Consumers are paying the maximum for the minimum more and more these days as many companies are reducing the weight or quantity of products, but keeping prices the same.
This practice has been dubbed “shrinkflation,” but not even half of consumers are aware of it, according to a new report from Kroger-owned retail data science, insights and media company 84.51°.
Of shoppers surveyed for the firm's October consumer digest, 29% of shoppers said they have not noticed any categories that are shrinking pack sizes.
Of the 45% of shoppers who have noticed shrinkflation, they said they will buy a different brand that hasn’t reduced its size. Still, 40% of consumers said they will still purchase the item at the reduced size, and 42% said they will purchase it as well, but only if they have a coupon.
But 17% of consumers said they wouldn't buy the downsized item at all, while a smaller percentage, 10%, said they would actually buy more packages to ensure they have enough of the product.
Perhaps shrinkflation isn’t as noticeable among consumers because of some of the subtleties of it—that unfilled handle on some orange juice jugs, or that new packaging shape that allows for less of the item inside it.
One shopper talked to Boston 25 News about the container of her favorite brand of hummus. “It looked the same on the top but when you felt the bottom, it had a little divot. It looked like the same packaging but they had shrunk it,” she said.
Other examples of shrinkflation may be harder to notice, requiring consumers to read the fine print to decipher how much they're buying.
“We have to look at the products we buy all the time. How many sheets on your rolls of toilet paper or paper towels? How many ounces in your orange juice? How big is the family size of cereal?” Edgar Dworsky, founder of consumer resource guide Consumer World, told Boston 25 News. “That’s the only way you’ll be able to tell if the manufacturer is tinkering with it when you go back to buy the next box or bag.”
Shrinkflation is another, perhaps less obvious, symptom of higher food prices.
“It is a real form of inflation,” Bailey Norwood, head of Oklahoma State’s Department of Agricultural Economics, stated on ozarksfirst.com. “The price is going up, but the price tag you see in the grocery isn’t going up, the quantity is going down. I understand how people wouldn’t like it because it does seem kind of sneaky.”
Smaller sizes are more apparent to shoppers in some types of products compared to others, the report found.
The most common categories in which shrinking sizes are being noticed, according to the 84.51° report, are: chips (by 50% of consumers); cereal (by 33% of consumers); bacon (by 28% of consumers); ice cream (by 26% of consumers); candy bars (by 23% of consumers); and toilet paper (by 23% of consumers).
“The companies have to do something. They realize they can’t supply the normal amount at the normal price,” Norwood said. “Something’s got to give.”
Dworsky mentioned four ways that consumers can protect themselves from shrinkflation: focus on size; compare brands; use unit pricing; and complain to the company.
“Are Charmin or Cottonelle going to change because you wrote a letter? No, but they’ll send you some coupons,” Dworsky said.