Are we being conned with Shrinkflation?

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 previously.

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 key ingredients.

Which? has given several examples of shrinkflation:

  • 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
It also found recipes being altered to include fewer expensive ingredients:
  • 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.”

To see hundreds more articles click here to visit our archive