Tips to combat shrinkage inflation as food prices soar


If you’ve noticed lately that your roll of toilet paper has been running out sooner than it used to, or that a baking mix that used to make 15 cookies now only makes 12 — despite paying the same price as always — you’re not alone.

It’s called “shrinkflation,” and even I’ve fallen victim to it. Phil Lempert, food industry analyst and editor of, says shrinkage inflation happens when manufacturers reduce product volume but keep the retail price the same to offset their increased costs. “This is not a new phenomenon, but it has gotten worse,” says Lempert.

According to consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky, the company must find a way to keep profits high when a manufacturer’s bottom line is tight. “You have three choices: raise the price but consumers notice and risk dissatisfied customers; they can reformulate with cheaper ingredients; and the third option is an unobtrusive price increase by making the product smaller [keeping] for the same price,” he says. Most choose option 3 because it’s so subtle that many people don’t notice.

“Dawn’s dishwashing liquid shrunk the soap by half an ounce in its smallest bottle, but kept the bottle and the same UPC code,” says Dworsky, who tracks shrinkage examples on his Consumer World website. “And Tresemme’s big black shampoo bottles have shrunk from 32 ounces to 28 ounces.”

Sometimes the change is small. Annette Economides, co-author of “Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half” and co-editor of the Money Smart Family website, notes that some bags of Doritos are 9.25 ounces instead of 9.75 ounces (that’s about five chips less) for the same price contain.

Consumers have little to no recourse, but there are things we can do as we shop to limit how much the shrinkage affects our grocery bills. Some tips are simple; others require a little more time and effort.

Shopping experts share their best advice on saving on groceries

Focus on unit prices. If a product is available at a known price, you may not notice that it is smaller or that the quantity has changed. Check shelf labels for price per ounce, pound, or sheet. Or check the product label for the net weight. Different coffees can all be the same can size, but can range from 10.5 to 16 ounces, Lempert says.

Pay attention to the size. Do not reach for items from the shelves haphazardly. For your favorites, keep in mind what the package looks like, Dworsky says. If you don’t look, you won’t notice. A box or bottle may look the same until you compare it to a similar product and realize it’s shorter or not as deep.

Watch out for sales. Browse through store flyers and benefit from offers and digital coupons. Then buy from the dealer with the best price. To save the most, you may need to shop at multiple supermarkets. The good news is that many communities have several grocery stores within a few miles.

Inventory. Check your pantry for items you buy frequently, and note the price and number of sheets or net ounces on a list to refer to when shopping. Then check the amounts in the store. If an item has been scaled down, look for a comparable product that isn’t.

Let go of brand loyalty. Don’t turn up your nose at private label. They’re usually the last to scale down, they typically cost 20 to 30 percent less than big brands, and their quality matches or exceeds branded products. “Look at the ingredients and nutritional information,” says Lempert. “Chances are you’ll be happy if they’re identical, and private labels usually come with a money-back guarantee.”

Don’t let the labeling fool you. Look for the words “new and improved.” “What has improved is the company’s bottom line,” says Dworsky. Simply changing the packaging and adding the word “new” could mean your favorite laundry detergent now cleans 96 loads instead of 100. Or manufacturers may change the shape of the bottle to camouflage the reduced quantity.

Another trick is labelling, e.g. B. Calling up family or party sized cookies or cereal. Sure, the package can be bigger, but those terms don’t necessarily mean you’re getting a better deal. And even family or party sized items are scaled down. “If you focus on the words on the box versus the net weight, you will continue to buy the same product, believing you are getting the same quantity as before. Instead, buy by weight,” says Dworsky.

Shop Clearance Items. Clearance shelves are great places to find non-perishable goods that have been reduced in price because stores are overstocked or the product is being repackaged. And don’t overlook the clearance sections in the produce and meat sections, Economides says, especially if you plan on using the product today or tomorrow.

enter the time Many people spend hours trying to find the best deals on Black Friday or during other sales events, but they don’t pay the same attention to grocery shopping. This is a mistake, says Economides. “I walk down every aisle because you never know what the store is going to get rid of because they’ve over-bought and put it up for sale. I call it savings.”

Denver-based author Laura Daily specializes in consumer protection and travel strategies. Find them under Tips to combat shrinkage inflation as food prices soar

Chris Estrada

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