When my sons were teenagers, my wife worked early in the morning for a while, so I was responsible for getting them ready for school. This included breakfast, so I made a nutritious daily feast of graham crackers, topped with peanut butter and chocolate chips. (It’s me, Mr. Health Food.)
The boys visited Thanksgiving last week, so I thought it would be fun to recreate their beloved breakfast snack. For the first time in over 15 years, I bought a box of Nabisco Graham crackers. To my surprise, something was very different this time. The cracker, which was once wide and strong, was now thin and brittle. It used to be about the size of my hand, but now it seemed to be about two-thirds of its old width, and if not handled with care it would shatter into pieces.
Like any man in the kitchen would, I immediately complained to my wife. “Is it just me, or has someone shrunk my graham crackers?” “
âOh, don’t get me started,â she replied. She then detailed a litany of recipe measurement nightmares. The boxes of cake mixes and brownies no longer fill the molds. Many canned products now contain fewer ingredients than the recipe calls for.
Pop Tarts are a shadow of themselves. The cereal boxes have been shrunk. The vanilla wafers are tiny. Ice cream sandwiches, once a substantial dessert, are now â3 bites and doneâ. Shouldn’t they rename brown cows to brown calves? If the downsizing continues, that smiling little girl on the snack cake boxes may have to change her name from Debbie to Deb just to fit on the label. We are now apparently paying for extra air in the chip bags.
The retail practice of the 21st century is, âReduce the size, keep the priceâ. Everything you buy appears to be thinner and smaller. Do you remember those big bars of soap? Look at them now. Check out the hollowed-out bottoms of juice bottles and peanut butter jars. They’re still standing on the shelves, but there’s ten percent less product inside.
This underhanded practice of downsizing began several years ago. The first product I noticed was the traditional half gallon of ice cream. Suddenly, and without warning, the packaging was reduced from 64 ounces to 56 ounces, and is currently 48 ounces. The price stayed the same and the ice cream company probably thought no one could tell the difference. Are you kidding me? It’s ice cream, for god’s sake. It reminded me of the 4th grade lunch in the cafeteria. You know, when one kid distracts you and the other kid takes a bite of your fudge brownie, like you don’t notice. Ah yes, I noticed.
I later observed that the five-pound bags of sugar had become four-pound bags, again without a drop in price. But I wanted FIVE pounds. Stop the deception, just increase the price. At the rate things are going, I wouldn’t be surprised if the local gas station put up a large sign that says “regular gas $ 2.49” followed by “Â¾ of a gallon” in the fine print.
A sharp-eyed Facebook friend even showed proof that toilet rolls aren’t as wide as they used to be. I find it fascinating, because from my observations Americans ARE wider than before. I’m just saying.
Everything shrinks. Big Macs are now, well … midsize Macs. The Whoppers are more like the Whippersnappers. The goodies from my youth are now more like the Tootsie Rolls from my youth. And between you and me, there are some items that don’t taste as good as they used to be, which makes me think that we are also lacking in sugar, flour and other ingredients. Nutter butters become Nada butters. I have a hard time finding the cream inside the Oreos, which now taste like woodchips. The animal cookies appear to be based on creatures from a petting zoo.
What is happening? Do these manufacturers think we are also gullible? Are they reading our Facebook posts and assuming we’re ignorant? Wait, this might not be my best point.
There’s even a name for it: Shrinkflation. It quickly became a double whammy in 2021. As packaging and product sizes shrink, companies are no longer shy about raising prices at the same time. In some cases, this is due to the pandemic and our supply chain issues. But in others, it’s just because they can. Their attitude is, âEveryone is raising prices, so we will too. Customers expect and tolerate it.
Their PR teams are working overtime to create double talk. General Mills, responding to the retraction of the cereal boxes, admitted to taking “pricing action.” Charmin calls their shrinking toilet paper an “innovation.”
I have a better word for all of this: “scam”.
David Carroll is a television presenter and radio host in Chattanooga. Her new book “Hello Chattanooga: Famous People Who Have Visited the Tennessee Valley” is available on her website, ChattanoogaRadioTV.com. You can contact him at [email protected] or 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405