‘Why act in a deceptive manner unless it is to make more money out of us?’: Products are getting smaller while the price you pay stays the same
Inflation is an obvious menace when prices are rising, but a more insidious form is finding its way into our trolleys – the prices are staying the same, but the items we buy are shrinking. That’s shrinkflation.
Manufacturers and retailers are increasingly sneaking in new reduced sizes while describing them as special offers or re-launches.
Consumers do not like it. Research by lobby group Which? found 58 per cent of us would rather pay more than have goods downsized. On the high street in the market town of Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, many consumers told
The Mail on Sunday they were spotting shrinkflation across wide ranges of goods – particularly food snacks.
Bakery chain Greggs is one of the culprits. It has cut the meat content of its Steak Bake pie by 15 per cent, while keeping the price at £1.35.
Shopper Olivia Beckett, 17, who lives in the town, says: ‘It feels like being lied to. Why act in a deceptive manner unless it is to make more money out of us?’
Further along the high street workmen are digging trenches to repair power lines. Ground technician Eddie Walker, 46, of Romford, Essex, says: ‘Is it my imagination or are packs of Walkers now more full of air than crisps?’
It is not only his imagination. Shrinkflation has taken some of the crunch out of a packet of Walkers. The cost has stuck at 49p but the contents have fallen by six per cent from 34.5g to 32.5g.
Eddie adds: ‘Mars bars used to be bigger and could actually fill you up.’ And he pointed out that Yorkie bars – once advertised as ideal for burly lorry drivers – are ‘no longer big enough for truckers’.
Nestle chiselled 14 per cent off a Yorkie, reducing it from 64.8g to 55g, while the 65p price has stayed constant. At its peak, in 2000, it weighed 70.4g. A Mars bar, selling at 59p, has shrunk 2.5g to 58g.
The shrinking has happened over the past few years, with many customers being none the wiser.
Cadbury is another culprit. It made a big boast of product redesigns two years ago, but failed to mention that products would shrink at the same time. It cut the number of chocolates in a Roses tin by a typical 11 treats, for instance, with the weight falling from 975g to 850g.
Identical twins Nicola Murdoch and Felicity Ward, 32, were out in Bishop’s Stortford with their cocker spaniels – also sisters – Daisy and Macy.
Nicola, a recruitment analyst, says: ‘I would rather have an honest price hike than this sneaking around. They are taking advantage of us rushing around shops without noticing the changes.’
Felicity, an insurance underwriter, agrees: ‘The only way to combat this is to study labels carefully and switch to another brand or shop. Tell-tale signs are “special deals” which are just a cover for shrinking goods. They even have the nerve to make boasts like “less fat” when it is due to them offering less everything.’
Housewife Laura Kirby, 31, shopping at a local supermarket with children Fletcher, three, and 19-month-old Dexter, is angry at the phenomenon.
Laura, of Bishop’s Stortford, says: ‘Because I get the same things every time I actually notice my shopping bag getting lighter. But the bill is the same.’
She adds: ‘Most of the shrinkage is around foods where there may be obesity worries – chocolate and crisps – as well as breakfast cereals. Food manufacturers are clearly exploiting a consumer weakness.’
Food firms are also cutting the number of items in a packet. Which? points out a cereal such as Shredded Wheat Superfruity that used to be sold for £2.68 at Sainsbury’s was put on £2 special offer before returning to £2.68 but with less content.
Birds Eye hit shoppers twice with its Original Beef Burgers with Onion. Previously selling for £3.98 in Asda, Morrisons and Tesco for a pack of 16, they now sell in boxes of 12 for £4.29.
A Which? spokeswoman says: ‘You need to be eagle-eyed when shopping. It shows the importance of going through shopping bills and scanning the shelves for better value – maybe switching brands.’
Some retailers are more upfront than others about their ploy.
A spokesman for PepsiCo, which owns Walkers, said: ‘We have faced rising commodity prices and raw ingredients costs. Where possible we absorb costs but we have had to make slight reductions to the weight of some crisp products.’
Nestle said: ‘Occasionally we make changes to the size, driven by factors including anything from product reformulation, changes in packaging or ingredients costs.’
Greggs the baker was a little vague, saying its Steak Bake recipe had been altered. It said: ‘The recipe was changed over a year ago. The new Steak Bake also has a reduction in salt.’
Similar excuses for shrinking the size of goods were put forward by confectionery manufacturer Mars and Kraft-owned Cadbury.
Laura Sandys, Tory MP for South Thanet, says: ‘It’s wrong that consumers are forced to absorb inflation without knowing about it. The Government is looking at the issue.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/bills/article-2319424/Products-getting-smaller-price-pay-stays-same.html#ixzz2SWSBaUCr
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