Whether you are filling up your gas tank or watching the news, it is not very hard to see that the annual inflation rate in the United States is the highest it has been in over 40 years.1 But what about the inflation manufacturers are hiding in plain sight?
"Shrinkflation" is the practice of reducing the size or quantity of items in a product while keeping the price the same. It can mean fewer chips in the bag or squares on the toilet paper roll, but effectively, it comes down to an increase in price per unit. It is not a new phenomena, this is a strategy seen often in times of inflation to help manufactures offset the rising cost of ingredients, packaging materials, and transportation.2
Companies are hoping their price-conscious consumers might not notice. We are hoping you read the following tips for steeling yourself against shrinkflation.
Be Wary of Packaging Ploys
Have you purchased a bottle of Gatorade lately? You may have noticed it's sleek new bottle design that curves inwards at the middle. Representatives of the brand say the company redesigned the bottles to be "more aerodynamic" and "easier to grab", but savvy shoppers might also notice the volume of the container is has also been reduced from 32 to 28 oz.3
Now is the time to be especially mindful of packaging changes and marketing tricks. Watch out for bright new labels, redesigned packaging, and even products touting "lower calories" - these are all strategies companies might use to distract you from smaller volumes of their product within those packages.3
Level the Playing Field
A lot of 'smart shoppers' might tell you they know exactly how much a box of Cascade dishwashing pods should cost, but when Cascade reduce the quantity of pods inside from 78 to 63,3 we can no longer count on the sticker price to tell the whole story.
Instead, seek out the smaller print unit-price that is listed on store shelves, and compare your options on a level playing field.
Embrace the Alternatives
No matter the inflation rate, store brands and larger "family size" packaging tend to offer a lower price per unit. This trend may be especially accentuated during times of high inflation because according to experts, store brands are typically the last to downsize.4 Now might be an excellent time to branch out to test those comparable alternatives.
Shrinkflation could also serve as inspiration to consume less packaged foods altogether. It is a lot harder to disguise a price increase in a pound of apples, which makes it much easier to track what you are getting for the price you pay.3
While no one can avoid the impacts of inflation altogether, we hope these tips will help you make the most of your money at the grocery store.
Footnotes and Sources
1. Bls.gov, June 14, 2022
2. ABCnews.go.com, June 8, 2022
3. Cnet.com, June 14, 2022
4. ABCnews.go.com, June 16, 2022