Personal Finance

Supermarket staples in sneaky shrinkflation tactics to appear cheaper

Supermarkets are being urged to be more transparent about shrinkflation as brands cut the size of products to avoid huge price hikes.

Supermarket shoppers are paying more for less as products shrink to make up for rising manufacturing costs.

Popular brands of staples such as teabags and butter have reduced in size while their prices stayed the same or even risen in the shops.

And the percentage of the key ingredients in foods such as sausages and ready meals have also dropped while their total weight has often remained the same, meaning its harder for consumers to tell the difference.

Consumer watchdog Which? asked its readers to inform them of products they've seen reduce in size.

Some of the most popular offenders were:

  • Lurpak's salted, unsalted and lighter butter; down from 250g to 200g
  • Whiskas cat food pouches: down from 100g to 85g
  • PG Tips Tasty Decaf Pyramid tea bags: down from 180 bags to 140
  • Kettle Chips Sea Salt and Crushed Black Peppercorns Crisps: Down from 150g to 130g
  • Listerine Fresh Burst mouthwash shrank from 600ml to 500ml. At Tesco it also went up in price by 52p.
  • McVitie’s Digestives: down from 400g to 360g
  • Richmond meat-free sausages: You still get eight in a pack, but the weight is down from 336g to 304g.

Elsewhere, some items changed their recipes to reduce the number of expensive ingredients that are key to the product. They include:

  • Sainsbury's Clotted Cream Rice Pudding: Clotted cream was completely removed for whipping cream. The items has now been relabelled.
  • Tesco Beef Lasagne 1.5kg: The amount of beef dropped from 23% to 19%.
  • Morrisons The Best Lasagne Al Forno (400g): Beef content dropped from 30% to 26%.
  • Waitrose Butter Chicken Curry: Chicken content dropped from 47% to 41%.
  • Morrisons 150g guacamole: Avocado content dropped from 80% to 77%.
  • Tesco Tex Mex Chicken Enchiladas: Chicken content dropped from 27% to 20%.

Brands are not legally obliged to tell customers if they have reduced a product's size or ingredients, so it's up to shoppers to keep an eye on labels, sizes and prices.

Lurpack butter became a symbol of the food inflation crisis in the UK last year, when the price of a 1kg tub soared to near £10 in some supermarkets due to the rising costs to produce milk. The price of a 500g tub has risen by 33% since last June.

Following the shrinking of Lurpack's 250g block of butter to 200g, a spokesperson for producers Arla, said: "We want to help reduce the cost of the average shopper's basket and have therefore lowered the price on Lurpak and Anchor alongside the size reduction.

"Whilst pricing is set by retailers directly, we have worked closely with our retail partners to ensure the 200g block option is offering at least the same price per 100g."

Supermarkets said shrinkflation was necessary to keep prices at the tills down, as inflation meant the cost of production had risen greatly over the last 18 months.

NimbleFins research found the cost of food for the average UK household of 2.3 people is £4,124.

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said sizes and quantities are always included on labels, so shrinkflation wasn't misleading.

He added: "Given the challenges facing households from the cost of living squeeze, retailers are solely focused to find ways to limit rising prices for customers against the rising cost of production, while maintaining the excellent quality of products.

"Prices and sizes of all products are clearly labelled so that customers can make informed decisions about their purchases."

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Helen Barnett

Helen is a journalist, editor and copywriter with 15 years' experience writing across print and digital publications. She previously edited the Daily Express website and has won awards as a reporter. Read more here.


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