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Toblerone chocolate bar, 2006
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2016 Toblerone bar from the United Kingdom with larger gaps between peaks, using 10% less chocolate [1]

In economics, shrinkflation, also known as the grocery shrink ray, deflation, or package downsizing, [2] is the process of items shrinking in size or quantity, or even sometimes reformulating or reducing quality, [3] while their prices remain the same or increase. [4] [5] The word is a portmanteau of the words shrink and inflation. First usage of the term "shrinkflation" with its current meaning has been attributed to the economist Pippa Malmgren, though the same term had been used earlier by historian Brian Domitrovic to refer to an economy shrinking while also suffering high inflation. [6]


Shrinkflation allows companies to increase their operating margin and profitability by reducing costs whilst maintaining sales volume, and is often used as an alternative to raising prices in line with inflation. [7] Consumer protection groups are critical of the practice.

Economic definition

A parallel to shrinkflation is currency debasement. This graph shows decline in coin silver content over the history of the Roman Empire. Fineness of early Roman Imperial silver coins.png
A parallel to shrinkflation is currency debasement. This graph shows decline in coin silver content over the history of the Roman Empire.

Shrinkflation is a rise in the general price level of goods per unit of weight or volume, brought about by a reduction in the weight or size of the item sold.[ citation needed ] The price for one piece of the packaged product remains the same or could even be raised. This sometimes does not affect inflation measures such as the consumer price index or Retail Price Index, i.e. it might not increase in the cost of a basket of retail goods and services,[ citation needed ] but many indicators of price levels and thus inflation are linked to units of volume or weight of products, so that shrinkflation also affects the statistically represented inflation figures.

Consumer impact

Consumer advocates are critical of shrinkflation because it has the effect of reducing product value by "stealth". [8] The reduction in pack size is sufficiently small as not to be immediately obvious to regular consumers. [9] An unchanged price means that consumers are not alerted to the higher unit price. The practice adversely affects consumers' ability to make informed buying choices. Consumers have been found to be deterred more by rises in prices than by reductions in pack sizes. Suppliers and retailers have been called upon to be upfront with customers. According to Ratula Chakraborty, a professor of business management, they should be legally obliged to notify shoppers when pack sizes have been reduced. [10] Corporate bodies deflect attention from product shrinkage with "less is more" messaging, for example by claiming health benefits of smaller portions or environmental benefits of less packaging. [7]

Instances of shrinkflation

We identified 206 products that shrank in size and 79 that increased in size between September 2015 and June 2017. There was no trend in the frequency of size changes over this period, which included the EU referendum. The majority of products experiencing size changes were food products and in 2016, we estimated that between 1% and 2.1% of food products in our sample shrank in size, while between 0.3% and 0.7% got bigger. We also observed that prices tended not to change when products changed size, consistent with the idea that some products are undergoing "shrinkflation". [11]

The UK's Office for National Statistics [11]

Impact of Shrinkflation on CPIH (UK) 2012 - 2017.png
Impact of Shrinkflation on CPIH in the UK, with the number of food price quotes that saw a change in package size per month


In October 2021, NPR's Planet Money proposed the term skimpflation to refer to a degradation in the quality of services while keeping the price constant, such as a hotel offering a more meager breakfast or reducing the frequency of housekeeping. [23]

See also

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