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What Is Shrinkflation? Shrinkage Is on the Rise — Here’s How to Spot It

Dori Zinn  |  June 21, 2022

Noticed your grocery items getting smaller? Shrinkflation is real. Here’s what to look for when you’re grocery shopping.

The bags seem lighter, the boxes look smaller, and items that once felt generous now feel compact. Shrinkflation is here.

Shrinkflation is when companies reduce a product quantity or size but prices remain the same — and sometimes increase. You might not see it at first, especially if you’re in auto-pilot mode and pick up the same items regularly. But make no mistake: it’s impacting your wallet. Here’s how to spot it and what it means for your budget.

READ MORE: The New Way To Buy Groceries To Save Money In 2022

How to spot shrinkflation

While inflation is the hot term right now, you may want to pay more attention to shrinkflation. Instead of increasing the price of goods, consumers are paying the same or slightly more for a smaller product. 

“Shrinkflation can be hard to spot, because retailers may sell through the original packaging and then re-stock with the new packaging,” says Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert at Truetrae.com. “Sometimes, there is some overlap where the products are side-by-side, and from what I’ve seen, the new packaging will sometimes have a ‘new’ label, prompting shoppers to think there’s some kind of improvement when it’s actually just smaller.”

Shrinkflation allows stores and companies to sell products around the same price, so consumers don’t notice the price right away — usually when they’ve already gotten home and opened their goods. This isn’t on all products. For instance, you will still see a gallon of milk or a dozen eggs. In those cases, you might see a jump in price.

What causes shrinkflation?

For the most part, the costs of goods, materials, and production all go up. The only thing that may not see an increase is your paycheck. To avoid a smaller profit margin, companies will make their products smaller, which means consumers won’t pay a higher price per unit but will end up buying more units. 

An uptick in the competition will also drive up these costs. 

How to avoid shrinkflation

As you’re making the grocery store rounds, there are some instances where you can’t avoid the rising costs and smaller sizes of goods. But there are some things to keep in mind when you head to the store.

Shop around. If you have the opportunity to go to a few different grocery stores, compare the prices of your normal items at each of them. Sometimes, you can’t find specific things at every store, but for common goods, look to see what the competitor charges. You might find sales or lower prices than what you’re paying at your go-to store.

Check the ads. If you’ve been ignoring those paper circulars that come in the mail, it’s a good time to revisit them,” Bodge says. When your favorite items go on sale, load up or use this as a time to try something new. Craft your meal plans around what you have on hand and what’s on sale. 

Evaluate the unit price. The unit price is a standard of measurement across similar products. When you look at the price tag for an item, you’ll usually see a unit price that’s smaller, off to the corner. It’s sometimes per ounce, pound or another type of measurement. You can use this to compare like products to see which one actually gives you the best price. Make sure you compare the same units.

Don’t forget store brands. “Store brands are a better value and are often manufactured at the same factory as the name brand,” Bodge says. “Check the ingredient listing to make sure the ingredients are the same.”

Buy in bulk. Buying in bulk isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re only buying for yourself or don’t have a lot of storage space. But if you have the space or the needs, consider a warehouse membership. “Buying in bulk can save you up to 40%, so if you have a wholesale club membership, now is the time to use it, especially for non-perishable items, like dry goods like pasta, and canned goods,” Bodge says. Also take a look at different sizes of a product you normally buy. Companies don’t usually change all of the sizes or products at one time so you might find a better deal on a bigger size compared to the one you regularly buy.

Make your phone work for you. Sign up for apps that offer discounted savings, coupon sites, and store-specific deals. “A quick search resulted in a list of deals like $50 off purchases of $99 or more at FreshDirect.com, $10 off $50 or more at Safeway, and up to 60% off Amazon Fresh groceries,” Bodge says. “Some of these retailers will also offer cashback, which is an additional way to save.”

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