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Is shrinkflation hitting your pocket?

Toilet rolls, chocolate and fruit juice are all items that have got smaller but still cost the same.

It’s been well documented that rising inflation is making the cost of the food and drink you buy more expensive. But that’s not the only thing causing you to spend more at the supermarket.

New analysis from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has looked at shrinkflation, where packets are getting smaller but prices remain the same. The ONS follow the price of certain products every month to measure inflation - so variations in weight are important to track price changes.

On the whole the smaller sizes didn’t cause inflation to rise, despite a bigger impact on the price of items in the “Sugar, Jam, Syrups, Chocolate and Confectionary” category.

However, they did find there were 2,529 products smaller now than they were five years ago. The obvious frustration for shoppers when this happens is that you’re getting less for the same price. And in most cases that’ll mean having to buy more to get the amount you need.

Manufacturers have blamed increased costs for the changes, though the ONS didn’t find any evidence that this is the case, especially since many of the product shrinkage occurred before the recent falls in the value of the pound.

How to not get caught out by shrinkflation

The changes are often quite subtle. Packaging often remains the same size or very similar, even if there’s less inside than before. This means if you buy the same products on most shops, you might not notice the change. The only way to do this is by checking the weight or volume on the pack, or the quantity of individual items in the box.

However, it’s not always easy to see. For example, consumer group Which? found some big brand loo rolls had between 8% and 14% less sheets – not something you can tell just from looking.

If your regular item has shrunk, you might get a better deal by switching brand, or changing to a different sized pack. In order to properly compare two products take a look on the supermarket shelf for Price Per Unit. This will say something like £1 for 1Kg, 50p for 500ml or 12p per item. And it should even say how many sheets of paper are on a toilet roll.

These numbers help you easily compare different size packs. Do watch out for similar items having slightly different measures. For example you might see one item price in grams, and a similar item in kilograms. When this happens, move the decimal point across to get numbers you can compare.


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