Recently, right after a trip to the grocery store, my husband and I started talking about the various products we suspect are in smaller packaging but selling for the same price as the previous items. Case in point: breakfast cereal. I’ve long suspected that cereal boxes were getting smaller. It used to be that one box would last a week, even with two hungry teenagers living in the house and a husband who liked late-night snacks.
It turns out, we were right. The phenomenon even has a name: Shrinkflation, or “inflation’s devious cousin,” as coined by a recent NPR news article. A former Massachusetts assistant attorney general and consumer advocate had gotten wind of the smaller cereal boxes for the same price as the bigger version. He compared old and new packaging and found out the rumor was true: the old “Family Size” cereal boxes held 19.3 ounces, while the new ones held 18.1 ounces. For the same price.
A blogger by the name of Len Penzo frequently found himself short of recipe ingredients because contents are being subtly altered. He compiled a list of Shrinkflation that is as amazing as it is disturbing. Here are his examples. The bold-faced ones have been changed since January 2020:
Ragu spaghetti sauce (Was: 28 oz.; Now: 24 oz.)
Powerade (Was: 32 oz.; Now: 28 oz.)
StarKist tuna (Was: 6 oz.; Now: 5 oz.)
Anthony egg noodles (Was: 16 oz.; Now: 12 oz.)
Lay’s Potato Chips, party bag (Was: 15.25 oz.; Now: 13 oz.)
Scott toilet paper (Was: 115.2 sq. ft.; Now: 104.8 sq. ft.)
Nutella (Was: 14.1 oz.; Now: 12.3 oz.)
Haagen Dazs ice cream (Was: 16 oz.; Now: 14 oz.)
Puffs tissue (Was: 56 count; Now: 48 count)
Skippy peanut butter (Was: 18 oz.; Now 16.3 oz.)
Kirkland Signature paper towels (Was: 96.2 sq. ft.; Now: 85 sq. ft.)
Dawn dish soap, small (Was: 8 oz.; Now: 7 oz.)
Ivory dish soap (Was: 30 oz.; Now: 24 oz.)
Hillshire Farms Polska Kielbasa (Was: 16 oz.; Then: 15 oz.; Now: 14 oz.)
Nathan’s Hot Dogs, skinless: (Was: 16 count; Now: 14 count)
Country Crock margarine (Was: 48 oz.; Now: 45 oz.)
Keebler Club Crackers (Was: 13.7 oz.; Now: 12.5 oz.)
Breyers ice cream (Was: 64 oz.; Then: 56 oz.; Now: 48 oz.)
Charmin Ultra Strong toilet paper (Was 286 sheets; Now: 264 sheets)
Bounty 2-ply paper towels (Was: 138 half-sheets; Then: 128 half-sheets; Now: 110 half-sheets)
Hershey’s kisses, family size (Was: 18 oz.; Now: 16 oz.)
Canned vegetables (Was: 16 oz.; Now: 14.5 oz.)
Yogurt (Was: 8 oz.; Now: 6 oz.)
Mayonnaise (Was: 32 oz.; Now: 30 oz.)
Coffee (Was: 16 oz.; Then: 15 oz.; Then: 13 oz.; Now: 10 oz.)
According to both experts and casual observers, the best way to not fall victim to the incredibly shrinking consumer offerings is to pay more attention to weight or numbers than just the price. Also, try to use fewer packaged goods. Buying fruits and vegetables by price per pound is a way to assure you are getting exactly what you think you are getting. Buying meat by the pound is again a way to assure you know exactly what you are buying instead of what you used to get.
Final thought: It seems many toilet paper companies are shrinking the size of the squares. The rationale is that people are getting more, um, efficient.
I’d like to see how they confirmed that argument.
Contact this reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 440-871-5797.