Canadian Pizza Magazine

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From the Editor’s Desk: The Incredible Shrinking Pizza

The incredible shrinking pizza


April 23, 2008
By Cam Wood

Topics

If you’ve been to the grocery
store lately, you may … or may not … have noticed the subtle changes
going on with a large number of consumer goods.

If you’ve been to the grocery store lately, you may … or may not … have noticed the subtle changes going on with a large number of consumer goods.

Food manufacturers and packaging companies have been working on the sly, retaining wizardry akin to a Vegas stage show with Penn & Teller. The products we are getting in these ever inflating times are shrinking.

And, no, we’re not looking at the rebirth of the chocolate bar sleight of hand known as the 100-calorie kick (for the subtle price of the full-size bar). What we’re seeing is the gradual reduction in actual product size without any of the “guilt-free pleasure” hype.

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Everything from mayonnaise to frozen pizza is undergoing a shadowy reduction with less pomp and circumstance than a Kirstie Alley commercial. This is weight loss food companies don’t want you to notice.

The strategy has been employed for years, as manufacturers cope with the increased cost of ingredients, wary of passing along those hikes to consumers. Truth is, nothing scars consumers more than price hikes; and the manufacturers are well aware of this. So, complicated by the current economic conditions, they find themselves in a precarious situation. Dairy and wheat prices are at global record highs, distribution costs continue to soar with oil peaking beyond $100 per barrel.

In order to maintain profit margins, they simply reduce the end product’s overall weight. In glass packaging, such as mayonnaise jars, manufacturers reduced the overall size – or employed the “green” strategy and switched from glass to plastic. Did you keep track of the ingredient weight?

How about paper towels? Something every restaurant has in supply. While I’d hazard to say the vast majority of you have wholesale arrangements, the consumer product is, on average, 11 feet less per roll. And paper costs have increased.

Ted Marks, senior editor of Consumer Reports, recently told ABC News that the strategy boils down to “a con” and manufacturers are “ripping consumers off.”

Where does this put today’s pizzeria operator?

Once again, we have the advantage. We’ve lost market share to places such as the frozen food aisle and the “hot and fresh” pizza from the supermarket deli counter.

But the chances are if things are shrinking in toilet paper and mayonnaise, they’re also shrinking inside that cardboard pizza package. The fickle consumer still believes they’re getting the equivalent pizza to a large four-item from you, even though their packaged pizza has reduced cheese quantity, reduced sauce (tomato drought too), and Chinese wheat.

Who really pays attention to finish weight of a frozen pizza, anyway?

So, just as Jenny Craig had to dump dear old Kirstie (I guess she “shrank” too much for their packaging), it would be an appropriate time to talk your consumer into dumping the frozen food aisle. Why not do a little “pizza-a-pizza” guerrilla marketing and slap one of those cardboard deli pies on your wall, right beside your own masterpiece, and let the consumer see what they get for their money.

I suspect the only shrinking then would be their appetite for pizza made in a factory.


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