Beware shrinkflation?

The price stays the same but the product gets smaller


Consumers would care less about shrinkflation if supermarkets sold quality over quantity

Most consumers are concerned about the cost of food. We constantly look for bargains and the food industry knows it.

According to a recent survey by Dalhousie University, more than 60 per cent of all Canadian consumers consider price as one of the top three decision criteria when grocery shopping. Price is key, no matter what. Grocers play around with prices to keep all of us on our toes.

Pricing in the food processing sector is intricate.

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What is shrinkflation and why is it a problem?

By Joe Harker

Have you visited your local supermarket to buy your favourite food and been struck with the creeping feeling that there's something wrong with what you're buying?

You might not be able to put your finger on it immediately, but after a while you realise something you buy all the time has become ever so slightly smaller. It didn't cost you any more, but you're getting less for what you pay.

This is shrinkflation. The prices don't go up but the products get smaller and over time the customers get used to the smaller size.

The Claim:

The Financial Times reports that bread, cereals, toilet roll, meat and chocolate are the products with the most shrinkflation.

Hobnobs have been hit by the trend, while next year's Curly Wurlys will be shrinkflated beyond recognition.

Nobody wants to see their bag of shopping get more expensive but consumers are becoming more aware that even if prices aren't going up they're still getting a raw deal.

The more alert to shrinkflation consumers become the more likely they are to push against it. People have seen their food getting smaller over time and now recognise something is getting worse.

It's also causing problems for attempts to measure how economies are doing, with the changes to size rather than price messing with concepts of supply and demand.

The Counter Claim:

However, The Independent suggests supermarkets and manufacturers might have no choice but to adopt shrinkflation.

They hope that it might represent a pivot towards food quality over quantity, even if customers are getting irritated that they're getting less for their money.

Rising food costs present manufacturers with three options. You either raise the price, shrink the product or come up with a new formula that contains cheaper ingredients.

Nobody likes the price going up and there's always a huge amount of rage when a favourite product has been changed, making shrinkflation a preferred option.

It might be unpopular but when the alternative is a more expensive food bill or getting "new" products that aren't as good it's a more palpable alternative.

The Facts:

Since 2012 almost 3,000 products on the shelves of UK supermarkets have been subject to shrinkflation.

This doesn't mean prices haven't moved, they've just not done so at the same time as products have got smaller. Annual food inflation is around six per cent and are hitting new heights this year, leaving people stuck paying more for less.

A no deal Brexit is seen as an upcoming factor that will boost food prices again. If it comes to pass then manufacturers will be hit with another round of decisions to make over whether to raise prices or shrink products. Shrinkflation is here to stay.

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Financial Times

'Shrinkflation' leaves UK shoppers getting less for their money

British shoppers are getting less for their money when they buy bread, cereals or washing up liquid, according to an analysis published on Monday by the UK statistical agency.

The Office for National Statistics examined "shrinkflation" - the phenomenon where consumer goods do not rise in price but instead become smaller - and found that bread and cereals, toilet rolls, meat and chocolate were among the items most likely to be affected.

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