As inflation has risen in recent months, customers are noticing another trend, “shrinkflation,” in which companies package their merchandise in such a way that they sell less product while maintaining the same price.
Steve Reed, an economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, explained the term to ABC News: “’Shrinkflation’ is a term used to describe implicitly increasing the price of an item by slightly decreasing the amount or quantity in a package … the conventional explanation would be that consumers may not notice small decreases in size or quantity or react less negatively to them compared to an explicitly higher price.”
“Many of these size changes are subtle, like making candy bars sold in multipacks smaller than ones being sold individually, or changing the shape of their products so you can barely notice the difference in weight,” Business Insider reported. “Though manufacturers have always sought to cut costs and the trend is nothing new, it seems to have accelerated in recent months, as companies face sharply higher prices for raw materials and seek creative ways to cut costs,” The Washington Post reported in June.
Some examples of products whose packaging has changed: Walmart Great Value Paper Towels kept the price the same while reducing 168 sheets per roll to only 120; Frito-Lay’s regular bags of Dorito’s shrank from 9.75 ounces to 9.25 ounces; General Mills shrank its “family size” boxes from 19.3 ounces to 18.1 ounces; Hershey’s Kisses diminished roughly two ounces from an 18-ounce pack.
One person commented on a Reddit thread dealing with the subject of “shrinkflation,” “I am aware that these devious tactics have transpired for millennium; I remember when someone did an expose on the size of paper towel packages in 1975 compared to the present package so I am sensitive to shrinkflation. It’s an outrage and, sadly, nothing ever gets done to address this problem. Yes, I agree, most consumers are naïve or lack the patience or common sense that they’re getting robbed.”
Consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky, who founded Consumer World in 1995 and ConsumerReporters.net in 2013, told Good Morning America, “Consumers are price conscious — they’ll spot that price increase — but they’re not net-weight conscious. If you ask someone how many ounces is in this jar of mayonnaise, or in the cereal box you buy, they’re going to shrug their shoulders. That’s kind of how manufacturers take advantage because you don’t have those sizes memorized. So what consumers can do is they have to become net-weight conscious.”
He told The Washington Post of manufacturers, “Do we raise the price knowing consumers will see it and grumble about it? Or do we give them a little bit less and accomplish the same thing? Often it’s easier to do the latter.”
General Mills CEO Jeff Harmening admitted in late June, “Consumers see costs going up all around them, not just at the grocery store, but with automobiles, at restaurants. No one wants to increase prices, but we’ve had to. … We are ending one period of significant consumer disruption only to start another.”
Earlier this month, officials revealed that United States inflation had its greatest monthly hike since 2008. As The Daily Wire reported, American consumers’ expectations for inflation — as officially measured by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York — have reached record highs. The Survey of Consumer Expectations reveals that median one-year inflation forecasts among consumers climbed to 4.8% in June — a 0.8% increase since last month alone. In January, February, March, April, and May, one-year expectations were 3.0%, 3.1%, 3.2%, 3.4%, and 4.0%, respectively.”