It is a strategy used in periods of economic crisis and times of inflation such as the one in Spain at present. With the CPI rising to 9.8% in March, companies are trying to maintain their profits but don’t want to put their prices up in case they lose clients. What is the answer? Shrinkflation, it’s called, and it consists of offering less for the same money. Take crisps, for example: consumers aren’t going to notice five less in a packet, but they would notice if the packet were more expensive. It is a well-known tactic and completely legal, as long as the new quantities are shown on the labels.
The Consumers and Users Organisation (OCU) has identified quite a few cases. About seven per cent of the products they checked in October had reduced in size. These included Activia yogurts (5 grammes lighter); the number of hake steaks produced by Pescanova (400 grammes less); a can of Coca-Cola (it had lost 40 grammes); Tulipán margarine (50 grammes less); Doritos (5 fewer per packet) and Gallo spaghetti and macaroni, “which appeared to have gone up in price by only 3.7% and 4.1% respectively, when in reality, when we looked at the new contents, they had gone up by 15.2% and 15.7%. So it is the weight that is going down, not the prices,” says the OCU.
Spain is not the only country in which this happens. Shrinkflation was first coined as a word in the UK in 2018 and it mainly applied to chocolate bars and sweets. The BBC analysed the products of 19 manufacturers and found that 18 of them had reduced the size.
It used to be more difficult to detect this practice, but the Internet has made things easier. Now, for example, the Shrinkflation group on the social media site Reddit ha 21,000 members who post before and after photos of products which are no longer as big as they used to be.