This is article #515 (2013) being repeated at the request of consumer advocate, John Stewart, as a public service advisory.
My world is shrinking! I’ve watched it diminish over the last several decades. And it’s not just my muscle tone, agility and recollection abilities that are shrinking. It’s the things I buy as well. Especially in the grocery store.
Bread, for example. I plopped a piece of baloney on a slice of bread the other day; it hung over the edge. The baloney was bigger than the bread!
“Did baloney get bigger?” I wondered.
When I took a close look at the bread, I got my answer; it was smaller than it used to be. Something I wouldn’t have noticed if I’d opted for a healthier lunch, like peanut butter and jelly. But, I had been in a gourmet mood; baloney was the obvious choice.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. All food products are getting smaller – the cereal boxes look the same as they always did, but they’re thinner and have less cereal inside. The food processors didn’t think we would notice. Canned vegetables, too. The standard can was 16 ounces. Now, it’s 14 or 15 depending on who’s doing the canning. The six-ounce can of tuna fish went on a diet: it’s down to 5-ounces now.
It’s nibbling away our grocery money, this shrinking thing. Most of us haven’t noticed, at least unobservant shoppers like me. I sense it; the can or box feels different, but I don’t have a reference point to compare it to.
Until the baloney hung over the edge of my bread. Then I started checking. The one item I was sure I knew the size of was a five-pound bag of sugar. I was shocked! Sugar is now sold in four-pound bags.
That really got me. It messes up my weight reference point. For years I’ve judged the weight of things by comparing them to a bag of sugar.
“How much does that puppy weigh?”
I’d pick it up; compare it to my memory of a bag of sugar and conclude, “It feels about seven pounds.”
Now I’m off by 20%.
It’s rampant, this downsizing of food packages. If the container isn’t smaller, then it’s modified so it holds less of the product. Saltine crackers for instance. Today’s box contains 15% fewer crackers! (And 30% more wax paper.) They place the crackers in multiple sleeves, add more packing material and run an ad campaign that emphasizes the freshness. The same thing has happened to graham crackers. Same box, less stuff.
Some food processors have jumped on the “green” bandwagon. They use slogans and ads to claim their package is environmentally friendly. (Instead of just saying the container is smaller.) Milk is one of the few products they haven’t messed with.
But, just down the cooler a few feet are cartons of orange juice that have. They look the same. But, if you check the label you’ll discover they’ve been downsized, from 64 ounces to 59 ounces! It’s a magic show! The magicians (food processors) distract us with pretty colors, statements of freshness and overstated “new and improved” claims.
But, instead of pulling a quarter out of our ear, they’re pulling the food out of our grocery carts. It’s kind of ironic when you think about it. Food containers are getting smaller, but we’re getting bigger!
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