Grocery Shrink Ray Hits UK

The Grocery Shrink Ray has expanded its range and is no longer just hitting the US. Pint-sized woe has befallen the the UK snack section. For one, the Dairylea triangle is shrinking from 180 to 160g per cheese wheel. Other shrunken products include Rolo, Palmolive, Olvatine, Dairy Milk, Mars bars, Yorkie chocolate bars, and Pringles.Check out the company double-talk as they tried to explain away the changes, sometimes with verbal softshoe, others with oddly pugilistic rebuttals:

Makers Kraft deny any trickery and claim they are merely “harmonising triangle weights across the range”.

Cadbury spokesman Tony Bilsborough said: “The sizes of the bars goes up and down all the time to suit the market. Dairy Milk comes in all different shapes and sizes and there are a range of cost factors involved.”

[Pringles] Spokesman Garry Stephenson said: “We launched a new Pringle with a better crunch texture, better flavour and a significant reduction in total fat and saturates.”

Alex Beckett, from The Grocer magazine, says food firms are facing financially tough times and sympathised with their plight.

He said: “This isn’t about ripping consumers off – the cost of making these products has rocketed because of more expensive food ingredients and energy costs. It’s such a competitive marketplace with each manufacturer bitterly fighting with the next one.

“Downsizing portions and maintaining the original price isn’t sneaky. It is a way of cushioning the blow to the consumer. Bumping prices up would hit people much harder.

“And besides, smaller portion sizes are healthier for consumers, especially at a time when obesity is so widespread. It won’t do us any harm to be eating a little bit less.”


Our favourite snacks are being quietly downsized… so why’s the price the same? [Daily Mirror] (Thanks to Deborah!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. MissTicklebritches says:

    But it all sounds better in a sexy British accent, doesn’t it?

  2. jtheletter says:

    “Downsizing portions and maintaining the original price isn’t sneaky.”

    Riiiiight. That’s why any time anythign at all changes int eh product it’s plastered all over the packaging in bright colors “NEW! BETTER! MORE! FREE! ETC!” but when the size changes there’s NO MENTION AT ALL.

    I wouldn’t care if food company spokemen just said “ingredients costs have increased, packaging materials costs have increased, and transportation/energy costs have increased. We’re doing this to maintain margins.”

    But that’s not what they say, instead they make up stories like we see above. Lies make us hate your product. Blatant lies make us hate your product enough to boycott it because you think we’re that stupid.

  3. Kishi says:

    @MissTicklebritches: That’s why I watch BBC News. Man, they could tell me that the Earth was crashing into the sun, and I’d be okay with it, because it’s in a British accent.

  4. floraposte says:

    I love the harmonization–excuse me, harmonisation–of triangle weights across the range. It sounds like a description of a New Age music album.

  5. dragonlor20 says:

    Am I the only Consumerist reader that could do without the “grocery shrink ray” posts? Or the only one that thinks “grocery shrink ray” sounds ridiculous in and of itself?

  6. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    “And besides, smaller portion sizes are healthier for consumers, especially at a time when obesity is so widespread. It won’t do us any harm to be eating a little bit less.”

    And besides, smaller incomes are healthier for companies, especially at a time when the economy is so insecure. It won’t do them any harm to have to compete a little harder to earn our money.

  7. Mr_D says:

    “Grocery Constrictivizer”
    “Food Diminivator”
    “Product Size Smallificator”

    I agree, it sounds better as a 50s comic book supervillain’s secret weapon.

  8. TechnoDestructo says:

    The “smaller portion sizes are good for you!” excuse only works AT ALL with single-serving packages.

    When I’m buying something that’s going to be used over the course of days or weeks, I’m personally controlling the portion size no matter how much is in the package.



    Not only that, but you’ve got the occasional case where the packaging has been redesigned so as to look nearly identical, while containing less product. There is no plausible denial that that is an attempt at deception, none. And while some companies may not be that blatant (still, most are hard to spot unless you see the old and the new next to each other), it kind of makes the entire practice leave a bad taste in my mouth.

  9. Skipweasel says:

    This isn’t about reducing input costs. After all, the contribution to the retail cost of the content of the ingredients most of these products is comparatively small compared to the shelf price.

    What this is about is making you purchase again sooner. OK, perhaps not in the case of Dairylea “Cheese” triangles, but for detergents, toothpaste and icecream and many of the rest it is.

  10. Halloway says:

    Could I just point out that (with the possible exception of Ovaltine) you do not need buy any of these products? You can have a long and happy life without them.

  11. TechnoDestructo says:


    Could I just point out that this is an overarching trend throughout all kinds of products on grocery store shelves and that some of them, while not immediate life-or-death necessities, ARE pretty important in terms of convenience (wasn’t it dish soap and shampoo that got hit a while ago?)? While yes, it is physically possible to live without them, it is not as easy as living with them, and there may be socially unacceptable consequences to doing so.

    Shining a spotlight on things struck by the Grocery Shrink Ray is the only hope of combating it, because it is the only way many people will even NOTICE it.

    So…yeah, you can opt to avoid these categories of products altogether, or in cases where non-shrunk competitors still exist, you can opt to buy the more honest brands. So in that sense, go ahead and point it out. It is something best remembered when obsessing over this.

    But if you’re pointing it out in a “can we give this a rest” way, then…no, we can’t. (And it should also be pointed out that you can live a long and healthy life without reading Grocery Shrink Ray posts.)

  12. reznicek111 says:

    “And besides, smaller portion sizes are healthier for consumers, especially at a time when obesity is so widespread. It won’t do us any harm to be eating a little bit less.”

    This excuse completely falls apart when you’re talking about any non-food item like toothpaste, deodorant, toilet paper, etc.

  13. Anjow says:

    Well I suppose that moron has convinced me. They downsized my groceries for my benefit.

    Thanks Cadbury’s. Thadbury’s.

  14. TechnoDestructo says:

    Pretty soon gas stations will be shrinking the size of a gallon, because we should all really be walking more.

  15. Kishi says:

    @TechnoDestructo: Once that happens, we’ll be glad for the shrink ray- it’ll make our grocery bags lighter on the walk home.

  16. JDAC says:

    Well let’s be fair, the British are becoming a nation of porkers.*

    Cadbury guy is right though. The size of the Mars bar has fluctuated over the years. I remember they were huge when I was a kid (and not because my hands were small), shrinking and growing through economic good times and bad.

    *I was born there, I can say this.

  17. mussorgsky112 says:

    This is the exact same thing that Hershey’s did early last century. As the costs of the ingredients fluctuated, so did the size of the chocolate bar. However, the price was always the same. Why are we complaining about it only now?

  18. psychos says:


    I’d have to say that you hit it on the nose. If they want to do this to single servings, not cool. People are accustomed to having, well, a single serving of a single serving item at the same size. If they want to do it to bulk packaging, I’m all for it. (As long as they are not stupidly deceptive about it. Changing the size when the size is clearly stated is fine, however, primarily noting “NOW! AMAZING NEW PACKAGING!” seems like they just want to draw your attention away from the fact that the package is just smaller, if a bit more…rounded.) Now, I do wish the American public was less gluttonous and fat, but this certainly is NOT the way to do accomplish that goal, so healthiness is absolutely not an excuse for shrinking packaging.

  19. Shrink_Ray_Bandit says:

    HAHA! What a Boon!I almost feel like XOM today. My European counterpart world-take-over-device is afoot!

    @dragonlor20: BTW, it’s been like a week since the last one of these posts, I know because I only post on GSR with this user name. And Ben even put together a list-like run down which many commenter’s recommended. SO seriously, just skip it if you don’t care.

  20. TechnoDestructo says:


    What? No, I was saying the “it’s better for you” excuse only makes sense if it’s single servings. This is the only time when that defense works. I don’t agree that the GSR is good in any case, but if you buy the manufacturer’s arguments, it is GOOD in the single-serving case.

    That excuse does NOT work for multiple-serving packages…stuff where it isn’t individually-wrapped. It’s bad to begin with, but then THE MAIN DEFENSE DOESN’T EVEN WORK IN THAT CASE.

    You’ve got me backwards.

  21. aphexbr says:

    Heh, you’ve got to love it.

    “And besides, smaller portion sizes are healthier for consumers, especially at a time when obesity is so widespread. It won’t do us any harm to be eating a little bit less.”

    Well… at a time when finances are being hit so hard, it also wouldn’t hurt for prices to drop along with the portions now, would it? Chances of that happening… zero.

    I’d have much more respect for a company that actually told the truth, e.g. “We either had to drop the sizes or raise the prices and research tells us that customers already feel they’re paying too much. We didn’t advertise the drop because the would be commercial suicide”.

    Oh, and I’m English so to use a cliche, @MissTicklebritches: @Kishi: How are YOU doing? ;)

  22. Red_Eye says:

    One thing these mindless shills for the food companies don’t seem to get is this.

    I cant very well downsize my family or their food needs.

    That may sound a bit harsh but its a simple fact. In a time when we are looking to lower our global impact, whether it be using less energy, less material, etc. So what we see here is not a lowering of the cost to maintain profitability on a global scale, but only one to protect interim shareholder value. So lets take the Pringles for example. The downsize they mention of 16 per package. thats roughly 1.5 lunch servings for my daughter. So lets do that math together shall we?

    Say 12 chips a day, 300 days a year is 3600 chips.

    Assuming approx 2g / chip since they say 30G less is about 16 chips less.

    At the above consumption rate we are looking at 35.6 packages a year to fulfill that need.

    In their new package we are looking at 42.3 packages a year. 7 more packages.

    So 7 times as many packages, now granted the package may be 15% smaller since they took away 15% of the product. So by my math that is only 5.95 times as much waste generated to get you the same amount of product. Though that is still going to be (assuming the package volume results in 100% improvement in shipping efficiency)6 more units of product delivered, 6 more products manufactured, 6 more packages manufactured, and more importaintly 6 times as many waste products generated!

    Oh and btw my consuming friends, that is 7 times the price so considering here a can of Pringles runs $1 to $2/ea thats going to be $7 to $14 more per year. Of course nobody but you will be paying to accommodate the waste management of the products packaging after the product is consumed, so expect trash pickup to soar in price. Why? They too are already facing the same economic issues as everyone else and now they will have many times the amount of waste to dispose of and find a place to put.

    So frankly I say people like Mr Beckett can take their fluffing of consumer products and go hang. Oh and Mr Beckett who appointed you to the weight police too? Why is it every time a company lately increases the cost of their products or decreases its size we hear about record breaking profit? After all they aren’t really trying to make tons more money off of us are they?

    So get your butt off the soap box Mr Beckett, they didn’t do it to save consumers failing health, they didn’t do it to just compensate for a increase in costs, they did it to increase their bottom line and the rest be damned!

  23. Shrink_Ray_Bandit says:

    @Red_Eye: 7 * 35.6 =/= 42.3

    You went totally off the deep end.

  24. cmdrscampers says:

    Pringles for lunch? Buy her some fruit instead.

  25. laurencemulchrone says:

    welcome to my life

    do you realise we pay around ten dollars a gallon for petrol (gas) over here!

  26. Meathamper says:

    In Hong Kong, our Coke cans have been shrunk from 355 to 330ml.