Opinion

Food packs and weights get smaller – but not their prices

By CJ Morris, Horsham

Open letter to Francis Maude MP

I am writing to complain about the adverse economic effects of food manufacturers’ (seemingly increasing) tendency to make unpublicised reductions to pack sizes / weights.  Done, I have no doubt, with the intention to mislead and hide from consumers the ever decreasing value of their offerings.  A fact which will frequently go unnoticed by customers who do not diligently record pack sizes / weights and or unit costs over time.

When pack sizes remain unchanged but the contents are reduced the unchanged costs of marketing, production, distribution and sale are apportioned over less product – thus reducing the value to customers.  Costs for changing the packaging labelling are also incurred along with more costs, throughout the distribution chain, for the introduction of new stock-keeping-units. When smaller packaging is produced new packaging and labelling costs are incurred; and more costs are incurred across both the production and distribution chain for the introduction of the new stock-keeping-units – further reducing the value to customers.

The net effect is that costs of marketing, production, distribution and sale are increased disproportionately over the cost of the actual product.  Inevitably, those extra costs are passed on to customers who, consequently, suffer a disproportionate (unnecessary and avoidable) reduction in product value.

If anything, in these days of economic constraint (and to reduce environmental impacts) food manufacturers / producers should be increasing pack sizes (and reduce unnecessary packaging).

I imagine this is a difficult area for the Government to control (short of introducing prescribed sizes as, for example, applies to alcohol beverages) but I hope you can exert at least some influence to stop the unnecessary and avoidable erosion of value – which is currently a detriment to everyone in the country.

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