Another Product Downsized - Tuna

seattlemikeMarch 2, 2009

Just read in the current issue of Costco's magazine that cans of tuna are being downsized from 6 oz to 5 oz by most brands. Yet another example of raising prices with the hopes that you won't notice. They surely aren't going to put a sign on the shelf saying, "New smaller size!"

Several years ago I was pretty miffed when I purchased a couple of different brands of ice cream and only noticed the difference in container sizes as they sat next to each other on the checkout belt. Lo and behold, the old half-gallon dropped to 1.75 quarts by some brands. Now most brands are at 1.75 qts, and I hear that some are moving to 1.5 quart containers. Pretty soon, the old half-gallon will be one quart.

Back to tuna. Costco says that they are going in the opposite direction by offering their house-brand Solid White Albacore tuna in 7 oz cans instead of 6 oz, at the same price. A couple of years ago we tried their tuna because the price was so great, but we also found that the quality of the tuna was better than the usual brand name products. Since then, we have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of their in-house food products.

I don't work for Costco and have no financial interest in them, but found it interesting that they are bucking the downsizing trend, at least with their tuna.

I may be one of the last people in the world to learn of this plight of the tuna can. If so, my apologies. OTOH, if anyone knows of any other products that have recently (and quietly) been downsized, let us know!

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I confess to not being the most observant of grocery shoppers, but I do buy the 8 pack of 6 oz solid white albacore tuna from Sam's for $8 and change. That seems to be a better overall price than the grocery stores for lesser quality stuff. Do notice the coffee cans though - 34.5 oz., 39 oz and everything in between for a wide swing in price. Sometimes you have to check the price per ounce to see what the best bargain is.

But they are getting creative in packaging - big dimples on the bottoms of jars, big package little content, etc. Pretty much across the board, we are paying more for less. Nothing is exempt - cereals, canned goods, ice cream, to be sure.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 3:30PM
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Towards the end of summer Aldi had tuna on sale (very unusual for them) and I suspected we were in for a size change because it wasn't related to the use-by date which was quite a ways out (12/13/2011).

It's STILL all about the math... How much does the tuna cost per ounce? And if you want a big surprise, figure out how much the tuna costs for a pound. How many times do people forget to do that?

Aldi/SeaNet/chunk light tuna in water
.62-cents/5-oz. = 0.124-cents/ounce OR $1.98-pound.

So if the 5-oz. can of tuna costs $1.98 = $6.34-pound

It's the same for SPAM. For anyone who thinks SPAM is cheap protein source in their food budget are only fooling themselves. I recently checked the prices of SPAM at Wal-Mart.

-single-serving 3-oz./.88-cents = $4.70-pound
-7-oz. can / $1.62 = $3.71-pound
-12-oz. can / $2.32 = $3.10-pound


    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 8:25PM
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I was in a grocery store last week and was talking to the Con-Agra rep. She was rotating stock on the TV dinners and talking about the changes. They're putting pudding in one instead of a brownie and the mac & cheese was going from 12 oz to 8 oz! Even she said "Do they think people won't notice going from 12 to 8 oz?" I laughed and mentioned the peanut butter jars that used to be convex in shape are now concave! I understand business and I know that instead of raising the price a bit they want to keep those tv dinners at the $1 price point. Same with everything else.

The ice cream reminded me of some brands going from a 5 quart pail to a 4 quart. I wonder how many people even pay attention.

One interesting marketing idea is a cleaner that you now buy the spray bottle and they give you a "refill" bottle of concentrated cleaner. About the size of a motel shampoo bottle, you pour it in the spray bottle, fill with water and use. I think it's a good idea for saving money on shipping, even manufacturing and I'm sure the shelf stockers appreciate it being easier on the back! I like that the cleaners are concentrating, but that's another topic.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 12:24AM
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Blue Bell Ice Cream is bucking the trend. They vow that they won't downsize their half-gallons of ice cream.

Toilet tissue manufacturers are downsizing by making each sheet of tissue slightly smaller.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 12:41PM
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I was at Wal-Mart the other day looking at prices. They were cleaning out shelves in the dishwasher detergent section. I was looking at the little drop in tabs for the dishwasher. There was a big canister holding like 78 or 96 tabs that was damaged sitting on the shelf. It was the only one of that size that I saw. The canisters now contained only 60 tabs.

OT to the original post, but Wal-Mart seemed to be downsizing on the number of brands it carries. I saw more empty spots on the shelf. There wasn't a price marker underneath so it didn't look like they were just out of product. I noticed that some items I buy like GV chocolate chips were missing completely and there was no space for them on the shelf. I had also noticed some weird pricing lately where the GV product was the same price as or greater than the name brand. There was correction this week and the name brand jumped by $.25.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 2:12PM
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Warning ----- gross out!!!

This reminds me - I played in a local fundraising trivia contest the other night and one of the questions was about cans of tuna. Did you know that the FDA will allow up to 7 rat-hairs in one can of tuna? I didn't.

(Gee, now that begs the question - since the cans aren't as large, will they now only allow 6 rat-hairs? Ewwwwww!)

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 10:15PM
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Another question may be ...

... how many little bugs do they allow in a can of tuna?

What with larger ships ... and increasingly sophisticated technology ... they've been vacuuming up so many of the major food fish from the ocean ... that there are hardly any left.

Another example of us stealing from our grandchildren.

As for downsizing - how about individual yogurt cups?

Earlier they were 175 grams ...

... then reduced to 125 grams (I don't remember any size in between) ...

... then down to 113 grams ...

... and recently to 100 grams!


Good thing that I usually carry some reading glasses - it's rather nice to be able to see the tiny little recent cups!

ole joyfoul tempered ... tempor-arily (I hope)

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 10:49PM
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I remember when I was a teenager (15 or so years ago) and started noticing that the bags of chips had a lot of air and a smaller amount of chips.....

Even the store brands are starting to get a little pricey.
I watched GV brand of veggies go up from 50 cents to 70 something cents a can....(this was late last year)

We have to either cut back on how much we eat or start eating junk food ( store brands of; chips, bologna,hot dogs,soda,frozen pizzas, etc.....) just so that we do have food in the house. Good for the wallet bad for gut...... :)

Even frozen juice is expensive. I still add extra water to mine....and no one complains....not yet anyway.

Doesn't matter how we look at it we are paying more for food these days.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 11:10PM
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littlebug5: Please tell me you're joking. If you're not, then I suspect that virtually all food containers are allowed some number of rat-hairs or other equally nauseating junk.

Guess I have no other choice but to give up eating. Oh, well, I need to lose some weight anyway.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 11:49PM
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Dawn and Palmolive recently downsized their small bottles of dishsoap, if you look you can still find the older bottles because some stores aren't great at rotating their products. (CVS)

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 12:59AM
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does the tuna that contains dolphin still come in 6 oz cans? cause i like my dolphin mmmmmmmm

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 1:26AM
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I too noticed the changeover on dish soaps at Target the other day when I was there. Since I only use Joy & Dawn they're the ones I looked at more closely. Dawn Direct Foam caught my eye on its resizing and has gone from 400ml (13.5 oz) to 300ml (10.1 oz), but interestingly the number of pumps dropped from 240 to only 190. Seems to me the ratio should have been 180 pumps, since it was a 25% decrease, but with the smaller bottle, I imagine the pump stroke is shorter and therefore less per pump than before. Who knows? (The Shadow, I know...) 28 oz bottles are becoming 24 oz, 22 oz are becoming 19 oz and the small bottle dropped an ounce or so, don't recall exact number.

If people weren't so stupid as to be conned by the illusion of value, we wouldn't have to put up this this crapola. But, such is life. I fully understand price increases are inevitable, but I'm so tired of it being hidden.

Curiously, Joy 30 oz went from $1.89 to $2.29 last fall and the 12.6 oz then went from 89 to $1.12. Now it dropped back to $1.79 and 89¢. Wonder how long that will last.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 6:35PM
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I'm all for downsizing the food package instead of raising prices. Portion sizes are too big anyway (froz dinners). There are only two of us here to eat the tuna so I am glad that after making two sandwiches, there is none leftover anymore. I'm one of those nutty people who eats more than I want/need just to avoid tossing leftovers.

Now, downsizing dish detergent and bars of soap, that's another thing!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 12:43PM
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Why are we assuming that NO ONE is noticing the change in package size? A company has only two choices: it can decrease product or raise prices. Both result in a higher cost to the consumer. Which option is better and which option will result in less angry customers?

And do we customers have any options here? Maybe. We can look to other brands, but in all likelihood, they too have either decreased their product size or raised their prices. So, then what? What is the use of getting angry? Companies have to stay in business and they can only stay in business if they are profitable. Simple economics.

I really am confused as to why people get angry when companies decrease their product size. Something's gotta give. Nothing can stay the same price forever.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 9:38PM
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ma-bookreader: I totally understand your point. Personally, I was more angry at myself rather than at the ice cream manufacturer for not noticing the downsized carton sooner. And I suppose if I were working for the ice cream company, I probably would prefer to go the "quiet downsizing" route with the hopes that folks like me wouldn't even notice the difference... at least, for a while. One reason for my original post was to hear about other similarly downsized products. We try to be informed and wise consumers, but sometimes we could use a little help in this cat-and-mouse game.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 10:56PM
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"I really am confused as to why people get angry when companies decrease their product size. Something's gotta give. Nothing can stay the same price forever."
Of course, but there's a point you obviously overlook. Downsizing packaging on dish liquid for instance is a more expensive proposition than increasing the price. I'd prefer they simply raise the price. The smaller the package size, generally speaking, the more wasted product proportionately. The cap on the bottle is the same size as the old one. We all realize the cost of the package on many items often costs more than the contents. Simply raising the price to offset the cost increase saves the company and the consumer money in the long run. Prices increase. That's the world in which we live. To not realize that basic marketing principle is naive of business.

There's more than meets the eye to changing the product size. Companies often will need to re-tool, which is a labor and infrastructure expense. There will be different labels printed which means old labels will be disposed of which is a cost. Replacement of cartons, etc are also waste. Then there's the retailer issue. Since it's replaced they often have to take a markdown and sell out the old item which is a loss to the store. Then they generally will have to reset the shelving to accommodate the different sizing which is an added labor charge. New tags, updated items in the inventory system, etc. Do you think these costs are not passed on to the consumer? When you look at the disposal of 100,000 labels for example might not be a huge cost in itself, but when you look at the total cost and consider the number of stores involved, it adds up. Who ends up paying for this in the end? The consumer of course. So playing games with price increases SHOULD anger people since it's not JUST an inflation cost, but also the added, and often unnecessary extraneous costs added in that should upset people.

So to what point do you want to see downsizing? 1 oz dish liquid? .25 oz? 1ml? I suppose we could start using ketchup packets for it as convenient single serving sizes. Just one example. Guess we could all buy the restaurant supply items for things like salt, pepper, ketchup, etc.

"Which option is better and which option will result in less angry customers?"
We totally disagree on this answer apparently. The simple price increase is a far better option IMO. A price increase is a one time frustration that people will realize will happen. Making me go to the store more often because I'm getting 25% less in a bottle will frustrate me every time. Buy two? Sure, then pay twice as much and get twice as frustrated. This comment makes me wonder about people with gas prices, electricity, heating fuel and the like. Would you feel better buying fuel oil at a 96 oz measurement rather than per gallon? What will result in more angry customers then I wonder.

You can't seriously think that cutting a couple oz is noticed by everyone. (However cutting 25%-50% from a package should be noticed by many.) You can't honestly think people don't know that it's a sneaky way of hiding a price increase. Or can you?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 2:59PM
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Last time at grocery I spotted some imported tuna... round numbers 10 cents per can less pricey. So I grabbed a couple cans to sample.

When got home stacking name brands on the shelf I noticed the normal brands where shrunken cans. The starkist I had sitting there are 6oz. Chicken of the sea ... and BumbleBee were 5oz. ,,and normal prices. Wasnt happy that the grocer put the imported tuna in a seperate isle bin -- next time probably buy all imported. Tastes fine, packed in water & natural veggie juices. Might be healthier ?

    Bookmark   April 4, 2009 at 9:05PM
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Hi pecanfudge,

If you always keep some of that stuff on hand ... I'm going to have to come for a visit!

When you spoke of the size of the toilet paper being reduced ... I wondered whether they'd arranged for the business end of the system that the toilet paper serves to have been downsized, as well.

I said to myself that I thought that they'd increased in size ...

... but then I realized that it wasn't the "business end" ...

... but the packagiong that seems to have increased in size in recent years!

It does appear that we'll have to give our hands more precise instructions regarding navigation!

Good wishes for keeping everything clean - even your jokes!

ole joyfoul

    Bookmark   April 5, 2009 at 3:33AM
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Well, you would think that re-tooling equipment and tossing out labels, etc. would be cost ineffective.

But do you know how much money these companies spend to research cost effectiveness? I'd bet in the not-very-long-run, they'll come out way way ahead.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2009 at 2:21PM
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I was picking up some foil the other day and noticed the new gimmick. Before it was 35 sq. ft becomes 30, then 25, now 20. Now they have the new "compact box" to save packaging and "save money". Yeah right. I don't need an extra tube, extra box and that ridiculous "cutter", I want the contents.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2009 at 7:51PM
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Mybe I'm dating myself, but I remember when one can of tuna made enough home-made tuna salad to fill four sandwiches, now I get two per can.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 3:01PM
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jannie -

I admit to being "dated". I have recipes in my collection that call for a 7-1/2 ounce can of tuna, so downsizing has been happening for a long time.... You can still find "gourmet" tuna in 7-1/2 ounce cans.


    Bookmark   April 10, 2009 at 4:54AM
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I dated myself... then when I broke up with myself, I started stalking me. Talk about scary. I didn't know what I was capable of doing. And the cops wouldn't do anything about it!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2009 at 10:39PM
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I'm so sorry you had to go through that, hopefully you've upped the meds since then...

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 12:12AM
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LOL, I did, but they shrunk the mg & the bottle count! But the bottle size remained the same. :)

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 10:58PM
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Well, I hope your medication wasn't watered down...

    Bookmark   April 14, 2009 at 6:34PM
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I had noticed the downsizing in the last few years and it is happening again. Cereal, sugar, flour, tuna (as stated above), ice cream, yogurts, frozen pot pies and pizzas. The list could be longer, but, Oh Yeah, I noticed.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2009 at 11:42PM
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I actually bought some of the last 8 oz Lucerne brand yogurts at Safeway last year. Right next to the 8 oz were the "new" 6 oz Lucerne containers - same price. I think Dannon was the first of the yogurt brands to "downsize" and Lucerne was the last.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 12:38AM
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