Newer Toblerone bar with larger gaps between peaks. Photo: Ashley Pomeroy
While consumers are being hit with raising prices, sellers are shrinking package contents. It’s “shrinkflation.”
While some consumers are used to the fact that it’s hard to find a true quart or pint of ice cream, now those shrinking packages are appearing with toilet paper, cereal, and cookies.
Product downsizing is becoming more prevalent, said Edgar Dworsky, editor of the website ConsumerWorld.org, who has been tracking grocery packaging changes for decades.
Kimberly-Clark’s Cottonelle Ultra Clean mega rolls of toilet paper have just been reduced from 340 sheets to 312; Keebler’s Chips Deluxe with M&Ms packages that used to be 11.3 ounces are now only 9.75 ounces, and Gatorade’s 32-ounce bottles just shrank to only 28 ounces. A list of recently downsized products can be found here.
“Since manufacturers are increasingly choosing to make their products smaller as a sneaky way to pass on a back door price increase, shoppers have to become net weight conscious and not just price conscious,” Dworsky said.
“The best way to cope with ‘shrinkflation’ is to focus on unit pricing (the price per ounce or per 100-count) – that’s the only way to really compare prices and know what you’re paying,” said Jack Gillis, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America.
Gillis said it’s particularly insidious that while package contents are shrinking, package sizes often look the same.
Here are some tips for coping with shrinkflation from Consumer World and the CFA:
- Take advantage of unit pricing to truly compare and know what you’re actually paying.
- Compare prices in supermarkets’ weekly flyers.
- Substitute store brands for the higher-priced brand names.
- Check the “day-old rack” for discounted produce and bread.
- Use the store’s loyalty card to save on sale items.
- Stock-up on sale items when the price is exceptionally good.
- Compare the price per serving instead of just the per pound price.
- Use grocery apps to get rebates on items you buy anyway.
On inflation, Gillis said the concern is that some companies are taking advantage of inflation and are raising prices more than they really need to.
“They’re taking advantage of the pent-up consumer demand and the increase in savings balances that have been building since the pandemic began,” he said.