Hidden Inflation: Neilson Milk Products 500ml -> 473ml = 5.4% reduction in volume

 Store Shelf as of April 26, 2014

473 ml Neilson Milk

It started out as an average stop in at the corner store… Until I gazed on the chocolate milk cartons above.  I have been drinking this since I was a kid, and there was something very strange.  473 ml? Seriously, I have seen that number before, but never on Milk cartons.  250 ml &  500 ml are milk carton volumes 100%.  So I snapped a picture and prepared for some serious google searching.  A change like this cannot have gone unnoticed?

Neilson Chocolate Milk Webpage – April 26, 2014

First stop, what is the official word.  The Neilson website for Chocolate Milk products.

April 26, 2014 - Neilson website snapshot

The next logical thing to do is to see if this page had every had original size of 250 ml and 500 ml on it?  How to do this? Simple, visit www.cachedpages.com.  Paste the URL from the Neilson’s chocolate milk webpage and search Archive.org

CachedPages

What do you know, this webpage has been captured (cached) 3 times.  Most recently September 26, 2013.  7 months ago, the cartons officially (via Neilson’s own website) were marked with 250 ml and 500 ml.

 

Neilson Chocolate Milk Webpage – September 26, 2013

Click here for Cached page

September 26, 2013 - Neilson website snapshot

Old Neilson Chocolate Milk Carton with 500 ml volume

Final Thoughts

Hidden “inflation”, that is, a reduction in quantity or quality of a standard weight product but charging the same price.  This creates an illusion that prices are not risings and is likely not captured in Canadian CPI data (I would love to get the component data set to see if milk prices are captured in CPI and what the trends of that data are over the last 7 months).

This is a warning about food inflation, and the methods that are used to disguise the fact that food prices have, are, and will continue to rise.  Not because of the “Speculators” which always appear to be demonized by the media and governments for driving food prices higher.  With minimal comprehension of real economics, that is Austrian Economics, it can be see that speculators just quicken the adjustment of the market.

“Entrepreneurship is also the dominant characteristic of buyers and sellers who act speculatively, who specialize in anticipating higher or lower prices in the future. Their entire action consists in attempts to anticipate future market prices, and their success depends on how accurate or erroneous their forecasts are. Since, as was seen above, correct speculation quickens the movement toward equilibrium, and erroneous speculation tends to correct itself, the activity of these speculators tends to hasten the arrival of an equilibrium position.”

Murray N. Rothbard – Man, Economy, and State – pg. 158-159

The below paragraph sums up the use of why the “wicked speculators” always get blamed for price inflation. The solution to this problem is also elucidated below.  Education, that is, pointing out these type of fallacious ideas and help the “average voter” comprehend logical chains of deduction.  For more on Praxeology and Economics, Man, Economy, and State is the best starting point.  Read Chapter one and I promise you a great intellectual experience. (Free PDF from Mises.org)

“Without grasping logical chains of deduction, the average voter will never be able to discover the errors that his ruler makes. To borrow an example from a later section of this chapter, suppose that the government inflates the money supply, thereby causing an inevitable rise in prices. The government can blame the price rise on wicked speculators or alien black marketeers, and unless the public knows economics, it will not be able to see the fallacies in the rulers’ arguments.”

Murray N. Rothbard – Man, Economy, and State – pg. 887-888

Back to the 473 ml Chocolate Milk Carton by Neilson. Where did the 473 ml number come from?  I am just speculating but my guess would be that many energy drinks volumes have been for years at that value, it would appear to be logical to choose a number that has some familiarity with the consumers.  This 473 ml volume decision I believe was thought to reduce the likelihood of consumers noticing the “Hidden Inflation” at work.

As to the answer to the question above “A change like this cannot have gone unnoticed?” It appears from my limited amount of research that there has not been a news article specifically using this Neilson Chocolate Milk 500 ml -> 473 ml as an example.  The next endevour is to determine a smaller date range to when the change took place.  It can be postulated that it was a New Year’s change but that is just speculation at this time.

The concept of “Hidden Inflation” is not new.  There are plenty of examples that can be found by a simply google search for the keywords.  Since a picture speaks a thousand words, this post will end off with an example that demonstrates “hidden inflation” and how CPI measures do not account for such price changes.

Reference: Pickled Onion Monster Munch

 

Another article that discusses a similar topic: Hiding signs of inflation

 

Update: Two Tweets that Reference a 750 ml Carton

Judging by the dates of these two tweets which are March 30, 2014 & April 3, 2014 perhaps the 500 mL -> 473 mL change happened around a similar timeframe and hence is alot more recent than originally thought.

However, this 750 mL carton is not referenced on the official website of Neilson as of yet, so not sure if it was just a one off trial balloon for a new size or a replacement of the 1 L size which would be consistent with the reduction of the smaller sizes.  However, 1 L -> 750 mL is 25% vs the 500 mL -> 473 mL which is only 5.4% different.

 Neilson Chocolate Milk – now with 25% less chocolate milk!

750 ml Neilson Milk Chocolate