Brits, beware of ‘shrinkflation’

It seems we really are getting less bang for our buck nowadays, at least when it comes to our household products. Research from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that as many as 2,529 products have shrunk in size over the last 5 years[1]. This includes things like toilet rolls, chocolate and sugar.

This phenomenon is being dubbed ‘shrinkflation’ and it’s essentially the practice of reducing the size or volume of products but keeping the price the same.

Why is shrinkflation happening?

Many initially thought this new trend was the result of Brexit driving up manufacturing costs and the rising price of raw materials. Even manufacturers themselves, such as Mars, blamed shrinkflation on this[2]. However, ONS doesn’t think this is the case, stating “our analysis doesn’t show a noticeable change following the referendum that would point to a Brexit effect”[3].

When you look at some of the main culprits of shrinkflation, you can see that the cost of raw materials isn’t rising either. The import price of sugar reached a record low in March 2017 and cocoa, the major ingredient in chocolate, has been falling in price over the last year[4].

So what’s really behind this trend? Well, at the moment, no-one seems to know and ONS hasn’t offered an alternative explanation to the ones given by the manufacturers themselves.

Is this legal?

At the moment, the practice of shrinkflation isn’t against the law. This means there’s nothing stopping brands reducing the size or volume of their products and charging the same amount.

Does shrinkflation contribute to inflation?

According to ONS, not really. They did an analysis across a range of product categories and saw no real affect. However, there was one exception: changing sizes has resulted in a 1.22 percentage point increase in inflation for sugar, jam, syrups, chocolate and confectionary. So if you’ve got a sweet tooth, you might be feeling the effects.

Can anything be done about it?

To help you get more for your money in the face of shrinkflation, there are two potential courses of action: 1) avoid brands known to practice this trend and 2) Make sure you only buy shrinkflation goods when they’re reduced or part of an offer.

However, with the problem being so widespread, avoiding shrinkflation will certainly be a challenge. What it all ultimately comes down to is being as smart with your money as possible to ensure you’re able to cover all of your costs.




[3] Ibid