Food is getting more and more expensive. What people have not realized is that the portions are getting smaller. By reducing the size of, for example, a jar of jam, a food company can charge more for it and avoid a price increase that could affect sales. It’s not a new tactic, but downsizing is back in fashion as the industry grapples with rising costs for everything from wheat to vegetable oils to energy.
When it started?
Humorist Art Buchwald was one of the first to draw attention to this practice in a column titled packaged inflation published in 1969. The term came into widespread use during the 1970s, as manufacturers sought creative ways to protect their profit margins in the face of rising costs and stagnant growth. Today reduflation can be witnessed anywhere from Australia to India to the UK. In the years following the Brexit referendum, the Office for National Statistics noted more examples of product shrinkage. For example, Mondelez reduced the weight of some of its Toblerone chocolate bars, but they were returned to their original dimensions following consumer protests.
What type of goods does it affect?
All. From chocolate to chips or cereal to soup and even dog food and detergent. If it is in a package, it can be reduced. Sometimes the price stays the same and other times it drops disproportionately to the drop in size or weight, making it harder for buyers to realize they’re getting less for their money. Chocolate is the product that attracts the most complaints, followed by cheese and milk, according to British retailer Britsuperstore, which has analyzed data from Martin Lewis’s Money Saving Expert website.
What brands practice it?
Most of the big food manufacturers do, from Nestlé to Mondelez, which recently came under fire for reducing the Cadbury bar to 180 grams instead of 200 grams. German dairy maker Muller cut its Corner yoghurts to 124g from 130g, while UK-based Burton’s Biscuit Company cut Maryland chocolate biscuit packs to 200g from 230g. In the United States, Pepsi reduced the number of fries in its Doritos packages, Domino’s reduced the number of chicken wings in its takeout offerings, and Tillamook reduced the size of its ice cream cartons to 48 ounces from 56 ounces.
What can consumers do?
It’s hard to avoid in today’s world of packaged consumables, unless you can still find a store that sells their products by weight. Consumers can compare prices online, using specialized price comparison websites. And also buy private label products to get the best value for money.
What does the food industry say?
Companies have given various explanations for reducing the servings they sell in each package. Some say buyers prefer to buy a little less if it’s still affordable. Others say it’s a way to meet public health goals or protect the environment. Mondelez said it was the first time in a decade that he had reduced the size of his Dairy Milk bars and that he did it to stay competitive. . Nearly half of UK retailers said it’s better for their sales to cut pack sizes than to raise prices, according to a survey by Shopmate, which runs a checkout system for convenience stores.