Food Retail

Shrinkflation?! The consumer goods that have downsized

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Shrinkflation?! The consumer goods that have down-sized

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No, your hand is not getting bigger. That same chocolate bar you've been eating since you were a kid really has shrunk in size. 

Whether it's ice cream, chocolate, cheese or yogurt, CNBC highlights some of the consumer goods that have slimmed down in recent years globally, but have stayed near the same price point.

Why do it? For manufacturers, it's a choice. Rather than increase a product's price and hope the consumer sticks with its brand, some companies have tried size reductions to keep competitive.

Rob Dickerson, senior global packaged food analyst at Consumer Edge Research told CNBC via telephone that he's seen a growing trend in the last three years of these cutbacks in food. 

Poor harvests in the U.S., rising supplier costs, growing demand from China and the general fallout from the economic crisis are just some of the reasons Dickerson gives for the squeeze. Each individual nation also has varying factors, he added.

"Food inflation has outpaced wage inflation in the U.S," he said. America's fall in demand is due to the economic malaise after the global financial crash, the reduction in the food stamp program and the increase in payroll taxes, he said.

(Watch the video: How your favorite treat shrank)


—By CNBC's Matt Clinch
Posted 9 April 2014

Haagen-Dazs ice cream

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Whether ice cream lovers are cracking open a carton of Haagen-Dazs' chocolate chip, cookie dough, vanilla or butter pecan, they have found a little less in recent years.

Beginning in late January 2009, 16-ounce cartons shrunk to 14 ounces, and two months later the larger 32-ounce pots lost 4 ounces. The price for either carton, however, stayed the same.

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"It was a result of increased costs of energy, dairy and some of our key ingredients," a spokesperson for parent company Nestle told CNBC via email.

"Because of the economic downturn, we chose to downsize rather than increase the price or compromise on quality.  We were sensitive to the fact that increasing the price would have made Haagen-Dazs unaffordable for many in that economic climate."

Cadbury's chocolate

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British multinational confectionery company Cadbury—known for the high-milk content in its chocolate bars—hasn't been immune to the shrinkage in consumer goods.

Some of its pack sizes have reduced slightly in recent years because of a number of economic factors including ingredient costs. Cadbury—which operates in more than 50 countries worldwide and is now owned by Mondelez International—told CNBC that by reducing the size of some lines, it has been able to hold the prices at what, it says, still represents a very affordable treat. One example is the shrinking of Cadbury Roses, a selection of individually wrapped chocolates that are usually given as gifts in the U.K. at Christmas time.

"(It) is something that the food industry has undertaken for the last seven years at least, possibly more, and is a way of keeping the price of the bar competitive," a spokesperson for the company said.

There are other factors at play here too. Cadbury said it has been working with the U.K. government on a Responsibility Deal to ensure that all single-serve bars are under 250 calories. 

It also reduced the size of its signature six-chunk Cadbury Dairy Milk bar from 49 grams (1.75 ounces) to 45 grams (1.61 ounces) back in 2012.

The company said this reduction came as a result of research that predicted that new "softer curves of the chunks" would make them more appealing. Despite the price of the bars staying the same, Cadbury told CNBC that the shape change has indeed made them more popular.

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Kraft String Cheese

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In a move to stay in line with its competitors, Kraft—a giant in the cheese-producing world—had a "small" downsize in its string cheese range last year. 

Kraft told CNBC that the downsize did not impact any of the leading varieties of the product, which accounts for 70 percent of its category portfolio, but the shrinkage wasn't accompanied by a price reduction.

"We downsized our flavored and reduced fat String Cheese varieties by 17 percent in order to stay in line with what our competitors were doing and to address the rise in commodities," a spokesperson told CNBC via email.

This comes in contrast to a similar move for its Cracker Barrel range. The cheese chucks slimmed down in 2012 with the company insisting it was a move to "industry standard sizing." This meant a 10-ounce pack of cheese slipped to 8 ounces, a 20 percent reduction, but the company trimmed the recommended retail pack price by 20 percent as well.

Read MoreKraft revenue slightly misses Street expectations

Chobani yogurt

Chobani Inc. greek yogurt at a supermarket in Princeton, Illinois.
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Fast-growing yogurt maker Chobani decided to downsize some of its yogurts late last year. The New York-based company shrank some of its pots to 5.3 ounces from 6 ounces—a roughly 12 percent decrease—but decided against decreasing the individual cup's price.

Fans took to social media sites Facebook and Twitter to vent their frustration but Chobani said the move was to improve consistency with its newly launched products as well competitors who favored the 5.3-ounce pots.

"At Chobani we're very close to our consumers and have heard over the years that they were often confused at the shelf when trying to compare nutritionals,"  a spokesperson for the company told CNBC via email.

"The yogurt category has exploded with choices over the past couple of years, and now, as consumers look at wide array of nutrition labels in the yogurt aisle, the comparison is apples to apples—or yogurt to yogurt."

Chobani added that the size change coincided with the launch of value packs—a four-pack of its 5.3-ounce cups for $4, below the typical price for the individual cups.

"We are also increasing our promotions and sales, helping to make Chobani even more accessible in 2014," the company said.

Read MoreChobani yogurt is latest victim in shrinking grocery case

Mars and Snickers chocolate

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It's not just Cadbury's that is taking a chunk out of its chocolate. Mars, another leading global confectioner, trimmed the weight of its signature bars from 58 grams to 51 grams, while its Snickers bar fell from 58 grams to 48 grams, according to research last year by U.K. trade magazine The Grocer.

However, the same report said that shoppers still paid the recommended selling price of 51 pence ($0.85) despite getting less for their money.

A spokesperson for Mars U.K. confirmed the change and added that it only affected the British market and had been due to a health advisory by the government.

"We made a pledge to ensure that all of our single-serve chocolate products would contain no more than 250 calories per portion by the end of last year," the spokesperson said.

"To meet this commitment, having taken product reformulation as far as we can for now without compromising the great taste of our products, we reduced the portion size of our Mars and Snickers bars to bring down their calorie content."

Betty Crocker cake mix

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Captivating cakes, sumptuous cookies or heavenly brownies, Betty Crocker has been helping the home baker since the first half of last century. 

The iconic brand, currently owned by General Mills, confirmed that it made changes to the box size of its U.S. cake mixes in 2011, without lowering the price.

"Our reformulated mixes bake virtually the same size sheet cakes and layer cakes while continuing to deliver great taste, high quality and real value," a spokesperson for the company told CNBC via email. 

Betty Crocker added that it had originally created this category of cake mix and it was committed to ensuring it remains affordable for its consumers.

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