Shrinkflation hits shelves as companies downsize products

FOX Business’ Madison Alworth explains how Americans are getting less bang for their buck with shrinkflation.

Not only do Americans have to deal with inflation, now thanks to "shrinkflation," you’ll be getting even less bang for your buck. 

More companies are looking to avoid raising prices to scare off consumers, so they are instead turning to "shrinkflation" — giving consumers less product for the same price or more. 

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As inflation reaches a 39-year high and pushes businesses to grapple with higher operating costs, the practice is becoming more commonplace, according to Edgar Dworsky from Consumer World, a consumer services site. 

It’s showing up across major consumer brands such as General Mills and impacting popular items like Chobani yogurt containers and Gatorade bottles, as well as the count of plastic zip bags and oatmeal packets in a box.

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While consumers are quick to notice the differences in portion, quality or packaging shape and size, others are less familiar with the content of products that they buy all of the time. In some cases, frustrated consumers are taking to Twitter to expose some of the nuanced changes from beloved products and favorite brands. 

One user points out that Chobani Flip recently reduced the content size from 5.3 oz to 4.5 oz, a 15% difference. The new packaging is also slightly shorter than the old version, and according to the proximity in expiration dates, the change in size occurred in the near past. 

FOX Business reached out to Chobani for a statement but did not receive an answer. 

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Shrinkflation is not only sucking the fun out of Milkyway’s "fun-sized bars," which shed three-quarters of an ounce per bag, but it’s also creating more spending headaches that can’t be solved by some medications, according to Dworsky. Aleve’s 100-caplet bottles now consist of 90 caplets, a 10%  reduction. 

It’s also impacting household items like toothpastes and detergents. Most recently, Crest’s 3D White Toothpaste decreased from 4.1 oz to 3.8 oz, even though the bottles look identical, according to Consumer World’s Mouse Print service, which tracks the companies that practice shrinkflation and debunks other deceptive ways companies hike up their prices. 

Tillamook decreased the size of ice-cream cartons from 56 oz to 48 oz. The company declined to comment, but states on its website that as part of the growing process, it has changed the size of its ice cream containers to keep delivering the products without sacrificing the quality.

Other examples of shrinkflation that are less identifiable often result from a change in ingredients or a reformulation, which requires retooling with production facilities. 

Gain liquid detergent, for example, decreased from 165 oz to 154 oz last year, but the quantity of loads remained the same. Dworsky told FOX Business that changes like this could signal a reformulation or a tinkering with the fill line. 

Gain’s parent company, Proctor and Gamble, told FOX Business that the price change reflects more concentrated, upgraded formulas as it looks for more ways to compensate for the largest year-over-year increases in commodity and transportation costs in about 20 years. 

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"To help offset those costs, we’re doing a few things — first, we’re working hard to find cost savings within other areas of our business," a Proctor & Gamble spokesperson told FOX Business. "And, where we need to pass on some costs, we’re pairing those price increases with innovation wherever possible to continue to deliver great value for our consumers."

Other companies are blaming economic factors such as the rising cost of materials, higher fuel prices, supply chain backlogs and heightened transportation costs as reasons for the downsizing of products. Increased labor costs from workers demanding higher wages are also adding pressure to sustaining profit margins. 

Post Holdings, a consumer packaged goods company, reduced the size of its Cocoa Pebbles cereal box from 20.05 oz to 19.5 oz. At the same time, the price increased from the $3.99 original box to the $4.79 smaller size.

Post Holding Consumer Brands Director of Communications, Katie Seifert, told FOX Business that like other food manufacturers across the country, "we are experiencing significantly higher supply-chain costs and inflation, which is requiring us to adjust prices and package sizes on some of our products."

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Similarly, General Mills recently shrunk their family-sized boxes from 19.3 oz to 18.1 oz.

"At General Mills, we’re constantly reviewing how our products show up on shelf to remain competitive in the marketplace," General Mills Corporate Communications Sr. Manager, Kelsey Roemhildt, told FOX Business."This can include creating consistency and standardization across our cereal products, making it easier for shoppers to distinguish between sizes on shelf."

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Dworsky, a former Massachusetts assistant, said that the difference might be subtle, but the impact can still be felt, especially as families are squeezed by higher costs of living. 

"What's an ounce?’ Well, one ounce is one bowl of cereal," Dworsky told FOX Business. "Think of how many millions and tens of millions of boxes General Mills sells of cereals every year, so that one little ounce less that you get is really big bucks for the manufacturer. I don't consider any particular downsizing worse than another. All of them are sneaky ways to pass on a price increase."

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