Have you started to wonder if your favourite snacks are getting smaller? Maybe a couple of bags of crisps have disappeared from your usual multi-pack. Or perhaps those ‘share bags’ of chocolates are getting a bit too easy to eat all by yourself.
If so, you’re not imagining this: it’s called shrinkflation, and it’s happening all over the world.
What is shrinkflation?
Even though the UK’s annual inflation rate fell sharply to 4.6% in October 2023, prices are still rising – just not as fast. According to the Office for National Statistics, the price of food is still about 30% higher than it was in October 2021.
Rather than putting the prices up again, many retailers are reducing the size of a product while keeping the price the same – and this is known as shrinkflation. Technically, prices are still rising as you’re getting less for the same money – but as these changes happen incrementally, you might not always notice.
A new survey from Barclays has found that 70% of shoppers have noticed some products are now being sold in smaller packages or portion sizes yet cost the same or more, and the majority (83%) say they're concerned about the impact of this growing trend on their finances.
We also know from our own cost of living research that 71% of kids are worried about food prices increasing, with 25% of nine-year-old children saying that they'd give their pocket money to help their parents afford essentials like the food shop.
Which snacks are shrinking?
If you're wondering which products are shrinking, our favourite snacks are among the worst hit. Consumer organisation Which? surveyed shoppers to find out which products have noticeably shrunk. They found that chocolate (50%), crisps (40%), biscuits (39%) and snack bars (35%) are the most common victims:
A well-known brand of multi-packs of crisps has cut two bags of crisps from its 24-bag multi-packs
Famous chocolate-coated ice lollies are down 25% to three in a pack instead of 4
Packs of digestive biscuits have shrunk from 360g to 400g
Chocolate buttons are down from 240g to 184g.
Bags of peanuts are now 225g instead of 250g
A milk chocolate bar is now 100g instead of 125g
Two-finger chocolate snacks are 17% smaller
A box of cereal that used to contain ten servings now contains nine, but like all the above, the price remains the same
Christmas chocolates now come in 600g tubs instead of 650g (7.7% smaller)
A tube of potato snacks now weighs 185g instead of 200g (7.5% smaller)
Is shrinkflation legal?
Shrinkflation is legal, but businesses do have to be honest about it. This means they are allowed to make their products smaller, but they have to make this clear on the packet. They can’t trick consumers, especially kids, into thinking they are getting the same amount of product as before, as this would be false advertising. The problem is that the changes are often only listed in small print or buried among a long list of ingredients, making it difficult to spot – which is why French supermarket Carrefour puts stickers on products to warn consumers that a product is getting smaller.
You can avoid falling victim to shrinkflation by comparing the price per unit when shopping for different brands and sizes of products. The price per unit should be marked on the shelf below the product. If you can't see it, pay attention to the weight and number of units listed, especially on multi-buy packets. Above all, trust yourself. If your favourite snack looks smaller, it probably is.
What can you do about shrinkflation?
As a consumer, your best bet is to rethink the way you shop. Research shows a fifth of consumers (20%) are actively switching away from products that have been downsized in favour of buying products in bulk, which often offers better value for money.
Another way to protect yourself from paying more is to track the prices of your favourite products over time so that you can notice any changes and deals. A good way to do this is to use Supermarket Wizard, which allows you to compare prices in all the major supermarkets. This way, even if the product has shrunk, you can still make sure you are buying it at the cheapest price possible.
And to make your shopping even more cost-efficient, use coupons and discounts. You can find coupons and discounts online, in newspapers, on product packaging – and in your GoHenry app.
Supermarket loyalty cards can also help you beat shrinkflation, as many offer significantly lower member prices.
Aside from doing the maths on your shopping basket – which is a great way to teach kids about budgeting – you can also avoid shrinkflation by not being loyal to a particular brand or supermarket. Every little bit helps with family budgets, so consider buying generic or own brands. These are often as good as name brands but cost less – and are less likely to shrink before your eyes.