The Australian Consumers Association (ACA) has accused food manufacturers of deceiving consumers by shrinking packages and increasing prices by stealth. This week, ACA representatives called for food product labels to display costs per 100g or 100ml in order to allow customers to easily compare value for money.

Companies such as Cadbury and Heinz Watties have been gradually slimming down product sizes, but the prices are remaining the same, and the ACA believes this is to ensure that the average consumer does not notice that they are paying more for less.

ACA spokeswoman Gail Kennedy argued that the industry should introduce unit pricing urgently: “It would be so simple and it happens elsewhere in the world. Shoppers shouldn’t be expected to carry a calculator in supermarkets to compare prices.”

The manufacturers meanwhile are adamant that their subtle approach to price hikes is to protect consumers. Cadbury argues that the fact that blocks of white chocolate have gradually shrunken to 240g from 250g was due to a product upgrade, and the feeling that consumers were used to paying a certain price.

Similarly, Glenda Orland, spokeswoman for Heinz Watties, stressed that the 20g reduction in the size of the standard can was to make life easier for the consumer. The new cans are easier to stack, she said, and have a ring-pull top.