Grocery Shrink Ray Hits "Science Diet" Cat Food

We’ve been getting quite a few complaints about Hill’s Science Diet Cat Food. It seems that they’ve shrunk their bag and (in some stores) the price went up too.

Reader Michael says:

Last week, I found that kitty’s favorite food vanished from Petsmart. So I went to Petco, where the Super shrink ray scored a critical hit. The big bag of Science Diet Nature’s Best cat food shed 31% of its weight, going from 17.5 lbs to 12 lbs. If you look closely at the picture, you’ll see that the “Low price!” tag is kind enough to point this out. Although the old price may have been clearance and the new UPC was different, the price check said $35.99.

It’s also now “Chicken and Brown Rice Dinner” instead of merely “Chicken and Rice”. Surprisingly, the ingredients might qualify as legitimately new and improved: “chicken” (a lot closer to what you’d think it is than the unpleasant but cheaper “chicken by-product meal”) has been bumped up in the ingredient list from #7 to #1, for example.

Anyway, it was a sad ending here for Science Diet. Before, Nature’s Best was merely high-priced food. Now it’s now the most expensive food in the store.

Reader Amy contacted the company and here’s the response they sent:

Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc.

Ms. Amy xx
xxx
xxx

Dear Ms. xxx:

Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

Hill’s® is a significant purchaser of quality ingredients used in the production of our pet foods. In the last several months, the cost of these ingredients has substantially increased. We are passing along a portion of these increases in the form of a product price increase.

Hill’s® has always maintained the highest quality pet food and manufacturing processes, and will continue to do so. This quality is reflected in the superior nutritional benefits we provide pets, at cost of just pennies more per day than grocery brands.

We can certainly understand your concern, as we have personally been impacted by rising costs of essential items like gas or food. However, Hill’s® is unwilling to compromise our high quality standards by using less costly, lower quality ingredients or manufacturing methods.

Comments from our consumers are one of the most important sources we have for measuring the quality and acceptance of our products and the services we provide. If you have any further questions or comments, please do not hesitate to call our Consumer Affairs Department toll free at 1-800-445-5777, 8AM-5PM CST, Monday-Friday, or visit HillsPet.com.

Sincerely,

Jama Einfalt
Dietary Management Consultant
Consumer Affairs

Comments

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  1. sgodun says:

    Can I make a complaint that Consumerist keeps ignoring my question about this “shrink ray” issue?

  2. strangeffect says:

    The value of this product in the first place is… questionable. They have a reputation for funding the studies that rate them favorably, as well as greasing the palms of vets who sell the stuff in their offices.

    No big surprises, just something to keep in mind.

  3. ptkdude says:

    It’s very easy for this photo to be misleading. How do we know someone didn’t move a 12-lb bag to the 17.5-lb spot on the shelf?

  4. BloggyMcBlogBlog says:

    @sgodun: What’s your question.

  5. plasticredtophat says:

    well, if your cats on a diet.. Now you get less food to feed it.

  6. NoNamesLeft says:

    @sgodun: What is your question?

  7. sickofthis says:

    Same thing has happened with Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach dog food (and probably others as well). I’m pretty sure the bag went from 37.5 to 35 lbs and went up a couple of bucks.

  8. egosub2 says:

    Is there anything that annoys me more than trademark symbols in running text?

    Yes. But they still bug the piss out of me.

  9. cparker says:

    They pulled this with dog food, but it was much more arbitrary. I used to by 40 lbs bag of LARGE breed adult dog food. Then all of a sudden, it became a 35 pound bag. The problem was that the shrink ray DIDN’T hit the non LARGE breed formulas.

    Large breeds eat more and go through food faster, so owners need more. I mean, we noticed. On top of that, large breed dog food should be cheaper to make. There is less protein in them and more filler, because thats what large breeds need.

    Now it seems to be back at 40 pounds, for how long is anyones guess.

  10. Meisterjager says:

    Five and a half POUNDS difference, and they don’t acknowledge that weight difference in the lette, just admit they’re charging more?? Sheesh… boo to you, Hills.

  11. rmz says:

    In before somebody blames the OP for not hand-making their cat’s food.

  12. WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

    The OP could save a lot of money if they just dehydrated their own table scraps and made their cat’s food themselves. It would also be a lot healthier for the cat.

    /sarcasm

  13. catchthefever says:

    I bet the filler added in the food went up in price, too. Corn gluten meal [www.google.com] = Filler, and that’s the third ingredient in this cat food.

    Even though this link is about dog food, it talks about junk/fillers in pet food.
    [www.dogfoodproject.com]

    Here’s a link with the super premium pet food versus cheap stuff cost analysis and amount to feed.
    [www.dogfoodproject.com]

  14. catchthefever says:

    I’ll try this again.

    This cat food contains corn gluten meal as the third ingredient. [www.google.com]

    Feeding a super premium means the pet needs less quantity of food (no fillers), and will most likely cost less in the long run.

    Cost Analysis on dog food – [www.dogfoodproject.com]
    Ingredients to avoid – [www.dogfoodproject.com]

  15. catchthefever says:

    The third ingredient in this cat food is corn gluten meal. [www.google.com]

    A super premium food (I purchase my dogs’ food at a feed and tack store), costs less in the long run because the pet doesn’t need the quantity of food for nutrition. Well, and there’s no fillers.

    Fillers [www.dogfoodproject.com]
    Costs [www.dogfoodproject.com]

  16. NoWin says:

    @ptkdude: Methinks too. The rack stores I go to have the UPC markers above the stock that they reference.

  17. PinkBox says:

    Your kitty is better off without Science Diet, to be honest. That brand has a ton of grains/fillers.

    First few ingredients:
    “Chicken, Cracked Pearled Barley, Corn Gluten Meal, Whole Grain Oats, Brown Rice”

    Awful.

    I personally recommend Innova Evo. $35 for 15.4 lbs.

    First few ingredients:
    “Turkey, Chicken Meal, Chicken, Herring Meal, Chicken Fat”

    Muuuuuch better.

  18. @cparker: I used to by 40 lbs bag of LARGE breed adult dog food. Then all of a sudden, it became a 35 pound bag. The problem was that the shrink ray DIDN’T hit the non LARGE breed formulas.

    In the cat food, at least, the large bag seems to be sized from 12 lbs – 20 lbs so that the price is around $30. The ones with higher-quality ingredients come in smaller bags. It’s like they’re afraid I don’t want to pay $40-$50 for a bag of food.

    @WiglyWorm: @rmz: Normally, I make raw cat food using chickens grown in my bathtub and organic vegetables picked by highly-trained monkeys.

  19. DriverB says:

    I’m not sure if this is a bona fide case of the grocery shrink ray.

    Last time I went to the pet store to buy Science Diet for my cats, they were all out – and the clerk said it was because Hills was converting SciDi to a new formula, and they didn’t have the new product in yet.

    I think this is a bad switcheroo/bad labeling by the store, since it is really a different/’improved’ product.

  20. @NoWin: @ptkdude: I mentioned the price-check and UPC change just for you two. The bag sizes are now 12, 6, and 3 lbs, previously 17.5, 8.5, and 3.5 lbs. It was a new arrival and there was still unstocked food nearby, so I imagine that tag has been updated by now.

  21. rmz says:

    @Michael Belisle: Trained monkeys? You slave driver!

    I would buy the “organic” pet food but the salespeople that roam the aisles at the pet stores are so pushy that I can’t bring myself to give a dollar to those hustlers.

  22. ridbaxter says:

    Science Diet sold at retail hasn’t been a quality product for a long time. As others have said above, far too many grain fillers and meat meals for the price. Their feline special-diets lines (the stuff which is rx’d by veterinarians and not available in box stores) is still good stuff for cats w/ special dietary needs but Hills let their mass-market stuff slip in quality.

  23. Haltingpoint says:

    I’m not sure why everybody gets so pissed that their products are getting more expensive. It’s called “inflation” people. And when the economy is in the shitter you’re going to notice it a lot more–thats just how life works.

    By keeping the same price and decreasing quantity, company’s hope to give the perception that nothing has changed to those with less discerning eyes. While I’m sure everybody here would prefer they put out a little sign in front of their product saying “due to rising costs we’ve been forced to increase the price of our product”, that would be business suicide for them.

    Get realistic.

  24. no.no.notorious says:

    welp….we want to be more like europe! this is the start! higher prices for less volume; ‘quality not quantity’

  25. @Haltingpoint: I shouldn’t need a calculator to find out that the price increased by 45%. If Petco’s label had been up-to-date, I wouldn’t have been able to remember what the old quantity was to figure that out.

    I know that the formula’s verifiably more expensive, but a 45% increase on an already expensive product is too much. I wonder why they reformulated to create a super-premium product in a time when prices are already rising.

  26. @NameGoesHere: Innova Evo looks pretty good. I switched to Castor and Pollux Natural Ultramix, which is was $35 for 16 lbs. The first four ingredients are chicken, turkey, chicken meal, and ground, whole-grain barley.

    I might try Evo in the next round, but I like the indoor cat formulas with less fat and more fiber. And I already have cat food that’s not sold at a grocery store. I’m reluctant to go the next step to food that’s so exclusive it’s not even at a chain pet store.

  27. nygenxer says:

    I used to buy lamb & rice Eukanuba cat food. The first three or four ingredients were protein – not corn, wheat or by-products.

    Well now Eukanuba changed the formulas for all its food. It’s now “with lamb & rice” and it chocked full of chicken, by-products, corn and corn grits – the lamb & rice doesn’t appear until well down the ingredients label.

    Not only did they crapify the ingredients, but THEY RAISED THE PRICE TOO!

    I sent them an e-mail and received a long boilerplate on how these are “improvements.”

    I don’t mind paying premium prices for premium cat food (they’re carnivores after all) but Eukanuba is out of their f*cking mind if they think I’m going to pay MORE to feed them S*IT.

  28. nygenxer says:

    From: XXXX@yahoo.com [mailto:XXXX@yahoo.com]
    Sent: Tuesday, June 03, 2008 3:29 AM
    To: customer.service@iams.com
    Subject: A consumer message from Iams.com – en_US, Email Us, 482518-88953175

    [Comment:]I noticed that you’ve changed the ingredients of your cat food. Strangely enough, along with the change to inferior contents, your prices have gone up! There is no way that I am feeding this to my cats. I chose your brand based on the ingredients. I don’t mind paying a premium for premium cat food, but I absolutely will not feed them by-products and corn. If this is a permanent change, you have lost a customer.

    Dear John:

    Thank you for sharing your feedback about our new Eukanuba Adult Chicken formula. I will be sure to share this with our Leadership Team.

    Our Eukanuba Cat Foods have recently been updated-a new look, improvements to our formulas, and two new products!

    We’ve not made changes to Eukanuba Cat in several years. With this update, Eukanuba Cat is better looking and matches recent changes to our Eukanuba Dog bags. We’ve also done some re-sizing of packaging so that we can offer our consumers Eukanuba Cat at a better price.

    You’ll notice we’ve made changes to our kibbles. We first tried these changes on our own cats and found that they preferred the new shapes to the old shapes. We also realized that, with the new kibble shapes, we got more enjoyment out of watching them eat!

    We’ve made some slight changes in the ingredients list.

    We’ve replaced fish meal with fish oil. The fish oil will continue to provide the omega-3 fatty acids which fish meal provided. We’ve added a little more chicken in to replace the protein that fish meal provided. You may find that this makes Eukanuba Cat smell less fishy!

    Carbohydrates are an important source of energy, and we’ve made some changes to our carbohydrates. Because corn generally results in a lower glycemic and insulin response than rice, you’ll find we’ve replaced rice with corn in some of our products. This can be especially beneficial for senior and overweight pets. Remember that only the highest-quality corn is used in our products. Our corn is finely ground to a meal, which breaks up the outside covering of each kernel. Then it is cooked, which increases its digestibility.

    We’ve added two new formulas! Wholesome Naturals with North Atlantic Salmon and Wholesome Naturals Farm Raised Chicken Recipe. Each contains apples, peas, carrots, spinach and tomato for a healthy immune system; fish oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids to enhance your cat’s naturally shiny coat and healthy skin; and a blend of carbohydrates (corn, rice, barley) for activity throughout the day.

    Why make changes? We never stop looking for ways that we can improve the products we offer our two-legged and four-legged consumers. And we are always learning more about dog and cat nutrition. What hasn’t changed is our dedication to bringing your cat optimal nutrition that’s made with premium, high quality ingredients. Eukanuba Cat foods continue to offer higher levels of protein versus the leading pet store brand. Our animal-based protein sources (chicken, egg, lamb, salmon) continue to provide natural sources of taurine, an amino acid that is essential for the health of your cat.

    Please contact us anytime through our E-mail Us Now page located on our web site at http://www.IAMS.com. Or, look for instant answers on our web site FAQ. We would also welcome your call Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time at 800-675-3849.

    Have a great weekend!

    Sincerely,

    Catherine

    Iams Pet Care Team Member

    P.S. We are excited to introduce two Iams Healthy Naturals formulas for your feline family member! Iams Healthy Naturals encourages your cat’s active spirit. It contains high-quality protein from salmon and chicken for strength and agility. The natural proteins, vegetables, grains and fruits in Iams Healthy Naturals also provide your cat with 100% complete and balanced nutrition in a very tempting taste that’ll result in a healthy purr!

  29. nygenxer says:

    NOTE the

    “We’ve also done some re-sizing of packaging so that we can offer our consumers Eukanuba Cat at a better price.”

    and

    “…with the new kibble shapes, we got more enjoyment out of watching them eat!”

    WTF?

  30. Raziya says:

    This also happened with Purina. The bags were 20 lbs and are now done to 18. D:

  31. bcsus83 says:

    ummm…honestly this is one area where I think this is crap. My cat eats Purina Pro Plan–and their brown rice formula is always more expensive than their regular rice formula. I would expect the package to be smaller if it was the same price as the regular rice formula.

    Perhaps I’m just used to paying too much for things. I don’t know.

  32. mrbluejello says:

    My vet sells Science Diet, and they have a sign that is posted that says as of July 1, 2008, all Hill’s Science Diet food will cost 12% more, then it detais the individual price increases for Fuel, Corn, Wheat, and other grains. Fuel was listed at 46%, and all of the grains had 20%+ increases listed as well.

    I don’t blame Hill’s for raising the prices of their food. Of course, there are 2 ways to do it. Sell less, or raise prices. People flip out when prices raise, but selling less product tends to go less noticed, however this seems a bit decietful.

    If nobody has noticed yet, cereal boxes have all experienced downsizing in the last 3 months due to these grain price increases. I was at our local Publix grocery store and in the same shelf space were two boxes of the same brand of cereal, both of different sizes, as the larger boxes were being phased out.

    Burning food in gas tanks + rising petroleum costs (fertilizers + farm equipment costs) have not been kind to grain pricing for the consumer. Higher corn prices encourages farmers to plant more corn for fuel, and less of the other grains, limiting their supplies.

    Now, America’s #1 corn producing state is under water, with its crops rotting to waste. The problem is only going to get worse in the near term.

    Stock up!

  33. @mrbluejello: According to haltingpoint, your vet is committing “business suicide” with their helpful sign explaining the increase. You might want to let them know that someone on the internet disagrees with the way they run their business.

  34. karmaghost says:

    I fed my cat (kitten, really) Science Diet wet cat food and she wouldn’t eat it. And when she did, it gave her diarrhea, so that was the end of that.

  35. Vanguarde says:

    Hills brand food is like feeding your cat sawdust – it’s crap.

    Go to a local pet food store and buy true quality cat food. It will cost you, but you will see and feel the difference in your cat!

  36. ChuckECheese says:

    I think this is unfortunate. That is, I think it’s unfortunate that many of you are so hoodwinked by cat (and dog) kibble makers. Cats thrive with nearly any kind of food at all. My grandmother raised herds of cats, feeding them only table scraps, such as half-eaten bread with margarine, potatoes and gravy, boiled green beans and ham, and stale pie (no salad–you don’t win friends with salad). This was all tossed once a day onto a large aluminum platter that she hosed off once a week. The cats supplemented their diet with crickets, squirrels and blue jays. One of them lived to be 22 years old. You’re nervously evaluating animal food by the standards of a Berkeley macrobiotic, but all your cat wants is to chase and eat cockroaches.

    Being content with less is an important means of dealing with lean times, and your attitude counts for more than the ingredients list on an Iams bag.

  37. orlo says:

    “Your kitty is better off without Science Diet, to be honest. That brand has a ton of grains/fillers.

    First few ingredients:
    “Chicken, Cracked Pearled Barley, Corn Gluten Meal, Whole Grain Oats, Brown Rice”

    Awful.”
    –NameGoesHere

    Sounds good to me! (But I’m only human) If you’re going to feed your cat 100% meat, you might as well just buy meat. And while you’re at it, hire someone to come in and cook for cat. (Maybe you can have some of the leftovers)

  38. nygenxer says:

    @ChuckECheese:

    I’d often wondered why they just don’t make cat food out of mice – throw in a few insects and the occasional bird, maybe some extra vitamins…

  39. elgringoguapo says:

    My cat has lived for 18 years on Florida lizards. He drinks rain water. He runs around outside, is full height and is healthy. Lizards and rainwater.

  40. geoffhazel says:

    I wonder if the people in the Govt who put together inflation statistics and release the numbers every month/quarter take into account the GroceryShrinkRay?

    The problem I have with it is that it’s more permanent. Prices can go up and they can go down, but once you downsize a package, it’s not likely to get upsized again

  41. kaitlind says:

    I grew up showing dogs, and we had experimented with all kinds of foods to see how they affected the dogs. I had Bernese Mountain Dogs, so their coat showed the biggest improvements when we switched to a higher quality food. I kid you not, when we bought a higher quality food with less fillers, their coats were much shinier and silkier than with the cheap food.

    The other thing we noticed (which convinced some of our skeptical friends to switch to better food) was waste. Our dogs ate almost half as much of the high quality food. The amount of food literally almost doubled with they ate purina or pedigree. This made the price increase of the food less significant. They also pooped about 1/2 as much- with four large breed dogs, this made cleaning up the back yard much easier and less gross.

    I don’t know much statistically about what it does for them health wise- the organic dog food nuts always say that good food decreases the number of vet visits and problems in the dogs life. I do however know that keeping one’s dog fit and at a healthy weight (regardless of food) will extend the dog’s life (i believe this study included large breed dogs, and it was over their entire lifetimes) about two years.

  42. panteraaa says:

    To whom this concerns..We have been feeding our 8 cats Hill’s Science Diet for years. We have never purchased anything else. Today,we switched to the Professional brand food at the suggestion of our local pet store personel. We had paid around 31.00 per 20 pound bag for years,and after 12 bags,we would get a free one. Today,we were charged 42.00 for the same bag,an overnight 11.00 increase. My wife and I talked it over as we drove away from the store,and did a U turn. We exchanged the bag for Professional Premium after comparing ingredients carefully,and having the store clerk recommend it to us. We got an 18 pound bag for 26.99. Our cats took right to it,no problems. I do not know who it is that is going to pay 42.00 for a 20 pound bag of cat food,but if you think it’s my family,or any of our friends,you really need to get off the crack pipe,as the kiddies say. See ya,would not want to be ya!!!!! Gandhi Hurwitz,Newark,De.