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It's Not Your Imagination: Your Juice Has Been Downsized

Does it seem like you've been changing the toilet paper a little more often, or heading out to buy paper towels a little more frequently? It's not your imagination.

According to research from Consumer Reports, many companies have been shrinking the size of the products you buy, while charging the same amount for the product.

The report, featured in the February issue of Consumer Reports and online on their Web site, says companies are attributing the downsizing to rising costs for ingredients and energy.

"They've got a point," says Tod Marks, a senior editor at the magazine, in a press release. "Higher commodity and fuel costs are expected to spike in food prices by as much as 3 percent in 2011. But if manufacturers are skimping when costs go up, why aren't they more generous when costs hold steady or fall?"

Good point.

But it's an age-old practice, not limited to any one company, that is often hidden by new package designs and other tactics. For example, a container bottom may be more indented than it was in the past. Companies may also try other ways to cut costs, such as making thinner bottles or plastic film.

Those methods may be a little more palatable than others that may actually affect the quality of a product, such as whipping more air into ice cream, another tactic that was mentioned in the Consumer Reports article.

But either way, it's all about protecting profit margins without an obvious price increase. In the wake of Clorox's Mondayprofit warning, many other consumer staples stocks, including Procter & Gamble , Kraft and Coca-Cola , have been trading lower.

Moves like these should at least put investors on notice that the companies are anticipating higher costs and are attempting to deal with them.

What's noteworthy is that the study found that the latest reductions cut the size of some packages by as much as 20 percent.

Here's a table of some of the findings:

Consumer Reports offers shoppers some tips on how to deal with the practice, including comparing the unit price, rather than the price of the package, because the packages may be different sizes.

They also suggest shoppers contact the company. Often, the companies offered coupons as an apology.

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com

Retail