‘Shrinkflation’ must be clear to stop shoppers feeling ‘cheated’

Producers urged to make 'Shrinkflation' clear to consumers

Food manufacturers have been urged to make it clear when they shrink products, to stop consumers feeling “cheated”.

The recommendation was made by consumer group Which?, after analysis by the Office for National Statistics revealed that 2,529 products had reduced in size over the past five years, of which 2,006 were food items.

“We have found that many popular household and food products have shrunk over the years, often with the price staying the same or increasing,” said Alex Neill, Which? home ​products​ and services md.

“Manufacturers and retailers should make any changes to their products clear, otherwise they risk people feeling cheated.”

‘Distressed’ and ‘felt cheated’

Last November, Mondelēz International suffered a social media backlash after changing the iconic shape of its Toblerone bar to offset rising costs. Consumers claimed they were “distressed” and “felt cheated” after Mondelēz announced plans to increase spaces between ridges, and revealed the weight of 400g bars would fall to 360g, while 170g bars would become 150g.

But, a Food and Drink Federation (FDF) spokesman insisted the industry had faced “sharp increases” in the cost of essential ingredients, packaging and other raw materials used to make food and drink.

Responding to the ONS figures, he said: “The falling strength of the pound since June 2016 has added to these massive cost pressures.

“The majority of food and drink companies are taking a hit on already tight margins in the notoriously competitive UK grocery market. Companies are now reaching a point where they must either reduce portions or make modest price increases to protect jobs.

‘Protect jobs’

“These decisions are taken by manufacturers in consultation with UK retailers and with valued consumers in mind.”

The spokesman added soft drinks manufacturers were set to pay a ‘substantial tax’ on some of their products in the near future in response to government demands on food companies to reduce sugar in foods.

An ONS Spokesperson said: “Out of the hundreds of thousands of product price quotes that we collect each year, we actually found very few where the product size fell.

“These shrinking packages had no impact on overall inflation, though they did help to nudge up the costs of chocolates and sweets.”

ONS ‘Shrinkflation’ analysis – at a glance
  • 2,529 products reduced in size over past five years
  • 2,006 food items reduced in size over past five years
  • Shrinking packages had no impact on overall inflation
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