Incredible Shrinking Package: Consumers Paying More for Less

VIDEO: Sharon Alfonsi on why were getting less bang for our buck at the checkout
WATCH Grocery Store Staples Shrink, Prices Rise

Buying a "pound" of bacon may not mean what it used to. Americans are getting less sizzle for their buck.

ABC affiliate WEWS found that some companies, like Hormel, are packaging bacon in 12-ounce portions instead of the former standard of 16 ounces -- a full pound.

The shrinking amount of bacon isn't the only thing fooling you at the grocery store.

Tod Marks, senior editor with Consumer Reports magazine, said the trend of shrinking packages is because of "input inflation." The high costs of ingredients and production have forced some manufacturers to give consumers less product for the same price.


"A price increase in this economy is the kiss of death," Marks said. "They'd rather kind of play a shell game with consumers, a little bit of trickery and, hopefully, the consumer won't notice that the product is, in fact, shrinking."

The changes are slight enough to make consumers think their eyes might be deceiving them, but manufacturers definitely are shrinking everything from cereal to mayonnaise and even toilet paper.

Shrinking Toilet Tissue Rolls, Skinnier Cereal Boxes and False Bottoms

Take toilet paper, for example. For years, consumers bought a 1,000-sheet roll of Scott's toilet tissue with each of those tiny little square sheets measuring 4.5 inches by 4.5 inches. Now, consumers can still by a 1,000-sheet roll, but those sheets are skinnier.


A little paper trimmed off the sides of each sheet means that a four roll pack has 42 square feet less of paper.

"We've heard every excuse in the book," Marks said. "There's no bound to what manufacturers will do."

Toilet paper isn't the only thing getting skinnier. Cereal makers are putting less cereal in boxes, but you might not be able to tell. The boxes are thinner so they appear full when you open them.

Skinnier boxes and thinner sheets are among many tricks, Marks said.

Another trick to look out for is false bottoms.

"Look at things like peanut butter jars," Marks said. "You'll often see a jar that has the same dimensions, the height's the same, the diameter's the same, but what you might not notice is that ... you can stick your finger up the bottom of the jar because it's been rounded to hide it's holding less."

Bacon BlissPlay
Bacon Bliss

Something else that feels a little lighter is that carton of Tropicana orange juice. The carton still looks the same, but if you look closely, it's not 64 ounces anymore, it's 59. That's about a cup less of juice.

Packaging Trick: 'Slack-Fill'

Next, give that bag of chips in your pantry a look. If it seems like your bag of chips is disappearing faster than normal, it probably is., a consumer finance website, reported that Frito-Lay has cut the number of chips in its bags across its product line. Some formerly 12-ounce bags of Lay's or Doritos are now 10 ounces. The bag looks the same but feels a little lighter.

Video: Grocery store offers drive-up shopping.Play
Drive-up grocery shopping

Consumer experts have a name for what manufacturers are doing. It's called "slack fill" when there is over-packaging, meaning that the volume of product in the container doesn't actually match the container's capacity.

If you think food is the only thing leaving you short-changed at the store, think again. Even cleaning solutions are shrinking.

Dawn Liquid Soap advertises its new 10-ounce containers. Advertisers left out that the packages used to hold 11 ounces of soap. Even Dial Soap has shaved its bar from 4.5 ounces to four.

"Manufacturers are banking on the point that consumers don't know what the normal or regular size is of a given package," Marks said. "And think about it yourself: How many products in this day and age have a standard size?"

Food Label FightPlay

So why haven't these shrinking products started an uproar?

According to a Harvard study, most consumers would rather get less than pay more.

"It's a continuation of a trend that's been going on forever and consumers don't like it," Marks said. "But they also don't like price increases."

There is a bright spot. Those incredible shrinking product may end up shrinking our waist lines.

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