Maybe it’s that usual cut of meat you purchase every week, or even packaged goods you pick up off the grocery store shelves. Are they seeming smaller and lighter than usual, even as the cost remains the same? No, it’s not in your head. It’s what experts have called “shrinkflation” (or down-switching, as it’s otherwise known), and the trend is accelerating worldwide.
Are consumers being gaslit?
While inflation often means higher prices, shrinkflation, like shelflation, isn’t always as obvious, and it may be harder to track. It’s almost like a form of consumer “gaslighting” by manufacturers and food producers, in that customers are being sold less while maintaining the same cost — effectively making the item more expensive but in a sneaky, less visible way. Shrinkflation appeals to manufacturers who know consumers may notice steep price increases, but may not keep track of more subtle details such as net weight or count.
For example, shrinkflation could mean selling 60 tissues in a box that previously held 65. Or shrinking the volume of yogurt cups down from 5.3 ounces to 4.5 ounces. In the UK, coffee tins that once sold 100 grams are now selling 90 grams. And there are countless other examples (see if you notice any next time you’re at the grocery store).
But that’s not all. While some brands may be clear about the downshift to smaller, not all are, leaving it up to the consumer to take notice. Manufacturers may even employ distracting tactics like new packaging to draw the eye away from what counts – literally. Further still, once a product is down-switched, it’s less likely that it will be upsized.
While shrinkflation may not be new, it does tend to see a resurgence during times of high inflation, as manufacturers themselves face rising costs for things like ingredients, packaging and transportation. But, in some cases, companies are still reporting growth in profits and, as Global News reports, some consumer advocates are asking, “Are we using supply constraints as a weapon to make more money?”
It looks like it’s a buyer beware climate, either way.