Whether you realize it or not, you’re a victim of shrinkflation. Several brands have reduced the weight or volume of their products to avoid a price hike—essentially, you’re paying the same price for less stuff. And thanks to several eagle-eyed shoppers, we have photographic proof.
During a period of inflation, businesses are often the first to experience rising prices. Raw materials, transportation, and labor all become more expensive. And in turn, businesses respond by increasing the price of goods or services—this is where consumers finally feel inflation’s pressure.
But consumers are never happy about a price increase. So, businesses may try to maintain product pricing through “shrinkflation.” These businesses figure that reducing a product’s net weight or volume will prevent a price increase and keep customers happy. You’re paying the same price for cereal, but you’re getting less cereal.
Cute. They made the can taller and the amount inside less …
— Wall Street Silver (@WallStreetSilv) August 22, 2022
Now, you won’t see any advertisements for inflation. And some businesses try to hide the practice by maintaining or increasing the size of their product packaging. But in many cases, shrinkflation is accompanied by slightly-smaller packaging, as a tiny reduction in size can save oodles in shipping fees.
To be clear, shrinkflation isn’t illegal. Businesses aren’t “misrepresenting” their product if they correctly list its net weight or volume—that’s the amount of product you get without any packaging, by the way.
To reiterate, shrinkflation is a consequence of inflation. Instead of raising a product’s price, manufacturers simply give you less product. But some products are more likely to experience shrinkflation than others.
According to an August 2022 report published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices have outpaced the overall inflation rate by a wide margin. We’re looking at a 13.1% increase in the “food at home” price category, which covers groceries and excludes restaurants. Cereals and baked goods carry the biggest price hike—they cost about 15% more than they did in 2021.
Before you shout at the teens – Why are you going through the shampoo & conditioner faster? This brand has made the pkgs smaller. Shampoo from 375 mL to 355 mL & conditioner from 355 mL to 308 mL. See how they slightly changed the label hoping we wouldn't notice. #shrinkflation pic.twitter.com/X3M5F2aR0X
— Patrick O'Boyle (@Paddy_O_Boyle) August 22, 2022
It seems that groceries, especially grain-based products, are the most likely candidates for shrinkflation. And since grain-based foods are often boxed or bagged, it’s easy to reduce their weight without anyone noticing—keep an eye out for shrinkflation in snack foods, breakfast cereal, pasta, or other products that contain grains.
Of course, personal hygiene and cleaning products regularly use shrinkflation to maintain prices. Most people buy soap and other basic products based on pricing, so they don’t notice the weight or volume. And since this stuff tends to last for a few months (or years), there are fewer opportunities for customers to investigate how much product they’re actually buying.
Alright, here’s the good stuff. We found some ridiculous examples of shrinkflation in several product categories, including personal hygiene, non-perishable food, cereal, and cleaning supplies.
Note the net weight or volume of each product. This is where we really see the impact of shrinkflation—package size may change as products get “smaller,” but that isn’t always the case.
Most of these examples come from the r/shrinkflation subreddit. Keep in mind that some of the people on this forum have no idea what they’re talking about. You’re looking for net weight, not package size or the amount of air in a bag of chips.
There’s only one way to know if a brand resorts to shrinkflation—keep track of its products’ net weight. If your favorite cereal brand usually contains 20 ounces of product, you’ll notice when the label changes to 18 ounces.
But good luck avoiding shrinkflation. When one brand reduces the volume of its product, it’s only a matter of time before competitors follow suit. Now’s the time to adjust your spending habits, and checking the weight of groceries or hygiene products is only part of the equation.
Note that dollar stores often sell special versions of products with a lower-than-usual net weight. And hey, the opposite is true for places like Costco and Sam’s Club. Don’t be surprised if you see some discrepancies in product weight when shopping at these businesses.