Shrinking products mask higher prices
Food manufactures in France are reducing weight content in their packages to fight rising prices.23 September 2008
PARIS -- As French families feel the pinch of rising prices, food manufacturers have taken to shrinking their products in a bid to keep sales afloat, a study to be published Thursday shows.
Consumer magazine "60 millions de consommateurs" surveyed dozens of everyday foodstuffs and found a creeping pattern of snacks, bottled drinks and conserves getting subtly smaller to mask a higher per-kilo price.
A pack of biscuits that weighed 330 grams three months ago has shrunk to 300, while a family-sized yoghurt container went from a kilogram to 850 grams and individual dessert pots from 100 to 90 grams.
"You have to be a pretty switched-on consumer" to notice the price hikes, wrote the magazine, which said many increases were slipping past unnoticed even by official inflation statistics.
"Early this year everyone sat down to decide what to do about rising raw materials," such as wheat and milk, said one food industry executive quoted in the study.
"On some products, the decision was made to change the weight content rather than increase the unit price."
Others chose to revamp their packaging, to justify price increases of up to 30 percent.
"Probably the most pernicious" method, wrote the study, was to switch expensive ingredients with cheaper alternatives.
A global index by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation showed food prices rise 12 percent in 2006, 24 percent in 2007 and 50 percent over the first eight months of 2008.
Polls show that rising food prices have replaced unemployment as the number one concern of French families.
[AFP / Expatica]