The Consumer Association investigated how common it is for products to gradually shrink without a corresponding decrease in the selling price. "Shrinkflation" is the term often used when the content of a product decreases without a similar reduction in its price. Over 700 consumers reported their observations of reduced product sizes through a survey on the Consumer Association's website. Certain products and product categories were repeatedly mentioned in the responses.
The Consumer Association calls for clear and transparent communication about changes in packaging sizes.
"Consumers have clearly been vigilant and noticed product shrinkage, as we received a huge influx of responses within a few weeks of opening the survey," said Paula Pessi, Communications Manager at the Consumer Association. "We received a total of 735 reports of reduced product sizes."
Based on consumer reports, the shrinkage appears to have occurred particularly in pet food, with significant observations also made for products such as butter spreads, pollack, cheese, and meat products. "Especially in these products and categories, it seems that significant shrinkage has taken place, as we received so many reports," Pessi assessed.
Top Products Mentioned by Consumers - 9 Products with a High Number of Reports of Shrinkage:
From the responses, products with at least five similar reports of shrinkage were selected. It's important to note that these observations are based on consumer reports, and information about changes in size or price hasn't been verified, so it cannot be conclusively stated whether it's "shrinkflation."
The majority of reports concerned pet food. For example, consumers reported the shrinkage of serving pouches for wet cat food 34 times (brands included Latz and Whiskas). Similarly, there were six reports of shrinkage for dog food (Jahti&Vahti). Kivikylä's various meat products received 23 reports. A reduction of 100 grams in the weight of Ingmariini spreads was noted by 20 consumers. The content of different Becel spread containers appeared to have decreased by several tens of grams (15 reports). Likewise, 14 respondents noticed that the content of Oivariini spread containers had shrunk by 50 grams from its previous size. Twelve respondents reported that Arla's Loputon cream cheese had decreased by 100 grams. According to respondents, K-Group's Pirkan Alaskan Pollack portion package now contains only 3 pieces instead of the previous 4, with the weight decreasing from 400 grams to 300 grams (10 reports).
Is All Shrinkage Shrinkflation?
Manufacturers had various justifications for reducing the sizes of their products. Many claimed that smaller packaging sizes were in response to consumer demand, and some, like Kivikylä, provided evidence of price reductions as well. "Has the selling price decreased in line with the product content?" Pessi suggests checking. "If the price genuinely decreases in the same proportion as the product size, then consumers aren't losing out."
The reduction in the quantity of a product without a corresponding price decrease is referred to as "shrinkflation" or "hidden inflation." In this scenario, the content shrinks while the selling price and often the packaging size and appearance remain the same as before. Reducing the content may be a tactic to avoid raising prices.
"Proving shrinkage after the fact is challenging, especially from the consumer's perspective," notes Pessi. "Often, there's a sense that the product has changed, but there's nothing to compare it to anymore. People don't usually keep receipts or hold onto packaging."
To definitively determine whether shrinkage is shrinkflation, two pieces of information are needed: details of content changes and information on price changes, or lack thereof. "Package sizes and prices are within the discretion of manufacturers, but tampering with size without open communication about the changes may risk consumer trust. When you notice your favorite product has quietly shrunk, it can feel like a form of deception," Pessi says, noting that this sentiment was evident in the survey responses.
Transparent Communication About Shrinkage Is Key
Companies should maintain transparent communication with consumers if they decide to reduce the size of their products. Retailers also play a role in communication. For example, in France, a well-known supermarket chain announced that it would warn consumers about products where packaging sizes had shrunk but prices remained the same.
How Was the Survey Conducted?
The open survey was available on the Consumer Association's Consumer Channel from March 24 to August 31, 2023. A total of 735 responses were received, with the majority submitted within the first month. The survey allowed anonymous responses.
The Consumer Association emphasizes that the responses to the survey are consumers' own observations of products and suspicions of size reductions. The accuracy of the information regarding changes in size or price hasn't been verified. The Consumer Association has contacted manufacturers and offered them the opportunity to comment on the survey results.