Sometimes, you’re not sure if it’s just your faulty memory, or just the way the light’s hitting this grocery store shelf. And you hate to sound like that guy screaming at the kids to get off of his lawn. But… didn’t a new box of cereal used to have more cereal in it? Didn’t this jar of peanut butter seem to last longer before? Didn’t this roll of toilet paper used to have more sheets on it, for crying out loud?
Good news: You’re not crazy! The BBC reports that food and other products on grocery store shelves are, in fact, shrinking: “According to the U.K.’s Office Of National Statistics, 2,529 products on supermarket shelves decreased in size or weight in the five years between 2012 and 2017.” The reason for this is, unsurprisingly, economical: Companies charge the same price, but you’re purchasing a smaller amount of product. Even a larger dimple in the bottom of the peanut butter jar, a slightly smaller yogurt cup, or a few fewer sheets of toilet paper can save pennies per item—which can add up over millions of items sold. And some companies prefer this method over switching to less expensive ingredients or raising prices, which may be more likely to inspire outrage from customers, who may not notice the smaller-size packaging.
And it’s not just in the U.K.: “A study of U.S. breakfast cereals over a three-year period… found 15 products suffered a reduction in packet size, and in the majority this resulted in an increase in the relative cost for each ounce of cereal.” Also on the shrinking block: candy bars, ice cream, and toothpaste. Since this phenomenon appears to be so widespread, we’re not sure how to avoid it—buy in bulk at a food co-op? But you may want to take a closer look at your packaging descriptions to see if your beloved 64-ounce carton of ice cream is now a mere 48.