I have a colleague in the office of our publishing company who loves yogurt. Let's call her Linda, since that's her name. Linda is what marketers call brand loyal. Until recently she had eaten the same fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt almost every day for more than 20 years. She really liked what she was getting.

Well, Linda's had a change of heart. The big national yogurt concern that makes Linda's favorite yogurt redesigned its 8-oz package with some spiffy new graphics and a new size --6 ounces. Linda felt cheated. The price came down a little, but she was saving less than 10% and receiving 25% less of the good stuff.

Linda wrote a letter to the company and got a response saying that most consumers prefer the smaller size. She's unmoved by what most consumers prefer.

Linda's is a great real-life example, but otherwise, there is no need to single out this national yogurt maker. The company is not the only food manufacturer of late to find itself defending a downsizing. Since federal regulators lifted standard English volume measurement requirements on ice cream a few years ago, a number of ice cream makers have toyed with the size of what used to be the popular half-gallon. Most recently, two more companies rolled out their own 56-oz squrounds and headed off criticism by touting the benefits of the new improved package. In reporting on that trend, Food Engineering magazine quipped that "coffee companies introduced the 13 oz. pound years ago." (see The 56 oz. Ice cream carton: will it float?, April 2003.)

But dairy companies should take care. Size matters.

A number of consumers do notice when they get less of what they pay for, and they write letters and post complaints on the Internet.

The proliferation of microbreweries and brewpubs in the United States was inspired in part by a grass roots effort in the United Kingdom to preserve traditional British beer. A group called the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) did much in the 1970s and '80s to keep British consumers interested in British ale despite the influx of more fashionable European and American brews. Coincidentally, one of the tenets of the organization is that the consumer should get an honest pint of ale for his pound. In England this is taken very seriously. Ale is served in certified pint glasses, and a good publican makes sure that the dense foamy head does not extend below the pint demarcation on the glass.

In the states we aren't as fond of draft beer and we aren't nearly as fastidious about glass sizes. But Americans love bottled beer. Think about it --if the brewers of your favorite brand of beer came up with a new color-coded label, but switched to a 9-oz bottle how would you feel?

A reader phoned recently saying that those ice cream makers sticking with an honest half-gallon should be applauded. Perhaps. But certainly any dairy company contemplating a switch to a smaller size should think long and hard. And remember Linda.

She's found a new brand, by the way. It's a store brand, in fact. She's paying less than ever and getting her full 8 ounces. It's even offered in Linda's favorite flavor, Banana!