Same Box, Same Price, Less Food

cerealaisleThe boxes, cartons and cans at the grocery stores are getting smaller – although you have to look really carefully to notice.

As reported by MSNBC, manufacturers have begun “short-sizing” their products. The practice consists of cutting down the amount of stuff they put into their packages in order to keep costs down.

In the past, a container of Breyers ice cream was usually sold by the half-gallon. Now, most containers are only 1¾ quarts, and some are even smaller, at 1½ quarts. They look like stubbier versions of their former selves.

Even as these containers shrink, the price stays the same. That means consumers pay $3.59 for 1 ½ quarts of ice cream, when the same price two years ago would have netted a full half-gallon.

BizSense wanted to check out this trend and see if it was happening locally. We visited Kroger and Ukrop’s on Cary Street.

Yup.

The cereal boxes are getting smaller. Ditto for goods in the cracker aisle.

Neither Kroger nor Ukrop’s returned phone calls seeking comment about how local grocers are dealing with the cost increase from their suppliers.

At Kroger’s, we found two Fruit Loops boxes displayed side-by-side. One was 12.2 ounces, and the other was 17 ounces. And here’s the thing: the smaller box cost more.

The 12.2 ounce box was being sold for $3.27; the 17 ounce box, $3.19. So by saving 8 cents, you could get 4.8 more ounces of cereal. Maybe that’s a victory for the consumer, so let’s move on.

Staying in the cereal aisle, the actual size of each box was decidedly…underwhelming. The boxes marked “Family Size” looked about as big as the old regular boxes. The new regular boxes looked more like “Fun Size” packages than they did a normal cereal box. (What’s fun about small, anyway?)

And you can’t judge just by the box size, either. Many cereals were being sold in the exact same size box – same dimensions, same shape, same everything – but each of them had a different weight. The Lucky Charms were 11.5 ounces, the Cocoa Puffs were 11.8 ounces, and the Trix was 10.7 ounces.

At Ukrop’s, two boxes of Apple Jacks were on display side by side. One was 12.2 ounces. The other was nearly 30 % smaller, at 8.7 ounces. They were both $2.99.

Presumably, Kellogg’s is trying to eventually replace the bigger boxes with the smaller boxes, all while keeping the price the same.

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