Over-packaging, shrinkage could have an effect on your Valentine’s Day items

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This heart-shaped box of chocolates might only be half full this Valentine’s Day.

It is not the result of a manufacturing error. Instead, certain brands strive to use larger packaging to make consumers believe they’re getting more bang for their buck than they really are, according to Edgar Dworsky, founder of Consumer World.

“This is about ‘overpacking,'” he said.

Dworsky was made aware of the issue this week when a reader who bought a box of chocolates wrote to express outrage at the contents.

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Upon further investigation, Dworsky found the 9-by-10-inch box of Russell Stover and Whitman’s Sampler chocolates, which sell for about $7.99, contained only between nine and 11 pieces of candy.

According to Dworsky, about two-thirds of the box appears to be empty.

“I just find it disturbing that consumers can be misled in this way,” he said.

The Whitman’s and Russell Stover brands are sold by Russell Stover Chocolates, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

How to recognize a “scaled down” candy gift

The easiest way to spot these issues before you buy is to look at the net weight on the box, Dworsky said. The brand’s cases were 5.1 ounces.

A federal “slack fill” law prohibits companies from using larger packaging than necessary, he said. Still, some companies are experimenting with packaging to save costs, which in some cases has led to lawsuits.

Businesses can also turn to shrinkage inflation, where the quantity of a product is reduced but the price remains the same.

“Candy is one of the categories that’s regularly downsized,” Dworsky said.

Top items that tend to be downsized, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, include household paper products, snack foods and pastries, including sweet rolls, coffee cakes and donuts.

A Morning Consult poll conducted in August found that more than half of adults – 54% – have seen, read or heard about shrinkage inflation, while nearly two-thirds – 64% – are worried about it.

“When you notice the package is smaller or you’re getting less for the same price, that’s especially frustrating,” Emily Moquin, food and beverage analyst at Morning Consult, previously told CNBC.com.

But this Valentine’s Day, there’s still good news. In fact, one of the most traditional gifts is not subject to shrinkage.

“A dozen roses, thank goodness, is still 12,” Dworsky quipped.

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