Discreetly rising prices: “shrinkflation”, this formidable marketing technique for consumers

Discreetly rising prices: “shrinkflation”, this formidable marketing technique for consumers
Discreetly rising prices: “shrinkflation”, this formidable marketing technique for consumers

SUPERMARKETS – Less product at the same price: this is the new way that the food industry has found to hide price increases. Dozens of products are affected.

VF, with AFP – 2021-10-18T18:41:51.301+02:00

Fewer crisps or cereals than before in the package, but at the same price? This is the new conjuring trick favored by the food industry in this post-pandemic inflationary surge. Its name: “shrinkflation”. High priest of the phenomenon, which he has followed for a quarter of a century, Edgar Dworsky says he has identified dozens of products whose size has shrunk in recent months, from toilet paper rolls to cereal packets, including cat food. . The price remains the same. But if 20 years ago, only consumers who had the eye “complained in their corner”, today, with the internet, “it’s public”, underlines this specialist.

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On the social network Reddit, a group “Shrinkflation” has 14,500 members, who share their discoveries, more in the form of fun than protest. “It’s more insidious because reducing the size is less obvious than a price increase”, explains to AFP Jonathan Khoo, software designer in Oregon. “It is the delay between the purchase and the moment you realize you have been duped that makes the maneuver worse” than a price increase.

This feeling of scam “comes from the fact that most consumers have the vague idea that quantities are standardized, regulated”, which is not the case, with rare exceptions, such as alcohol, explains Pierre Chandon, professor of marketing at the European Institute of Business Administration (Insead). “As we assume that the weight is fixed, we do not look at it”.

From the “packaging mess”

For Edgar Dworsky, manufacturers abuse this technique because “They’ve factored in the costs (of the re-calibration) and if they have 0.5% of consumers complaining, they send them vouchers to keep them buying.” the article concerned. There is therefore no example of a product whose consumers have turned away in numbers after downsizing. The members of the dedicated group on Reddit hardly ever call for a boycott of a brand.

Besides the price, data analyst Brian Johnson also laments the “packaging mess” exacerbated by “shrinkflation“.

Marketing professor at the University of Central Florida, Anand Krishnamoorthy also notes that once the inflationary period has passed, “there is no incentive” for brands to return products to their original size. The change therefore becomes, in effect, final.

However, he warns against a stigmatization of the agrifood industry, because for him, the examples are found in many other sectors. This is evidenced by the development of small-area apartments, compact car models or the development of airliners to contain more passengers than before per square meter.

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Despite everything, Pierre Chandon sees an advantage in this movement, that of health. “We know that the more there is, the more we eat“, he said, but with the “shrinkflation”, after decades of explosion in quantities, “we are in the process of going back to what were normal portions not so long ago”, he concludes.

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