Shrinkflation, an unpopular term among consumers, is the process of items shrinking in size or quantity while their prices remain the same. Manufacturers engage in this practice to make money. Angelique Ruzicka has some tips on how to beat them at their own game
Manufacturers often want to increase their prices, but don’t want to do so in an obscene way that may lead to them being labelled “the bad guys”.
But if they are facing margin pressure, they have to find solutions. So, what do they do instead?
They reduce the size or the number of portions while keeping the packaging the same.
Alternatively, they use less of the more expensive ingredients and puff up the product with cheaper contents.
This results in manufacturers paying less to produce an item while the consumer pays the same price or more.
The payoff is that the consumer does not notice this shrinkage as the packaging remains the same – at least that is the hope. This practice is referred to as “shrinkflation”.
EXAMPLES OF SHRINKFLATION
Many companies have been found guilty of shrinkflation, including Cadbury which, under the American Mondelez International conglomerate, announced in 2015 it would change the recipe of the much loved British Cadbury Crème Egg (often eaten at Easter time) by replacing the Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate with “standard cocoa mix chocolate”.
Then, much to the ire of chocolate lovers, the company also reduced the number of eggs in a box from six to five.
Various other products in the UK whose portions have been reduced in size or number, while maintaining the same price, include Birds Eye Fish Fingers, Maltesers, Morland Old Speckled Hen Ale and Morrisons Milk Bottle Sweets, to name but a few.
South African consumers have been victims of shrinkflation too. Last year, it was reported that Coca-Cola bottles had been reduced from 500ml to 440ml, but the price of the bottle had remained the same.
It was claimed that Coca-Cola was trying to reduce its customers’ sugar consumption. In the past we’ve also seen toilet rolls, coffee, crisps and washing powder get the shrinkflation treatment.
While this practice is not against the law, it definitely leaves a bitter taste in consumers’ mouths and, while you may want to complain bitterly, only a few companies have kept the original size and the same price.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Boycott: If you see your favourite brand of chocolate or crisps with less inside, you don’t have to buy the item.
Buy a competitor’s product or cut out the product entirely.
It may even be healthier to do so and cheaper if you bear in mind the sugar tax set to be introduced in April this year is almost upon us.
If you absolutely must have a particular brand, buy it after the celebrated day – like Easter – as shops reduce the product prices.
Downscale: Martin Lewis, the founder of UK consumer website moneysavingexpert.com, often encourages his followers to engage in a “downshift challenge”. Do not be a brand slave! Simply go for a cheaper brand and stick to it.
Look around you: Do not just consider the products that are at your eye level in the store. They are often more expensive, while the cheaper products are packed lower down in the hopes that you won’t notice them.
Shop online: Consider shopping online to keep the costs down. This way, you won’t feel pressured to tally up prices while you’re in the store. It will also be easier to compare prices as your favourite item at a competitor’s store is just a click away.
Don’t shop if you are hungry: Experts reckon we buy more if we’re hungry because we tend to think with our stomachs and not with our brains. So, only shop after you’ve had a meal.
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