Not Even Mini Babybel Cheese Can Escape The Grocery Shrink Ray

Violating every conceivable standard of decency, the Grocery Shrink Ray has unleashed a heartless attack on baby cheese. Mini Babybels, those adorably pudgy wax-encrusted cheese cylinders, were once allowed to grow until they reached 132 grams. Now, the Babybel’s are a stunted 120 grams.

Reader Heather recounts the unfortunate discovery:

I thought I’d bring to your attention Mini Babybel Cheese, which was one that surprised even me. I got a message from the cashiers saying it didn’t scan, which I thought was ridiculous, since it’s always been popular. But there you go, a whole 2g less per wax packet. Sigh. And, you guessed it, the price is staying the same.

All this shrinking makes a lot more work for poor file maintenance workers like myself. But ah well! Such is the way of things in this wacky world.

I have attached a few photos of the “offenders”, including the original as well as the copy-cat. The original Babybel package was 132g in total, the new one is 120g. I looked at each cheese packet, and yes, there is a noticeable size difference between the two.

Thank you for your time, and keep up the great work, guys! I’ll be sure to keep you guys informed if I notice anything particularly interesting.

Comments

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  1. Trishket says:

    Are Mini Babybels made of petroleum?

  2. gamehendge2000 says:

    I think we’ve more than established that grocery prices are increasing, often in the form of keeping prices constant but shrinking the product.

    Are we going to have a post here documenting every single item in the store as it happens?

  3. scoobydoo says:

    Isn’t that photo of 2 different products? It makes sense that the softer cheese would be heavier.

    Does the submitter have a photo of the old and the new of the SAME product?

  4. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    I notice that the top package is labeled “semi-soft,” while the bottom one is labeled “firm.”
    I know it’s not like comparing apples to oranges, but it is a little difference.

  5. Carey Alexander says:

    Babybel’s website claims that all varieties of the mini cheese are 21 grams per serving. The shrunken cheese above is only 20 grams per serving.

  6. @gamehendge2000:

    Gosh darn yes.

    Sorry for the sarcasm, but I agree. In periods of inflation, such as now, vendors have a choice of cutting sizes or increaing the price. Not all shrinking of size is a bad thing.

  7. ChootinDaChit says:

    Well, if grocery portions keep shrinking like this, maybe we’ll all get lucky and it will also cause a shrinking of the obesity rate in the U.S.

  8. mwahaha says:

    This is ludricus. Those look like two different products. Semi-soft ripened cheese, and firm ripened cheese. Even if they were the same and they shrunk by 2 grams each, would you even notice the difference? Would you be less satisfied?? Maybe they put a thinner layer of wax around the cheese… Bad consumerist.

  9. @Corporate-Shill: It’s not that they shrink sizes, it’s that they do it and a) change the packaging to hide the size change (deceptive), b) tell us that consumers actually want less stuff for the same amount of money (crap), or c) just make shit up.

    Several folks have noted that it doesn’t bother them when somewhere changes price/size and posts a notice. It’s the deceptiveness of it that’s irritating.

    (And frankly, as someone who shops by “what the package looks like” once I get used to buying a product, if I buy what I think is the 8 oz. package and it’s shrunk to 6 oz. and I was going to bake with that whole 8 oz. package, I’m going to be FLAMING pissed. Worse is when the company itself has been giving out recipes for year calling for “1 can of X” or “1 small package of Y” and then change the package size so their own recipe doesn’t work!)

    Raising the price on the package seems less irritating because you can actually SEE the price increase; reducing the package size while keeping the price the same feels sleazy.

    I used to live near a Souper!Salad! that had to raise its prices by a quarter on everything because of a bad lettuce crop driving their prices up dramatically; they posted a sign to that effect. While I wasn’t thrilled about the price increase, I was pleased the company was upfront about it, and I felt that was a fair cost to pass on to consumers. It made me like the company better in the long run because I felt like they were straight shooters.

  10. LogicalOne says:

    If they change the size (and/or the type, from semi-soft to firm), can they still label it, “original” ??

    (Sorry if this is a repost, my submittal from a half-hour ago, never showed up here.)

  11. dewrock says:

    @gamehendge2000:

    I agree and I don’t get what the big deal is. So they aren’t selling stuff in the same size, so they sell it at the same price. Oh well, it’s all written out there for you…if you don’t want to buy it then don’t. It’s not like they’re being dishonest and selling 120g cheese but still labeling it 132g. This is like getting mad when restaurants raise prices on items to compensate for the increase in price for their ingredients…it happens.

  12. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: So, did Souper!Salad! lower their price when the lettuce crop wasn’t so bad anymore?

    The weak dollar and rising cost of ingredients will only go so far: when things are better in a few years I wonder if these nerfed sizes of foods are going to stay that way.

  13. RodAox says:

    ATTENTION MORE THAN LIKELY MOST OF THE PRODUCTS YOU BUY/WILL BUY IN THE FUTURE WILL BE SMALLER FOR THE SAME PRICE OR MORE EXPENSIVE FOR THE SAME SIZE…..

    what are they suppose to do…. their logistics costs are going through the roof due to high oil prices etc. Its either increase the price or reduce the size… I rather go with the reduction in size which I WONT NOTICE but will make me feel like i am getting the same product for the same price (placebo effect) which seems like a sneaky thing to do for some people however they do place the size of the item on the packaging itself. If you are that concerned about the size then inspect the packaging and buy two of the item. Consider that some people live on fixed incomes and might not be ABLE to AFFORD THE PRICE INCREASE. I rather eat a small piece of cheese than to not eat cheese at all.

  14. bohemian says:

    I can’t fathom how people can accept a smaller portion for the same amount as being better than a simple price increase. Wasn’t there something about learned victimization last week?

    Last year grocery costs went up week after week. People adjusted their food buying habits as prices went up. I think the shrink ray tactic is a last ditch attempt to keep people buying through tricking them into not realizing it actually is costing more. It is a dishonest tactic. It is also an annoying time waster. Now instead of just looking for the product, expiration date and price you need to double check the quantity, weight or volume too. Grocery shopping is beginning to get the airline effect. Every aspect of the process sucks so much people want to avoid the entire exercise.

  15. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    We have seen this shrinkage at restaurants as well, Cracker Barrel to name one. In this case, I don’t see it as a bad thing, as their portions were a little too large to start with. But smaller portions (and smaller plates!) in addition to higher prices is not something I like.

    At the grocery store, you either like it or you don’t. What bothers me, and several others who have posted, is the appearance of deception. If they make a big deal when they make them larger, ‘fess up to it when you make it smaller. You would gain my respect and probably keep me as a customer.

    Now excuse me, I have a glass of $4.19/gal milk I don’t want to go bad whilst I type.
    Thank goodness the oil companies aren’t gouging us or anything.

  16. TonyTriple says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: They can’t just go about changing the prices of their items all willy-nilly! That would shrink consumer confidence and make things worse!

    Seriously though, think about what would happen if America woke up tomorrow and discovered that everything at the grocery remained the same size but now had even 15-20 cent markup. Everything marked up en masse would definitely cause some worry. I say en masse because I am pretty sure there were tons more items that went under the shrink before Consumerist caught on.

    Is there anyone out there who has figured out how much more the consumer is paying on average per oz. lost?

  17. bringafajita says:

    Obviously Babybel just spent too much money on that awesome skydiving commercial they’re running now. Because now when I think of jumping out of airplanes, the first thing that comes to mind is a tiny wheel of cheese. Thanks Babybel!

  18. @Eyebrows McGee:

    I don’t like “all” shrinking. Just some of the shrinking. Too much stuff goes bad, takes up too much space, yada yada yada thus I can justify the shrinking in lieu of raising the prices. I hate shrinking on products, such as butter, that I need in easily measured sizes/weight etc for baking or cooking. I also hate shrinking of bulk packaged goods such as laundry detergent. And don’t they dare shrink the size of the products that are sold by weight (meat, veggies etc).

    But shrinking a tub of ice cream? Go ahead, I can fit more variety in the freeze. Shrink the size of a serving of cheese? No big deal, I was going to eat 5 servings anyway.

    As far as being deceptive, gosh darn, everybody spins the presentation to the customer. It is called marketing.

  19. azntg says:

    Coming up after the next shrink ray cycle:

    “New! Even smaller and much more convenient size! Baby Babybel! 6 portions of 10g = 60g! “

  20. god_forbids says:

    1. There is no such thing as a “fixed income”. Social security, etc. adjust for inflation over time. It may not be the “OMFG stuff is, like, totally twice as much now” inflation but the objective rates like CPI, but they adjust.

    2. How can manufacturers possibly “post a notice”? They do not own the stores where products are sold.

  21. Coles_Law says:

    @Carey: From the photo above, the “unshrunken” cheese is 22 g. Maybe 21 g is an average? I’m willing to chalk this up to a difference in the product, as opposed to the Kellog’s deal a bit back.

  22. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: Exactly. Food and transportation costs have gone up, so an increase in price is expected.

    The irritating thing about the “shrink ray” is that it smacks of intentional deception. “Shhh..the price has gone up, but if we’re sneaky, the consumer won’t notice!”

    I’m surprised that oil companies haven’t tried this (well, they would if it were legal)…you pull up to a station selling gasoline advertising gas for $3.75….wow, gasoline must be cheap here…then you get halfway through filling up your tank only to discover it’s $3.75 for half a gallon.

  23. ChuckECheese says:

    @doctor_cos: I was on the road a few weeks ago, ate at a Crack Barrel, and thought, “Did the portions get smaller, or is it just this restaurant?”

    Babybel & Rondelet (la vache qui rit) cheeses have always sorta confused me. Unwrapping them’s kinda fun, but then you have this orb of rather unremarkable, rubbery cheese. It’s too thick to put on a sandwich, so I guess you can eat it out of hand–Look ma, they got French Velveeta at Kroger now! Can I have Fritos instead?

    @Carey: It would maybe be interesting if Heather could provide UPCs to establish the verisimilitude of these 2 items. Yet it doesn’t seem a grocery would carry a variety of items that vary as insubstantially as these 2 things. Look at the 2nd pic, the M.F. (milkfat) %ages, and note that a portion of the weight difference seems to be a difference in fat content, not just cheese itself. This cheese has been reformulated, de-fatted and shrink-rayed, a complete overhaul.

  24. @Applekid: Yes. But this was like six years ago now, not part of the present price issues.

  25. Eilonwynn says:

    @ChuckECheese: Up here, they tend to get thrown in a lot with crackers in school lunches – they’re very convenient for that as they don’t get that oily grossness that some seem to after a couple hours in a lunch box.

  26. palookapalooza says:

    If the heavier one is “semi-soft” and the lighter one is “firm”, it seems like the difference in weight would be 2g of water per wheel. But, the moisture percentage stays the same (47%). The “MF” (microfiltration) ratio is lower in the “firm” cheese (only by 1%), so not sure if it really makes that much of a difference. Are the UPC codes the same? If it’s a different product, that’s the best way to tell (and would explain why it didn’t scan…)

  27. Ghede says:

    I would complain, but it appears to be two different products. Also it is cheese. As a result all I can think is “Mmm, Cheese.”

  28. Triterion says:

    Man, BabyBell is already insanely expensive for a tiny little chunk of delicious cheese, but there are alternatives that taste just as good, they just don’t come in those handy little baby packages…

  29. Mr. Damage says:

    @Grrrrrrrrr: Actually, I believe some gas stations had to post their price at half gallon intervals because the pumps couldn’t do prices more than $4.00/gallon.

  30. quail says:

    @TonyTriple: I’ll agree, the shrinkage of products has been going on for some time. Ever hear stories from your parent’s about how big the candy bars were back int their day? In the 80’s I remember watching a report about Hershey bars reducing their size to offset costs. And everyone I’ve ever spoke to about Hostess Ding Dongs agreed that those tasty little morsels shrunk two times in the 90’s.