Less isn’t more for consumers

28th Jul 2017

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has reported that 2,529 household products have shrunk in size over the past five years, but are being sold for the same price as before. A smaller number of products (614) have got bigger over the same period.

Some of the big-name products listed include Andrex toilet rolls, which used to contain 240 sheets but now contain 221; Toblerone chocolate bars, which now has larger spaces between the triangles and is 12% smaller as a result; and Tropicana fruit juices that used to be sold in 1l cartons, but now come in cartons that only hold 850ml. In each case, the retail price has remained the same. This practice is known as ‘shrinkflation’.

Some of the manufacturers named in the ONS report have claimed that the reduction in size is to compensate for the rising cost of raw materials, but the ONS is sceptical about this. It has also dismissed the idea that Brexit is to blame for recent instances of shrinkflation.

Jo Causon, chief executive of The Institute of Customer Service, has cautioned companies that indulge in this practice that they risk alienating their customers. “Five years ago, price was a consumer’s main priority,” she said, “but today their loyalty is influenced by the overall customer experience and whether or not they can trust a brand.

“Instead of being deceptive about changing price points, organisations should highlight why changes are being made. If they are not transparent, customers lose trust in a brand, with the knock-on effect being felt in terms of market share and business performance.

“The fact is that transparency and value for money are really important to consumers. Retailers who can deliver on these build consumer confidence and will be rewarded with their loyalty.”

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