Shrinkflation. It’s very real - just take a look in your kitchen.
Shrinkflation is when companies may or may not raise the price a bit, reduce the contents, and hope that consumers don’t notice. According to Darrin Duber-Smith, senior lecturer at Metropolitan State University of Denver “it’s sort of a dance where [suppliers] hope consumers don’t freak out.”
Let’s face it. Would you notice a few less chips in a bag of Doritos?
Sounds devious? Shrinkflation has been around for years. It becomes more common in times of inflation. For example, consider this orange juice purchased in a familiar, half-gallon container. A half-gallon equals 64 ounces.
Now read the small print at the bottom. This “half gallon” contains 59 ounces – five ounces short. If you don’t read small print the chances are likely you never noticed.
Look at it this way. Five ounces might not seem like a lot. Roughly 58.3 million American adults drink orange juice. If all of them drank from a half gallon container of Minute Maid, the company stands to save up to three million quarts – a lot more than a small glass of juice at breakfast.
Since the container looks the same as any half gallon size, most of us won’t ever notice.
Mouse Print.org – a service of Consumer World - notices. The website’s goal is to expose what’s buried in the fine print. The hope is to make consumers aware of what they’re buying when “the big print giveth, and the little print taketh away.”
For example, Cottonelle has reduced the number of toilet paper sheets from 340 to 312. A can of Sun-Maid raisins went from 22.58 ounces to 20 ounces. Chobani Flip yogurt shrunk from 5.3 ounces to 4.5 oz.
All remained in the same size packaging just like the orange juice.
In a BuzzFeed article by Megan Liscomb, she writes “When the price of an item like a gallon of milk or gasoline goes up, most of us will notice right way. But when the price stays the same, we might not pick up on it.” It’s shrinkflation at its best– reducing product, charging the old price (or slightly higher), and using the same packaging.
Liscomb identifies shrinkflation in many products, from Kirkland “half gallon” milk (59 ounces), one-pound Family Size Wheat Thins (14 ounces), and Tillamook ice cream (from 1.75 quarts to 1.5). It’s across the board from pet food to hair conditioner and most of us don’t notice.
After all, who counts?
Shrinkflation is a great way to fight inflation and preserve profits.
The bigger picture is that food prices are going up in numbers Americans haven’t seen in decades. According to NPR, the cost of beef and veal is up over 16%, eggs over 11.4%, and fresh fruits over 10.6%. There’s an even larger picture involving global food security. The world economy has been badly shaken by Covid-related shortages, crop failures, devastating climate change, the invasion of Ukraine, and sanctions.
Energy costs have skyrocketed. People are changing the way they live and eat, driving less and consuming less expensive cooking oil, wheat, and meats. Favorites like pizza might limit peperoni, sandwiches may have one less strip of bacon, and restaurants might avoid fried foods.
Some advocate eating insects for protein.
Honey, they did shrink the world and our food supply. Our planet has problems.
About the Author
Dr. Jeri Fink is an author, photographer, and family therapist. She believes that we can challenge the myths of aging to find joy, creativity, and productivity in our “goldenyears.” She is a baby boomer with 37 published books, hundreds of blogs and articles, and a trilogy-in-progress called The Old Lady Who Went to Sleep and Woke Up Young. You can find her mini books at www.bookwebminis.com and her 7-book fictional series, Broken at www.hauntedfamilytrees.com. They’re all available on Amazon.