Shrinkflation: How companies sell less for the same price

Smucker's jam jars from No Frills. Despite being smaller, the blueberry jam costs the same as the grape.

By Alonzo Aldaba

Toula Kriparos like many other people routinely visits stores such as Costco, Walmart, and Longos in order to buy whatever she needs and wants. However, she’s been noticing that stores have been downsizing their products, but charging people with the same price.

“I started noticing companies starting to do this pre-pandemic. For example: A bag of breakfast granola used to be 300 grams for $8.99 and now it’s reduced to 200 grams for $8.99” she says. Another shopper, Sonia Cunningham, who goes to Costco twice a month, says “I noticed it big time. An example is a box of cereal. Before the box will tell you it’s 2 bags inside 500g each. Now it’s still 2 bags but 380g inside.”

Courtesy of r/Shrinkflation

This is called shrinkflation, when a company reduces the quantity of a product, but sell it for the same price as the original. It’s a subtle way for companies to save money and make a profit, without consumers noticing unless they pay very close attention to the packaging. This article from BuzzFeed shows some examples of products doing this taken from the r/Shrinkflation subreddit. In an article from Quartz, consumer right’s lawyer Edgar Dworsky says “Bottom lines are being pinched and there’s three basic options: raise the price directly, take a little bit out of the product, or reformulate the product with cheaper ingredients.”

When asked on her thoughts about this, Toula says “I feel like that is dishonest to the consumer! They should disclose the reduction of quantity on the packaging so that the consumer is aware of what they are paying for!” Sonia says “I guess everyone is doing that. General Mills is a big company and since the pandemic they started doing it.”

Despite being smaller, the diet coke mini bottles cost more than the original bottles.

At the same time, Toula says “On the other hand I also understand as a consumer that the cost of food has increased significantly and companies need to find a way of making a profit but there should be a more honest way of accomplishing this so that the consumer is not mislead and is fully aware if the changes and the cost increase of the product they are purchasing!” In the same article from Quartz, a representative of Frito-Lay, makers of Doritos, says “Inflation is hitting everyone…we took just a little bit out of the bag so we can give you the same price and you can keep enjoying your chips.”

Cupcakes from Bulk Barn. The mini cupcakes on the right costing the same as the regular ones on the left.

This article from Charted Professional Accountants Canada offers ways on how to stay ahead of shrinkflation. These include understanding how shrinkflation works and what causes it, focusing on sales, as well as adjusting shopping habits to save money and thinking about what you want to buy, and if it’s worth your money.

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