Consumer champion shines light on growing concern among UK shoppers, ‘shrinkflation’
Consumer rights champion Which? has shed light on a growing concern among UK shoppers, known as ‘shrinkflation’.
According to the research, two-thirds of consumers have noticed popular food and drink items decreasing in size, while their price remains unchanged or even increases.
‘Shrinkflation’ refers to the practice of reducing a product’s size while maintaining its price, effectively increasing the cost per unit for the consumer.
Which? has discovered dozens of examples of this occurrence in grocery and household essential products.
Research by Barclay’s Bank corroborates these findings, showing that hard-pressed shoppers feel they are falling victim to the phenomenon.
As a result, one in five shoppers plan to switch from products that have been downsized by manufacturers to buying in bulk instead.
Some of the most common victims of ‘shrinkflation’ are beloved snack items.
Chocolate, crisps, biscuits, and snack bars have all seen reductions in size, according to survey respondents.
These include popular brands like Lurpak, Whiskas, McVitie’s Digestives, Richmond meat-free sausages, and Nestlé Quality Street chocolates, all of which have shrunk in pack size in recent months.
- Lurpak’s salted, unsalted and lighter butter; down from 250g to 200g (20% smaller)
- Whiskas cat food pouches: down from 100g to 85g (15% smaller)
- Penguin and Club biscuit multipacks: down from eight bars to seven (12.5% smaller)
- McVitie’s Digestives: down from 400g to 360g (10% smaller)
- Richmond meat-free sausages: down from 336g to 304g (9.5% smaller)
- Magnum ice creams (four pack): down from 110ml to 100ml (9.1% smaller)
- Nestlé Quality Street chocolate tubs: down from 650g to 600g tubs (7.7% smaller)
- Pringles tubes: down from 200g to 185g (7.5% smaller)
- Comfort Pure fabric conditioner: down from 85 washes per pack to 83 (2.4% smaller)
[All images: Which?]
Despite the obvious frustrations this causes for consumers, ‘shrinkflation’ is legal.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) says that shrinking pack sizes is not misleading, as prices and quantities are always stated on the packaging.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the BRC, told Which?: “Given the challenges facing households from the cost of living squeeze, retailers are solely focused on finding ways to limit rising prices for customers against the rising cost of production, while maintaining the excellent quality of products.”
However, consumers can combat ‘shrinkflation’ by becoming more vigilant shoppers and taking steps to reduce the cost of their food shopping.
Which? advises consumers to be aware of ‘yo-yo pricing’ – regular cycles of price increases and reductions – and to buy products when they are on special offer.
Other tips include checking multiple aisles for similar products at different prices and avoiding convenience stores which typically have higher prices.
In response to the reduction of Lurpak and Anchor butter blocks from 250g to 200g, an Arla spokesperson stated that they are seeking to help reduce the cost of the average shopper’s basket while ensuring that their farmer owners continue to supply shops.
The dairy cooperative has also reduced the recommended retail price for 250g and 750g Lurpak packs by 20% and introduced a smaller 400g pack.
On the subject of Pringles, a Kellogg’s spokesperson highlighted that cost increases in ingredients and production processes can affect the cost of their products. However, they noted that retail prices sometimes decrease, as happened between 2021 and 2022.
Regarding Whiskas, Mars pointed out the company’s struggle against the global inflationary pressures impacting raw materials and manufacturing costs. Despite these challenges, Mars has made an effort to maintain the price of their pet food pouches, offering the best possible value for money.
Nestlé, manufacturer of Quality Street, noted that each new seasonal range is introduced considering factors like manufacturing costs, ingredients, transport, and customer preferences. They believe their pricing remains competitive and offers a good variety for consumers.
Richmond confessed that they, too, have reduced the size of some products due to rising production costs, but remain committed to offering the best possible value for money without compromising on quality or taste.
Unilever, manufacturer of Comfort fabric conditioner and Magnum ice creams, acknowledged experiencing significant increases in input costs. The company expressed its aim to continue offering value and choice through a variety of product sizes, formats, and price points. Like other manufacturers, Unilever clarified that they only provide a recommended retail price, with the final cost decided at the retailer’s discretion.
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