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Your Favorite Products Are Being Made Smaller At The Same Price Thanks To ‘Shrinkflation’

by Penn Collins

July 28, 2017

When the price of a common household good changes, people tend to notice, and demand for the product tends to fall. In an effort to boost margin without losing business, many companies have been practicing “shrinkflation” — charging customers the same amount for a product of reduced size. A survey of the consumer landscape by Britain’s Office for National Statistics revealed that over 2,500 products have shrunk in size over the past five years, whereas only 614 products have grown in size during that same period. 

The paradoxical “shrinkflation” name is derived from the effect of shrinking consumer goods. This practice, in theory, functions the same way economically as inflation does, only instead of a needing more nominal money to buy the same amount, the same amount of money buys a consumer less of a product. 

According to a BBC report, the effect shrinkflation has on the consumer markets isn’t profound enough to affect traditional inflation figures, but it’s a subversive tactic that consumers should nonetheless be aware of. Occasionally, the public notices the dwindling product sizes and calls out the companies responsible. In recent years, people have noticed that Toblerone candy remains the same length, but with bigger gaps between the portioned triangles.

 

Haagen Dazs “pints” of ice cream are now pints in name only. The change was made years ago, but the outrage continues. 

Adherent to the adage “You can shear a sheep many times, but skin it only once,” the shrinkflation game is an incremental one for manufacturers. The goal is to make the reduction in offering small enough that the consumer either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. As consumers adjust to the new offering, the company can double down with another reduction. For instance, Andrex toilet tissue reduced the number of sheets in a roll from 280 to 240, then again to 221, and once more for good measure, to an even 200. 

The practice isn’t new, but it is gaining the favor of many firms over price hikes, especially in an information age where consumers are more likely to compare prices than product sizes. The first step in fighting these tactics is, as a consumer, to be aware of them and choose your purchases accordingly. The ultimate effect is no different from raising prices, but until the market becomes hip to the new game shrinkflation will continue to permeate the market.

Share image via Phillip Stewart/Flickr.

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