"So, yes we all love Terry's Chocolate Orange," began a message we received last week from Pete Townsend. "But the manufacturers want to increase their margins at our cost without putting the price up.
“So, how do you keep the orange the exact same size externally while reducing the chocolate content and thus increasing your margins without people noticing it? Simple.”
Pete sent us a photograph. “They have formed a large lip on the outside curved side of the orange slice. Not much, you would say, but when it’s on every slice there is a gap between every slice . . . where chocolate used to be. Marketing is just about profit, as one of my best friends used to say. Incidentally, Yorkies are now much smaller as well.”
He was prompted to mail us after Mondelez International, which makes Toblerone, announced it was widening the gap between the peaks so it could reduce the weight of its 400g and 170g bars while keeping the price and packaging the same.
Pete is also right about the Yorkie bar. When it first appeared on our shelves in the 1970s, it was 70g. Today it is just 46g. And the shrinkflation doesn’t end there. The Pink Snack started giving its devotees two fingers more than a year ago after Cadbury reduced its three-fingered treat by a third.
A multipack of Cadbury Creme Eggs, meanwhile, fell from six to five. The Snickers bar has shrunk alarmingly in recent years, and Twirls now have barely enough chocolate in them to make their way round a small ballroom even once.
The list of products hit by shrinkflation goes on and on. One-litre tubs of Carte D’Or ice cream are actually 900ml. So is a litre of Innocent smoothies. Magnum ice creams, which used to be 360ml, are now 330ml. Even the biscuit coating on a Brunch has been significantly diminished.
BT does the voucher business
We have frequently had cause to publish readers' stories giving out about the expiry dates on gift vouchers and retailers refusing to honour them when they expire. So an email last week from Lena Griffin caught our eye.
“A while back I heard you talk about vouchers specifically relating to Brown Thomas,” her writes. “I have quite old vouchers from 2002 (I was sure they were completely lost but found them recently).”
Lena recalls us saying something about BT vouchers and was “just wondering if you have any contacts there that can help me? The value is for €255, and they are paper vouchers. Brown Thomas say they won’t accept them, so this will be my last attempt to see if there’s anything I can get for them.”
Before would could look into this story, Griffin sent us an update: “I’m not sure if you had anything to do with it, but Brown Thomas (despite having said definitively last week they couldn’t honour the vouchers) have just come back to me again and they have kindly agreed to honour the vouchers. So happy days and thanks again.”
It was nothing to do with us, so Brown Thomas deserves praise for honouring vouchers that are now 14 years old.
The dying art of weighing up
We received a big response to our article last week on technologies that time forgot. Chris Coggins said we left out the milk bottle and the Teasmade. The latter, he says, was "a device with an alarm clock built in which would make tea at the right time, and when made would set off the alarm to wake you."
Denis Daly, meanwhile, said handwriting "will be obsolete, as will the ability to write, already prevalent among some teenagers!"
And June Hurley suggested we include kitchen weighing scales. "Originally we had the two pan scales with beautiful copper weights, although there was the danger of the weights getting mislaid. Then we moved to the single pan with a pointer to give the weight.
“Now we have gone digital, with the risk of the battery running out after the shops have closed, or if you have to find more ingredients, the power-saving facility switches it off and you have no idea of what is already on the pan!”
June also took issue with our inclusion of the pressure cooker, which she still uses “quite a lot, but never for vegetables as they end up overdone. It is great for cooking joints of ham or corned beef, and lovely stock can be prepared from chicken or lamb bones in 40 minutes.”