This annoying trend has been around for a while, but it appears to be getting worse as the cost of living skyrockets and brands look to claw back costs.
Popular food brands are quietly reducing their products yet still charging the same price — in a trend known as shrinkflation – with a consumer advocacy group warning customers to be on the look out for it.
Shrinkflation is when food suppliers cut costs by charging the normal amount for a product but reducing its quantity.
Choice found Cadbury’s new range of More chocolate blocks have suffered from shrinkflation.
It said the 165g blocks which came in options of Mixed Roast Nuts, Fruit & Nut and Nuts & Salted Toffee flavours, are sold in supermarkets for $5, yet are the same price as Cadbury’s standard 180g Dairy Milk blocks.
But a spokesperson for a Cadbury owner Mondelez said the range offered a “chunkier” eating experience and included more ingredients such as fruit and nuts compared to their original blocks.
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Experts had warned that cereals could be under fire next from the trend.
The Queensland Consumers Association noted in April that it had one major supermarket the selling price of a large pack of popular brand of breakfast cereal increased by 12 per cent but the contents shrank by 5 per cent, so the price per 100g increased by 17 per cent.
Choice revealed two popular cereal brands that have shrunk.
“One is Crunchy Nut, which sold for $6 for 670g in 2019, but now sells for $9 for 640g in 2022,” said Choice’s Liam Kennedy.
“This means shoppers have gone from paying $0.90 per 100g of Crunchy Nut to $1.41 per 100g – a hike of 57 per cent.”
Fruit Loops have also been hit, he said, downsizing from a 500g box to 460g but still selling for $9.
Kelloggs, the owners of the two cereal brands, did not respond to Choice’s request for comment on the issue.
Even pet food hasn’t escaped.
The brand Purina One launched an updated range of dry cat food but Choice said they have dropped from their 1.5kg size and also increased in price.
“These downsized versions are selling for $16.50 at major supermarkets, whereas the 1.5kg originals had a recommended retail price of $15.45,” Mr Kennedy said.
Nestle, the owner of Purina, said the company had been facing “significant increases” in the cost of raw materials, packaging and transport and it wanted to keep the product affordable for customers.
Experts have sounded alarm bells that the sneaky tactic looks set to be used by manufacturers in the coming 12 to 18 months like never before as they compete with rising fuel costs, labour shortages and global supply chain issues.
Increasing cost pressures on manufacturers left them with two options, according to Queensland University of Technology retail expert Dr Gary Mortimer.
They could either pass the costs onto retailers which would subsequently pass them onto consumers, or, reduce product quantities slightly and continue to charge the same.
He argued that while some people may see the tactic as deceitful, there was an alternate perspective that suggested it actually helped ease strain on households overall.
“Retailers are very cognisant that families are doing it tough. Fuel and rent prices are going up, and the cost of electricity. The last thing families want is for food prices to go up,” Dr Mortimer said.
“By giving you a little less, maybe 25 or 50 grams, you can still essentially get the majority of the product [while not paying any extra].”
— with Brooke Rolfe