Downsized!

More and more products lose weight

Last reviewed: February 2011

Georgia reader Brian Petrino looked at his Angel Soft toilet tissue, labeled "our thickest ever," and fumed. The old roll had 352 sheets per roll; the new one had just 300 sheets, and they were narrower. "It should say ‘our smallest,' " he groused.

From toothpaste to tuna fish, hot dogs to hand soap, companies have been shaving ounces and inches from packaged goods for years, usually blaming it on rising costs for ingredients and energy. They've got a point: Higher commodity and fuel costs are expected to cause a spike in food prices by as much as 3 percent in 2011. But if manufacturers are skimping when costs go up, why aren't they more generous when costs hold steady or fall?

No one likes a price hike, but what riles readers are the ways manufacturers hide their handiwork: indenting the bottom of containers (a favorite trick among peanut butter processors), making plastic wraps thinner, or whipping ice cream so that you pay for air instead of ingredients.