Editorial: Shrinkflation

Last Updated on Thursday, 9 June, 2022 at 3:56 pm by Andre Camilleri

There is one thing that some consumers may not be noticing.


It’s what is known as shrinkflation.

It’s the way companies deal with controlling costs. Instead of asking consumers to pay more, they give them less for the same price.

An Associated Press report published this week says that in the US, for example, a small box of Kleenex now has 60 tissues; a few months ago, it had 65. Chobani Flips yogurts have shrunk from 5.3 ounces to 4.5 ounces. In the UK, Nestle slimmed down its Nescafe Azera Americano coffee tins from 100 grams to 90 grams. In India, a bar of Vim dish soap has shrunk from 155 grams to 135 grams.

Shrinkflation is not a new phenomenon. But it tends to happen mostly in times of high inflation, something which the whole world seems to be experiencing. It could be a result of the recovery from two plus years of pandemic; it is probably exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. Whatever the cause, as companies grapple with rising costs for ingredients, packaging, labour and transportation, they find ways how to reduce their costs.

In the end, consumers pay the same price, but get less of what they used to not so long ago. In the long run, consumers will still be paying more. If a box of tissues used to last them a week, and now it will finish after five days, then they will be buying six boxes a month, instead of four.

Global consumer price inflation was up an estimated 7% in May, a pace that will likely continue through September, according to S&P Global.

So it is to be expected that many more companies will be resorting to the same procedures. The Associated Press report carries more examples of what is happening.

Some customers who have noticed the downsizing are sharing examples on social media, so it is likely that more consumers are now aware of what is happening. Others say shrinkflation is causing them to change their shopping habits.

“It comes in waves. We happen to be in a tidal wave at the moment because of inflation,” said Edgar Dworsky, a US consumer advocate and former assistant attorney general in Massachusetts who has documented shrinkflation on his Consumer World website for decades.

Dworsky told the Associated Press that he began noticing smaller boxes in the cereal aisle last autumn, and shrinkflation ballooned from there.

Dworsky said shrinkflation appealed to manufacturers because they know customers will notice price increases but won’t keep track of net weights or small details, like the number of sheets on a roll of toilet paper. Companies can also employ tricks to draw attention away from downsizing, like marking smaller packages with bright new labels that draw shoppers’ eyes.

Sometimes the trend can reverse. As inflation eases, competition might force manufacturers to lower their prices or reintroduce larger packages. But Dworsky says once a product has gotten smaller, it often stays that way.

“Upsizing is kind of rare,” he said.

- Advertisement -