When you’ve got one eye on your household budget, you want to make sure that you’re getting a good deal with every penny you spend.
But making sure you’re getting enough bang for your buck has taken a serious blow, as the ONS reveals that more the 2,500 products are guilty of ‘shrinkflation’.
You’ve heard the tireless refrain a hundred times before, up and down the country – despite paying more for goods, it seems that they’re not as big now as they were when we were kids. Wagon Wheels are often the poster-child of this cry, while Walkers are often ridiculed for filling up crisps packets only halfway.
But now, silencing the retort that it’s just your hands that have become bigger, the Office of National Statistics have released figures that show that an incredible 2,529 products have shrunk in the last five years.
While the ONS has said that coffee, fruit juice and even toilet rolls have shrunk over time, it showed that, proportionally, the highest shrinking occurred in the sugar, jam, syrups, chocolate and confectionery category.
In part, this is thought to be due to successive government attempts to curtail excessive unhealthy eating. Producers are also often quick to point out that globally, the cost of raw materials is rising – with the result being we spend the same (or more) for smaller goods.
The ONS, however, are not convinced that the cost of raw materials is the blame – or whether it’s even true at all. Importing sugar to Europe costs less now than since mid-2014; it hit a record low in March this year. Cocoa is another that has seen a sharp fall in price since its five-year high in December 2015.
They were also quick to slap-down suggestions that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU may result in higher prices and less sizes –when food manufacturers Mondez reduced the size of the much-loved Toblerone by 12%, they claimed this was to ‘keep the product affordable’, although many in the media suggested Brexit was to blame.
However, the ONS said:
‘Our analysis doesn’t show a noticeable change following the referendum that would point to a Brexit effect.’
Essentially, then, rather than increasingly expensive raw materials, it’s consumers who are getting a raw deal. Let’s look at a few examples of what we’re really getting for our money, compared to five years ago. A study by consumer group Which? shows that…
A packet of McVities will still set you back £1.50, but while you used to get 332g, you’re now paying the same price for 300g. Tropicana now sells at £2.48 for 850ml, compared to 1 litre in 2012. A bag of Maltesers has shrunk to 103g, down from 121g, so that, according to manufacturer Mars, the product stays ‘affordable’. And for £2, you’ll now receive 221 sheets of Andrew, over the previous 240.
It might not sound like a lot, but as with all things financial, the costs and savings soon add up. But is there some justification for this so-called ‘shrinkflation’? Discussing the ONS’ study, Andrex claimed that this shrinkage was purely for the benefit of consumers – rather than the company’s bottom line. They said:
‘Reducing the roll by a number of sheets has helped us make this multi-million pound investment in product performance possible. Consumer pricing is solely in the domain of the retailer.’
That explanation, however, may not appease consumers already feeling the pinch. On the (sort of) plus side, the ONS said that while more than 2,500 products had shrunk, over the last five years, a grand total of 614 has increased in size.