Your grocery items are getting smaller

By Roger Sadler

May 12, 2014 Updated May 12, 2014 at 9:53 PM CDT

EAST PEORIA, Ill -- At the grocery store, the first number we often check out is the price.

These days, though, we need to pay just as much attention to another number - the amount.

Think of it as the Incredible Shrinking Grocery Item.

That 32-ounce jar of mayonnaise is now 30 ounces. Jars of spaghetti sauce used to be 32 ounces. Today, many are down to 24 ounces.

What's going on? Research shows a lot of us prefer a smaller amount to a higher price, and food companies know this.

Consider a package of Kool-Aid freezer pops. Two years ago, you got 24 for a dollar. Today, the package is still a dollar, but now you get
only 20.

At the Kroger's in East Peoria today, I showed customers two items: a carton of ice cream and container of orange juice. For a long time, the standard size for both items was a half gallon. Almost everyone guessed the items were still a half gallon. They were wrong.

The ice cream carton was 1.75 quarts. That's .25 quarts short of a half gallon. The orange juice looked like a half gallon or 64 ounces, but the label showed 59 ounces.

Shopper Linda Marie Jones of East Peoria made the wrong guess on both items. "I guess it doesn't surprise me, but as a consumer, I guess you want to watch that. I guess I'll have to start paying closer attention."

The examples of package downsizing are endless. A box of Spree candy at Dollar Tree was six ounces last year. This year, it's down to five ounces. A 16-ounce bottle of Ajax dish-washing liquid has been downsized to 14 ounces. Many store brands of small peanut butter jars are 18 ounces, but national brands like Jif have shrunk to 16 ounces. Peter Pan is a little better at 16.3 ounces.

There are fewer sheets per roll of toilet paper or paper towels. You get fewer tissues per box these days. Cereal boxes are much smaller as well.

A bag of Doritos many years ago got you 14.5 ounces of chips. Over the past decade, Doritos has gradually shrunk the bag a half-ounce at a time to its present 11 ounces.

In the meantime, we can take comfort in the fact that a gallon of milk is still a gallon... at least for now.