Who hasn’t commented on the diminutive size of Wagon Wheels compared with childhood memories of them?

Manufacturers reducing the size of their products is a feature of many sectors and is particularly prevalent in confectionary, snacks and alcohol. There’s more behind the trend for downsizing, however, than manufacturers saving money by giving customers less for the same price.

The cost of the average basket of groceries rose by 12% in the UK in 2008, and reducing the size of a product allows manufacturers to maintain recognised price points while delivering value to consumers and driving greater sales volume for themselves and retailers. It would take a brave manufacturer to increase its product’s price when its competitors didn’t.

Meanwhile, is the consumer perception that everything is shrinking even based on reality? Every year Cadbury’s Creme Eggs seem a little smaller, but the UK product is the size it’s always been (40g). So, why this perception?

We live in a world where many things have become bigger – take Heathrow, 4x4 cars or the supersize meal, for example. Downsizing could be seen as a response to this, with consumers wanting simple, smaller, back-to-basics products – particularly at a time of economic crisis and soaring obesity rates.

When smaller alternatives are offered, it gives people the chance to treat themselves – but for less money and with fewer calories. It also offers more choice for consumers as, if they want big, in many cases the option still exists.

There are, of course, downsides to downsizing. These include a potential drop in brand standout, plus environmental concerns as a trend towards smaller pack sizes could mean an increase in the proportion of packaging to product.

However, if done properly and for the right reasons, it can be an effective strategy. Indeed, manufacturers could make more of it, celebrating the value for money and reduced calorie counts they’re offering. I, for one, am a firm believer that size does matter!n

Dave Timothy is account director at strategic design agency Anthem Worldwide.