Ben Popken Talkin' 'Bout Grocery Shrink Ray In Various Media Outlets

Media interest in The Grocery Shrink Ray sweeping across America continues, I was interviewed recently by CNNMoney.com, The Brian Lehrer Show, and Agence France-Press. Everyone knows prices are higher and manufacturers need to pass them on somehow. I don’t like the method of shrinking sizes while keeping the prices the same. Or when they combine it with a package redesign, hoping we’ll be so distracted by a new spigot that we won’t notice we’re getting less. My local pizza parlor went about it differently. They raised prices and taped up two articles explaining how rising wheat costs are driving up the cost of making pizza. They didn’t, however, cut their pies into 12 slices instead of 8.

The Incredible Shrinking Portion [The Brian Lehrer Show]
US manufacturers beat inflation by selling less for same price [AFP]
Shrinking groceries [CNNMoney]

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  1. snazz says:

    so sexy without the glasses now!

  2. That stock footage of people shopping in grocery stores was some of the cheesiest I’ve ever seen.

  3. kyle4 says:

    That was great, and I wonder if Ben was nervous talking to an anchor woman who looks like a model.

  4. hypnotik_jello says:

    “at the risk of alienating your user base”. lol.

  5. xkevin says:

    The problem with increasing price instead of decreasing size is you make it harder for people who are on a fixed budget to compensate for the price change. I think the mortgage meltdown is a perfect example of people having minimal understanding of their finances. Plus, with all the reports of obesity growing in the USA, smaller portions might not necessarily be a bad thing.

    It all boils down to perspective…

  6. Corydon says:

    I thought AFP was Agence France-Presse.

  7. celticgina says:

    I always have my pizza cut into 6 slices because I can’t eat 8 slices!!

  8. chriscombs says:

    Duuude, AFP is Agence France-Presse.

  9. mgy says:

    I’ve been day-dreaming about the day when they introduce Ben on national television, and while they’re laying out his credentials, they pan over a few shots of the Consumerist site, and I see a comment I made.

    Ah, fame.

  10. superlayne says:

    I don’t really mind the shrink ray, just wished there was some, “OH YEA YOU’RE GETTING LESS NOW” label involved or something.

  11. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    Congrats Ben! Next: 60 Minutes.

  12. Nighthawke says:

    Ben, you get on CNBC you’ll get people’s attention. FoxBusiness, CNNMoney is like several hours to several days behind the ticker CNBC runs.

  13. DojiStar says:

    well, they can only shrink the contents of these packages so much before people just won’t buy it any more.

    I did notice yogurt went down to a 4 oz size now from a 6 and an 8 before that. I just flat out refused to by it.

    4 oz. isn’t even a snack. It’s like 8 spoon fulls.

  14. MayorBee says:

    @AtomicPlayboy: Agreed. I could almost hear the elevator music playing in the background.
    Perhaps Lily Tomlin will reprise her role as the incredible shrinking woman but this time, while she’s shrinking, the products stay the same size relative to her.

  15. geoffhazel says:

    I want to know if the people in the gov’t that calculate inflation figures are taking smaller package sizes into account?

    It’s just as much inflation to get 15% less product as it is to raise the price 15%, but I think it’s less likely to make it into the “numbers”.

    Anyone know one way or the other if grocery-shrink-ray is calculated into the official inflation statistics?

  16. geoffhazel says:

    @geoffhazel:

    And yes, shrinking the pkg 15% is NOT exactly the same cost/per/unit effect as raising the price 15% but they are both inflationary.

  17. I personally like the smaller sizes for some products.

    Ice Cream is a good example. The wife wants strawberry. I want butter pecan. One of the kids wants cookies n’ cream. By the time I work through the family and the in-laws that are coming to visit for a month, I could have 8 different varieties of ice cream in the freezer. So go ahead, shrink the size but keep the costs the same.

    Shrinking my tube of toothpaste? Nope. It aint like the stuff is going to go bad, so raise the prices in lieu of shrinking the tube size.

    Bottom line: Not all shrinking is bad.

  18. MayorBee says:

    @geoffhazel: Actually, if they decrease the size of the package by 15%, which means you’re only getting 85% of the product you used to, that’s equivalent to a 17.6% increase in price. Here’s an example:
    There’s a package that costs $100 and weighs 100 lbs (for simplicity’s sake). This is $1/lb.
    The shrink ray hits it and suddenly it’s $100 for 85 lbs. Now your product costs $1.176… per pound.
    That’s a relative 17% (and change) increase. So by shrinking the packages, they not only take advantage of the psychological disconnect we have by not noticing the change, they also reap a greater benefit from higher prices per unit.

  19. ninjatoddler says:

    I’m glad Ben’s finally talking to media outlets other than Fox but lol dude. You don’t have to continue to stare at her when she’s talking to the camera.

    And for that matter, thanks for bringing up “Shrink Ray” because I always thought it said “Shrink Wrap.” Need new lens dammit!

  20. ByeBye says:

    PRINGLES DID IT TOO!
    I was mad when I found out :(
    My skinny butt needs junk food.

  21. A.W.E.S.O.M.-O says:

    Is Poppy Harlow as cute in person as she is in the one inch box on my web browser when I visit CNN Money? Because she looks very cute.

  22. simplegreen says:

    “less soap, per soap chunk” “more bison with a smaller rock”.. come on ben how much prep are you doing before these interviews or are you just nervous as hell?

    just messin with ya.. good stuff man

  23. SOhp101 says:

    Speaking of the shrink ray, I just came back from Costco and I ate at their food court… $1.50 hot dog/drink combo. I could SWEAR that the hot dog is now skinnier (shorter diameter/circumference/girth?) but still the same length. I can understand since it’s been $1.50 for as long as I remember, but my heart still sank.

  24. kyl191 says:

    You even made the newspaper halfway around the world (Singapore). Have to go and find the article now & clip it out now…

  25. WeAre138 says:

    Good clip. Hopefully this will result in increased traffic to consumerist.com. More people need to be aware of what the big corps are pulling.

    As far as you guys pointing out his mistakes, I’d love to see you deliver a perfect interview in the same situation.

  26. @geoffhazel: That’s a really good question, I’d like to know. The USDA food bundles do, but I don’t know about general economy stats.

  27. krispykrink says:

    Ben, can we get a review of Poppy’s legs?

  28. Ben used the I word.

    Yes, that I word : Inflation.

    Thank you Ben.

  29. Is Poppy going to be a flight attendant on Ryanair?

    Just wondering.

  30. I haven’t heard anyone discuss how the grocery shrink ray effects consumers who use WIC vouchers or are part of other programs that assist with grocery bills. (Primer) WIC for example is a program that provides staple foods and nutritional information to low and middle income/medically at risk women with children under five. 45% of all babies in America are serviced by WIC. WIC vouchers can be used at almost any grocery store and are good on selected food items/specific brands. The vouchers usually specify a combined number of ounces of any particular product. A voucher may say up to 36 ounces of cereal and the consumer can mix and match various brands to make up the 36 ounces allotted. (/End Primer) As brands shrink their packages from 18 ounces to 16 ounces those using vouchers find themselves receiving less food assistance. At the same time income restrictions for participation in various subsidy programs have not significantly changed. It seems that those in the financial position to be most harmed by price and product size fluctuations are also in the position to have what ever food assistance they might be receiving reduced as well.

  31. nequam says:

    Poppy Popken.

  32. u1itn0w2day says:

    What I want to see are some financial results of the companies doing this.It has probably been going on for years but it seems MUCH more noticable over the last several years.One of the first ones that jumped out at me was bleach,used to be sold by the gallon,then they reduced it to 900z and now I see 60oz advertised with tiny fine print saying 60oz and yet the picture,shape and labeling in the paper is that of a gallon jug.

    And latest item I noticed was Skippy peanut butter going from 18oz to 16.3oz .

    Is there a master list of shrink somewhere?

    And kudos to Ben for taking it to the media!

  33. Jay Slatkin says:

    @nequam: gaha!

  34. crackle says:

    “You’re seeing inflation across the board”… how is that different from normal?

  35. failurate says:

    Nice job Ben. And Poppy Harmon makes me all giggity too.

  36. failurate says:

    Oops… Harlow!