Not just consumers, even retailers are surprised at reduced weight of branded items. And they agree that manufacturers have pulled the wool over the buyer’s eyes.
“Most manufacturers of Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) resort to this. Yes, the reduction has happened quietly. If you survey among buyers, most would not be aware of this,” said a senior official of Subhiksha chain of retail outlets.
Retailers and grocery stores said even company distributors or agents never informed them.
“We came to know of it on our own. But I have never come across customers checking the net weight before buying. In fact, in case of familiar products like Maggi and likes, no one even bothers,” said Suraj Kumar, a retail trader at RK Puram’s Indira Market.
Companies claim that this is a necessary tactic. “Companies need to protect themselves from margin erosion and secure
profitability. Sometimes grammage adjustments become necessary to hold on to price points, which are important from consumer perspective,” said a spokeswoman of Unilever, country's largest makers of FMCG products.
However, price points are a rural perspective, said the Subhiksha official. “In villages, buyers ask for, say, a soap worth Rs 5. They are not used to recalling brand names. There, the price point becomes crucial for the products' identity. But in cities that is not the case. Still you see that Vim dish washing soap has lost weight, wherein each soap in a bundle of three now weighs around 265 grams instead of the earlier 300,” he said.
According to consumer activist Bejan Misra of NGO Consumer VOICE, this is nothing but a way to deceive consumers.
“There must be public declaration of this kind of reductions. But then who wants to declare that they have reduced something instead of adding?” he said.
It is said that a renowned airliner saved $40,000 by just reducing one olive from each plate of salad served in first class for a year. "Grammage adjustments” for FMCG products is the fancy name given to this exercise to help maintain profit margin without increasing input costs.
“In other words, companies do not want their profits to decrease. So they decrease the consumer's share,” said Misra.