Grocery Store Products Are Shrinking, But Guess What? Prices Aren’t!

November 2, 2022

The next time you’re at the local deli in Harlem, take a hard look at the products you’re thinking about buying.

Slowly and slyly, “shrinkflation” is on the rise, but many consumers are completely unaware that they may be paying the maximum price for the minimum amount of product.

According to a new report from Kroger-owned retail data science, insights, and media company 84.51°, 29% of shoppers said they have not noticed any categories that are shrinking pack sizes.

But for the 45% who have seen some shrinkflation, they’re moving on from the shrunken product and buying a different brand that hasn’t reduced its size. 

The study showed that for 40% of consumers, it’s simply “c’est la vie” and that they will still purchase the item at the reduced size. Another 42% said they will do the same, but only if they have a coupon to help make up for the difference.

A small number (17%) of the consumers surveyed are sticking to their guns, saying they wouldn’t buy the downsized item at all, while 10% said they would actually buy more packages to make sure they have all of the product they need.

Where are consumers noticing shrinkflation?

In reporting the study, Winsight Grocery Business dug into what grocery categories consumers have noticed showing the biggest shrinkage. Potato chips are the most noted, with 50% of consumers aware of the now smaller sizes.

Then, cereal with 33% of consumers being aware, followed by bacon at 28%, ice cream at 26%, toilet paper, and candy at 23%.

Manufacturers are being crafty about packaging to try and cover up any shrinkage, too. One grocery shopper told Boston 25 News that when she recently took a look at how her favorite brand of hummus was packaged, there was something funny on the bottom.

“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.

And it’s the little things like building in a “dent” to make product space that consumers may never catch.

In Quartz’s report on the situation, it found all sorts of nuanced tweaks.

“Inflation is hitting everyone…we took just a little bit out of the [Doritos] bag so we can give you the same price and you can keep enjoying your chips,” confirmed a Frito-Lay representative.

Likewise, representatives at Mondelez — which makes Nabisco Wheat Thins – and Proctor & Gamble – which makes Crest toothpaste – confirmed reductions in their products’ volumes.

 “While Crest 3D White does now sell a 5 oz tube, its 4.1 oz tube shrunk to 3.8 oz. Bounty, according to a representative at Proctor & Gamble, got better as it got smaller since the paper towels are more absorbent than they used to be,” Quartz’s Clarisa Diaz wrote.

This could make you crazy

Feeling around packages and sizing them up to see if they weigh what you think they should might make a consumer crazy, but that may be where we’re headed because shrinkflation is probably not going away anytime soon.

“How many sheets are on your rolls of toilet paper or paper towels? How many ounces are 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.”

Dworsky says there are four ways that consumers can shield themselves from shrinkflation: 

  1. Focus on size; 
  2. Compare brands; 
  3. Use unit pricing; and 
  4. Complain to the company.

Do what – 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 to Consumer Affairs.

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