Food companies hide price increase with smaller packaging
Oreo cookie boxes dropped from 303 g to 270 g without a price change. Quaker Chewy bars went from 6 to 5 bars in a box without a price change, and Kraft singles went from 24 slices to 22 without a price change. What’s going on? Shrinkflation.
Downsizing, more recently termed “shrinkflation,” is when companies reduce the size or quantity of their products while charging the same price or more. This sneaky price increase is often the result of manufacturers facing price pressure — due to rising commodity and shipping costs — and accommodating their products to eke out profit.
Edgar Dworsky, a former Massachusetts assistant attorney general and consumer advocate, has been tracking shrinkflation occurrences for decades on his website Mouseprint.org. He explains that consumers tend to be conscious of price changes, but not quantity changes, and that’s how they get tricked. If a food product changes in weight, it most probably won’t be noticed.
Recently, Dworsky noticed the Cinnamon Toast Crunch box got taller. Unfortunately, this didn’t mean more cereal because the boxes got skinnier too. In early July, the cereal producer General Mills announced that rising costs forced it to take “pricing actions”. When asked about downsizing its products, General Mills responded it’s been trying to standardize its products and save the environment with fewer trucks on the road.
Shrinkflation is expected to become more common with pandemic inflation, affecting everything from toilet paper and diapers to chip bags and pizzas.