Which? slams 'underhand' price rises

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British consumers have serious size issues. A Which? survey has found that while some food products have got pricier, they've also got smaller. Beef burgers, for example, from Birds Eye have climbed in price to £4.29 from £3.98.

Yet this food manufacturer is giving you 12 burgers, not 16 as before. There are plenty of other examples too. What's going on?


Squeeze job

The owner of Birds Eye, for example, is private equity fund Permira - and private equity players are masters of squeezing more out of less. Which? executive director Richard Lloyd says he is not impressed by the packet pinching, which is increasingly adopted by a range of manufacturers, not just private equity vultures.

"Shrinking products can be an underhand way of raising prices because pack sizes shrink but the prices don't. We want simpler pricing so people can easily compare products to see which is the cheapest, and for special offers to be genuine."

Conned?

Which? asked the makers of these products why they had shrunk them. Generally Which? was told that in the face of rising costs, manufacturers chose to shrink products rather than increase prices. But some are clearly doing both.

"Many of the manufacturers we spoke to said retailers ultimately set prices," says Which? "We asked whether they reduced the wholesale price or set a lower recommended retail price when the product shrank. Most manufacturers either said they didn't do this or wouldn't comment."

If supermarkets aren't being charged less per item, Which? says, "it's not surprising that prices don't drop for consumers when products shrink."


Which? list of shame:

Finish All-in-1 Powerball Dishwasher Tablets

These were £7.65 in Ocado before and
after the pack size shrank from 28 to 26 tablets.

Nestle Shredded Wheat Superfruity Blue & Black

In Sainsbury's this was £2.68 at full price,
or on offer at £2 before it shrank, and £2.68 after the pack contents were reduced

Bassetts liquorice Allsorts

This pack was £1.70 in Asda, £1.48 in Sainsbury's and generally £1.48 in Morrisons. After it was £1.50 in Asda and stayed £1.48 in Sainsbury's and Morrisons.

Patak's Tikka Masala Cooking sauce

This was £1.76 in Morrisons and Waitrose when it was 500g and and it stayed the same when it was reduced to 450g.

Thorntons Mini Caramel shortcakes

These were £1.40 in Waitrose when the pack contained 12 mini caramel shortcakes and £1.50 when it shrank to just 10.

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