Which survey shows well-known items go up in price, down in size

Many common items in supermarkets are getting smaller but the price is staying the same '“ and in some cases actually increasing, a new consumer report has revealed.

Picture: John Devlin

Which? found that Andrex toilet roll, McVities chocolate biscuits and Sensodyne toothpaste are among the latest products which have shrunk in recent months, joining popular items such as Cadbury’s Fingers and Creme Eggs, which last year mysteriously shrank in size, sparking outrage among consumers.

More than three-quarters of the consumer members Which? surveyed said they do not think it is right if consumers are not told when products drop in size but are sold at the same price.

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A standard Andrex four pack toilet roll has been reduced from 240 to 221 sheets, eight per cent less – yet the price has remained around the £2 mark. McVitie’s Digestives dark chocolate biscuits: decreased from 332g to 300g, a 10 per cent reduction. In Tesco, these biscuits were sold for £1.59 before they shrank and increased to £1.69 after the change in pack size.

Meanwhile, Sensodyne Total Care Extra Fresh Toothpaste decreased from 100ml to 75ml, a reduction of a quarter. The toothpaste was on sale in Tesco at ‘£2.40 was £3.60’ before it shrank, then £3.49 after it was reduced in size, which is more per 100ml.

Richard Headland, Which? editor said: “Shrinking products can be a sneaky way of increasing prices. We want manufacturers and supermarkets to be upfront about shrinking products.”

Leigh Sparks, professor of retail studies at Stirling University, said that manufacturers were facing higher production costs, coupled with an increasing expectation of competitive pricing in the food industry.

He said: “There’s quite a lot of this about. Clearly, if the price of raw materials and the cost of production has increased, manufacturers and retailers have an issue. The manufacturers want to pass those costs on, but retailers say that the country has become so price-sensitive that they can’t do this. So, in order for them to reduce the cost, they have to reduce the size of the product or what is in there.”

Some of the size reductions are obvious, such as Cadbury’s, which changed the shape of its standard bar of Dairy Milk chocolate when it reduced its weight three years ago, while others, including the latest culprits, look very similar, just slightly smaller.

When Which? contacted the brands, most said it was up to the supermarkets to set the price. They would not disclose if they had charged the supermarkets a lower wholesale price for the new size product.