Over the last few months inflation has
come down in the UK. But what does this really mean? Put simply, it means that
prices are still rising, but they are rising at a slower rate than they were
But that only tells us half the story.
For example, what if the month-on-month comparison of prices did not take
account of changes to the products themselves? What if the prices don’t change,
but the product becomes smaller or of a lower quality?
According to the consumer group Which?
this is exactly what is happening at the moment, and there are even two names for
it: 'shrinkflation' and 'skimpflation'.
Which? says that supermarkets and
manufacturers must be more open about this, and says it has been inundated by
the public with examples of products which have become smaller or have fewer
Which? has given several examples of
- Listerine Fresh Burst mouthwash shrank from 600ml to 500ml
- PG Tips Pyramid tea bags went down from 180 bags to 140 at some supermarkets
- Kettle Chips shrank from 150g to 130g at Tesco
- Yeo Valley Organic Salted Spreadable went from 500g to 400g at Sainsbury's and Tesco
- In Sainsbury's 'Clotted Cream Rice Pudding', the clotted cream was entirely replaced with whipping cream (it has since been repackaged)
- Morrisons 150g guacamole - avocado content reduced from 80% to 77%
- The amount of beef in a 1.5kg Tesco Beef Lasagne reduced from 23% to 19%
- Waitrose Butter Chicken Curry reduced its chicken content from 47% to 41%
What does this mean for customers?
Which? says that the changes have all
come at a time when food inflation has soared. According to their food
inflation tracker, year-on-year price rises peaked last April at 17%.
Ele Clark from said Which? said that: "Supermarkets
and manufacturers must be more upfront by making sure changes to popular
products are clear, and by ensuring that unit pricing is prominent, legible and
consistent in-store and online so that shoppers can easily compare prices
across different brands and pack sizes."
Is it the fault of retailers or manufacturers?
The British Retail Consortium say that
retailers are trying to limit rising prices as production costs increase. Andrew
Opie, Director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium said
that nearly all of the examples identified by Which? reflected decisions by the
manufacturers, rather than the retailers.
He said: "Given the challenges
facing households from the cost of living squeeze, retailers are solely focused
to find ways to limit rising prices for customers against the rising cost of
production, while maintaining the excellent quality of products. Prices and
sizes of all products are clearly labelled so that customers can make informed
decisions about their purchases."
What about Skimpflation?
Darren Bugg, Editor of The Customer
Service Blog said: “Customers aren’t stupid and they can see when a product has
got smaller in size. This practice has become especially common in
non-essential items like bars of chocolate (which are often now 90 grams
instead of 100 grams) and multipack bags of crisps which used to be sold with 6
in a pack, but now only contain 5 in a pack.”
“But it is much harder for consumers
to spot the practice of ‘skimpflation’ where a product is the same size, but
has got less of a key ingredient, which means the quality is lower.”
He continued: “There are numerous
examples of this practice, but you have to look closely at the ingredient list to
spot it. Skimpflation often affects premium products, such as jars of pesto
sauce that contain a lower quantity of fresh basil, or frozen pizzas that
contain a cheese substitute rather than real mozzarella cheese. The important
thing is to read the label carefully, but this is not always easy for a busy
customer in a supermarket environment.”