel about the debate?
Burger King is continuing its strategy of adding petite-sized, lower-cost items to its menu at a time when food prices have soared but consumers are strapped for cash.
The sliders will come in a two-pack ($1.39) and a six-pack ($4.09) and will consist of a flame-broiled patty, ketchup, mustard, and two pickle slices, sandwiched between a plain bun. The fast food chain is also revving up its breakfast menu with BK Breakfast Shots. The breakfast sandwiches, which are available in a two-pack ($1.49) or a four-pack ($2.89) during the store's breakfast hours, contain egg, a "smoky cheese sauce," and a choice of ham, bacon, or a sausage patty.
This is probably another attempt by Burger King to offer smaller portions at higher prices, but I'm a sucker for all things mini, so I'm bound to buckle and buy some of the breakfast shots. What do you think of this addition to the menu?
It's always seemed a little too effortless to finish off a box of Girl Scout cookies, but if they are a little easier to dust off this year, it's not just in your head. To offset the cost increases of cookie ingredients, Girl Scouts of the USA made the decision to shrink its cookie boxes by a centimeter, package fewer cookies into boxes of Thin Mints, Do-si-dos, and Tagalongs, and reduce the size of its Lemon Chalet Crèmes.
According to the organization, the cost of flour rose by 30 percent, assorted cooking oils by 40 percent, and cocoa by at least 20 percent. The company felt this was the best method of dealing with increasing raw material prices. Alternatively, Girl Scouts could have used cheaper ingredients, or raised cookie prices from their current price of $3.50 per box.
This doesn't come as a surprise to me, since last year producers began rolling out shrunken products in reaction to the price of food on the rise. I'm secretly a bit excited — for once, the downsized box may be enough for me to stop short of a stomachache.
How do you feel about this news? Does it affect your decision to buy the cookies?
From rising avocado prices to the McDonald's Dollar Menu falling on hard times, over the last year, every section of the food industry has paid the price of cost increases. One segment of the food world, however, seems to have taken an opposite turn.
Prices of dairy products have seen a downward trend, as the weakening global economy has caused demand to decrease for US exports like milk. This decline has hurt certain sectors, such as dairy farmers and cheese producers: The value of cheese has dropped 40 percent over the last month.
On the other hand, quite a few companies have seen the silver lining of falling dairy prices. Companies like Kraft Foods and Hershey's, and chain stores such as Domino's Pizza and Starbucks Coffee expect higher costs to be offset by favorable prices of milk and cheese.
While Kraft and other companies wouldn't comment on future price cuts, the plummeting value of dairy could trickle down to the consumer segment. Does it come as a relief to hear that at least one aspect of the food industry is seeing cost decreases?
It's only January, and the organic industry is already having a bad year. Not only have producers been losing consumers due to the hefty price tag of organic food, but the industry has struggled to maintain its integrity.
With organic feed prices at an all-time high, farmers in the UK are lobbying the government to temporarily relax organic feed standards to assist livestock producers who are currently paying twice as much for organic feed as they would conventional.
In California, state investigators have discovered that California Liquid Fertilizer, an organic farming treatment, had been spiking its fertilizer with a synthetic product banned from organic farms. The tainted fertilizer infiltrated up to a third of the organic market, including produce giants such as Earthbound Farms, for up to seven years. Following the incident, investigations have begun into other organic fertilizer distributors in different states.
With these issues now in the spotlight, it's my feeling that consumers will be left confused about organic standards of quality, and distrustful of industry practices. Does this affect your preferences about shopping organic?
Hot weather at the peak of avocado-growing season last June means this Spring California farmers expect to have the smallest avocado crop in the last 10 to 20 years. Americans buy almost 1 billion pounds of avocados annually, and this number is increasing.
Unfortunately, California farmers, which normally supply 85 to 90 percent of domestic avocados, foresee harvesting approximately a third less fruit than they did in 2008. This increased demand and smaller supply will mean a rise in prices.
While avocados will abound during bowl season, the California Avocado Commission predicts they'll be in short supply by the time Cinco de Mayo rolls around. Experts are guessing that the shortage will come late Spring to early Summer, when imports from other countries, such as Mexico and Chile, are at their lowest levels.
I'm wondering if this anticipated price increase will mean a rise in cost at restaurants and dining establishments as well. Come Cinco de Mayo, will you still make guacamole if it means paying $2 for an avocado?