'Shrinkflation' hits thousands of products

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
24 July 2017

More than 2,500 UK products have shrunk in size over the past five years, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS said between January 2012 and June 2017 2,529 products – mostly in the food and drink category – reduced in size, while just 614 had increased.

“No you’re not imagining it – some of your favourite sweets are shrinking,” said the ONS in a report. “In November 2016 Toblerone chocolate bars reduced in size by about 10%, provoking outrage online. And Maltesers, M&Ms and Minstrels have gone the same way.

“It’s a phenomenon known as shrinkflation – where manufacturers reduce the package size of household goods while keeping the price the same.”

The ONS said manufacturers blamed the price rises on higher input costs, but the price of sugar has been falling since the middle of 2014 and in March 2017 was at its lowest level since IMF records began in 1991.

The price of cocoa reached a five-year high in December 2015, due to droughts in the three biggest exporting countries, but has fallen sharply over the last year, said the ONS.

Some commentators have attributed shrinkflation to Brexit, said the ONS, “but our analysis doesn’t show a noticeable change following the referendum that would point towards a Brexit effect. Furthermore, others have been observing these shrinking pack sizes long before the EU referendum, and several manufacturers have denied that this is a major factor.”

The ONS said shrinkflation was not contributing to food inflation because they took account of pack sizes when collecting prices. However, in the subcategory of “sugar, jam, syrups, chocolate and confectionery” it found changing pack size had contributed 1.22% to the rate of inflation of those items since the beginning of 2012.

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