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Confectionery's Secret Con

Do stealth price rises amount to an unreported Christmas con? James Harrison investigates.

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CC Photo Courtesy of nataliej on Flickr, (2007)
CC Photo Courtesy of nataliej on Flickr, (2007)

Christmas will soon be upon us, but many people may be disappointed to find that the amount of chocolate we receive has been quietly reduced, with the prices remaining the same. The most notable chocolates to be affected by this are Mars' celebrations and Cadbury's Heroes. Mars has cut the size of its tubs of Celebrations from 855g to 750g, a reduction of around 11 sweets compared to last year. Meanwhile, tubs of Cadbury's Heroes have been cut from 800g to 780g, equating to two or three fewer chocolates this Christmas.

However, a quick look around any shop will reveal that these covert reductions in chocolate sizes are not only widespread, but have been going on for years. It also appears that most major chocolate brands engage in it. Arguably the most obvious case of the sizes of chocolate being reduced is the Cadbury's relaunched Dairy Milk bars. In 2012 the Dairy Milk bars were changed to a new 'curved' shape. However, as part of this process the bar was shrunk by eight per cent - from 49g to 45g. The 59p price of the bar, however, remained the same.

This year it was revealed that Nestle had been carrying out the same practice with its Yorkie bars. Nestle admitted they quietly slimmed the bar down by 14 per cent, shrinking from 64.8g to 55g. The process of shrinking Yorkie's had been on-going for years; with its weight falling from 70.4g in 2000, then 68.2g in 2003 and 64.8g six years later. Other chocolates such as Twix, Quality Street and Rose have also shrunk in size, with no corresponding fall in prices. The reduced sizes and absence of an equal reduction in prices has the result of shoppers being hit with what amounts to a stealth price rise.

The practice has become so widespread that, for the first time, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that the size of chocolate bars and bags of sweets have been reduced by as much as 10 per cent in the past year. The government agency mentioned the development in its latest consumer price index report, so that the public were made aware that they were getting less for their money .The ONS said that consumers were facing inflation "by the back door" as confectionery products were being reduced in size but still costing the same amount of money. Confectionery companies claim that continued cost increases over recent years have forced these reductions, with rising cocoa butter and sugar prices playing a large role in this. There have also been claims that the reductions in chocolate sizes are part of an effort to combat obesity and ill-health.

This tactic by confectionery companies does make economic sense; reducing the sizes of the products instead of increasing the price is far more likely to avoid potential customers being put off from buying the products. With the Christmas rush soon upon us, people will be even less likely to check the chocolate they are buying to see if they have been ripped off by reduced chocolate sizes, focusing mainly on the prices.

Cadbury defended its reductions by arguing that they allow the company to hold its prices, aiding customers during difficult financial times. However this approach is certainly dishonest, and plainly unfair on customers, especially during the Christmas period, when chocolate is bought in particularly large amounts. Unfortunately, these practices will continue as they ensure that companies will continue to maintain their profit levels.

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1 Comment

Matt Posted on Thursday 6 Aug 2020

But freddos have doubled in price.


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