These tricks mean we get less for our money when shopping
by Nicky Selwood, Writer
Shrinkflation, when the price of a product stays the same but its size gets smaller, is something you’ve probably noticed. And just when we’ve had enough of hearing about it, there’s a new one to consider – skimpflation.
What is shrinkflation?
Manufacturers are always looking for ways to combat the price increases of raw ingredients and production costs. They could just hike prices (and they do), but that can affect sales greatly.
However consumers are less likely to notice size decreases, so you’ll find many of your favourite products being shrunk instead. In short, you’re paying more for less product.
Now as a nutritionist, some of these reductions I may be in favour of. A cm less of a chocolate bar here or there or a few less crisps in a bag, should in theory, ultimately lead to less consumption of calories.
But, I know this isn’t always the case, as if a food product has been ‘shrunk’ a little too much, then consumers give themselves the excuse to eat more of them, (hands-up I’m guilty of this – have you seen the size of a multi-pack Wispa these days?)
If raw ingredients and production costs continue to rise, then shrinkflation will carry on happening in the food industry as well as the manufacturing industry as a whole – even a bar of Dove soap has shrunk by 10g! In fact, research from Barclays found that more than three-quarters of us have noticed examples of shrinkflation.
Ways to beat shrinkflation
If your favourite sausage has been cut in size then there’s not much you can do about it but make sure you’re getting the best price for what you’re buying by shopping around.
And consider other ways to fill your plate. Instead of eating more sausages, think about putting more veg on our plate to fill you up. Carrots are dirt cheap at the moment – as low as 40p per kilo at Morrisons. That’s a lot cheaper than buying an extra pack of sausages.
What is skimpflation?
The new word on the block though is skimpflation. This is where cheaper ingredients replace the usual ones to save on the cost of production. In short, manufacturers are beginning to skimp on the quality of ingredients they use.
It’s more subtle than shrinkflation, but it’s there if you look closely enough. Morrison’s guacamole was recently called out for reducing the amount of avocado from 80% to 77% – probably unnoticed by the majority of consumers but a little on the sneaky side.
Ice-cream manufacturers have also been known to add more water into products in place of more expensive dairy ingredients.
Skimpflation is probably happening more than we know as we are unlikely to notice small ingredient changes in our favourite products.
And it isn’t just about food and drink, it also refers to service. Have you noticed that your meals take longer to come in a restaurant or you queue longer at the checkout? This is where resources have been cut so you get less service than you were getting before the cost of living increase hit us.
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Why is food inflation happening?
There are so many factors pushing up prices, with the pandemic, Brexit and war in Ukraine all having an impact on the costs involved in agriculture, manufacturing and transporting of groceries.
Things have slowed down a little recently – September saw the first fall in food prices for two years – but prices are still high. The bad news it’s unlikley we’ll see significant drops to where they were unless supermarkets themselves take a hit.
How much have food prices gone up?
The Office for National Statistics has a really helpful shopping price comparison tool where you can see the average price change of a variety of groceries.
I gave it a go and was surprised to see the highest price increase in my basket came from sugar, which had risen in price by 56% since last year. Now I knew sugar had supply issues and had noticed that the cost had gone up, but I hadn’t realised it was by that much. It just goes to show that we’re not always aware of what makes the greatest impact on the rising price of our weekly shop.
How to beat food inflation
- Trade down – if you eat a branded product see if the own-label equivalent one will meet your needs. If you already enjoy an own-label product, try trading down to a value one. And if you actually enjoy the trade down, stick to that product and save money every week
- Remember to use store loyalty cards and coupons for discount prices
- Buy in bulk – that doesn’t mean you have to buy everything in sacks, but think about buying bigger versions such as a multipack bag of crisps rather than individual packs, a 4 pack of tins rather than a single one and such like
- Stock up when your favourites are on offer
- Eat less meat – use less meat in your recipes and more vegetables, legumes and wholegrains, which tend to be cheaper
- Buy more frozen and canned goods rather than fresh, to keep costs lower and help reduce the amount of food you waste
- Budget – if your trolley shop used to cost £100, see what you can buy for £100 now – it may not be the same but it will encourage you to swap to cheaper alternatives
- Swap to a cheaper supermarket