Smaller portions, adjusted recipes, ‘lighter’ servings and changing shapes – why are more and more of our favourite products altering?
Have you noticed anything different about your weekly shop lately? Mrs Westley, a Yours reader, had been buying Kenco’s 2in1 coffee sticks for donkey’s years when she noticed something had changed...
The price was the same, the box looked identical, there’d been no big announcement of any changes to it, but it tasted altogether different. On closer inspection of the ingredients list she finally discovered the cause. Instead of 19 per cent coffee, there was now just 9.9 per cent coffee per stick, while sugar content had gone from 1.7g to 4.7g.
Sad to see her favourite brand scrimp on ingredients, while keeping its normal price, she wrote in to us about her revelation. When we contacted Kenco to investigate, they told us they had replaced the coffee with higher quality coffee which has more intense flavours and aromas and reduced the content to get the desired flavour profile. They also told us while sugar content had gone up, calorie content, fat content and saturated fat content had gone down.
But Kenco aren’t the only ones making changes with their products as we discovered when we looked a little closer...
Down the rabbit hole?
Standing in the supermarket aisles, it’s easy to feel like Alice in Wonderland falling headfirst down the rabbit hole – everything is suddenly much tinier than it used to be! A recent investigation by consumer watchdog Which? found countless items have been subject to a clever shrinking act, reducing the size or offering of their product without a similar reduction in price.
A move that’s now been called ‘shrinkflation’. The investigation found everyday items like Aunt Bessie’s Homestyle Chips dropped from 750g to 700g, while a pack of Surf Essential Oils Washing Powder nosedived from 2kg to 1.61kg – the equivalent of two loads of washing. Even the humble cuppa hasn’t been immune to the shrinking spell, as Tetley Blend of Both started offering five less tea bags per box, for exactly the same price. John West Tuna Steak in Brine, Cathedral City Cheddar, Philadelphia Light Soft Cheese were just a handful of the other brands named and shamed on the Which? list.
“Shrinking products can be a sneaky way of putting up costs for consumers because pack sizes shrink but the prices don't.” | Which? executive director Richard Lloyd |
Last year’s headlines were smeared with tales of chocolatey changes. Cost was a big issue, with many saying increased ingredients’ prices had been a factor. while others said they were following Government guidelines to make products healthier.
Toblerone fans expressed outrage that their much-loved triangular treat had been redesigned with larger gaps between the chunks, reducing the weight of 400g bars to 360g and 170g bars to 150g. Meanwhile, Maltesers shrunk their sharing bags from 121g to 103g. Even Terry’s Chocolate Orange hasn’t escaped meddling; the weight dropped by 10 per cent as segments were hollowed out.
Old favourites Quality Street, Twix, and Kit Kat Chunky have all suffered at the hands of ‘shrinkflation’ – Cadbury’s Fingers shrank by 11g, the equivalent of two whole fingers! But it’s not just size that’s altered, ingredients and design have too.
In 2015 changes to Crème Eggs caused an outcry when Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate, used to cover the shell for years, was scrapped in favour of standard cocoa mix chocolate. While even best-loved brand Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate broke 100 years of consistency when they made the normally square corners of the bar round, prompting an online petition from fans, who argued that it was cultural vandalism.
- Words by Katharine Wootton
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