Less content, 75 percent more expensive – that’s the sham package of the year
| Reading time: 4 minutes
Dshould it be a little less? But a higher price for that? Sounds unattractive, and of course no food and confectionery supplier would talk like that. But quite a few act according to this pattern again and again. Consumers who do not pay close attention when shopping run the risk of doing bad business due to constant changes in pack sizes and filling quantities.
The trade often benefits from these tricks with price increases. This creates a “win-win situation for retailers and manufacturers at the expense of consumers”, complains Valet.
Hidden surcharges, some in the high double-digit range
For years, the Hamburg consumer advocates have been holding against it with the humiliating prize “Sham of the Year”. For a good two weeks, consumers were able to choose what they thought was the greatest abuse on the store shelf from a list of five candidates.
The list was compiled by the consumer advice center on the basis of 3,000 complaints from consumers that it received last year alone, around 500 more than in the previous year.
Seitenbacher crossed the finish line as the sovereign winner for the sham packaging of 2021. According to surveys by the Hamburg consumer center, the muesli brand allowed itself a price premium of up to 75 percent. Instead of the previous one kilo, she put only 750 grams of “fruit muesli” in her packaging.
The trade used the introduction of the new variety as an opportunity to raise prices.
But above all the label was new. “According to the list of ingredients, the recipe is virtually identical to that of the previous cereal,” says the consumer advice center, which has long criticized the fact that mandatory information about the content can often only be found in the small print on the back of the packaging – and not only for the cereal.
Children’s chocolate also tries with the motto “Less goods for more money”. Manufacturer Ferrero “stole two bars” from the package – without lowering prices – and thus carried out step two of a two-stage cheating tactic, as Valet criticizes.
Step one, five years ago, was to put two more bars in the pack and sweeten a corresponding price increase with the slogan “Permanently more content”. In terms of quantity, manufacturer Ferrero has now returned to the previous size of eight bars, but not in terms of price.
The result of the whole operation: a hefty price increase.
The Original” were also difficult to discover. Since the beginning of 2020, it has been offered as a six pack instead of a five pack. But the deal is not as good as it seems. At the same time, the manufacturer shrunk the individual sausages a little, namely from 25 to 22.5 grams. In the end, the contents of the pack only increased slightly from 125 to 135 grams, while the prices rose significantly more.
The consumer advocates found hidden price increases of up to 16 percent.
Practices are “permanent annoyance for consumers”
Milka manufacturer Mondelez skilfully reduced the amount of chocolate in its Easter bunny and Santa Claus figurines – and so inconspicuously that it was barely detectable. “Despite the ‘diet’, Easter bunnies and Santa Clauses usually look taller, so that the lower weight is not even noticeable,” says Valet. Despite the slimming diet, higher prices were enforced, and both effects added up to an increase of up to 36 percent compared to the previous year.
Animal feed manufacturers are also trying to hide higher prices by changing quantities. “Whiskas Crunchy Pockets” from Mars suddenly weighed only 60 grams instead of the previous 72 grams. With the same retail price, this results in a hidden price increase of 20 percent for cat lovers – but only if they ignore Mars’ changed feeding recommendation on the back. If, on the other hand, they act accordingly, there is a price increase of around 50 percent.
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The consumer advocates describe such practices as “permanent annoyance for consumers”. Stiftung Warentest also keeps collecting examples of misleading packaging. According to the Measurement and Verification Act, it is generally forbidden to simulate a larger filling quantity than is actually present in the packaging.
But what that means in detail, the law leaves open. Only internal guidelines stipulate that it should not be more than 30 percent – and that too must be checked in each individual case. Emaciated chocolate rabbits or shrunken mini salami cannot be dealt with with it. So there is plenty of scope for double bottoms, thick lids and non-transparent size changes.
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Sham pack year Muesli Seitenbacher receives negative price consumer advocates