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7 Products Hit Worst by Shrinkflation

From toilet paper to snacks, manufacturers are reducing the size and count to save money

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Getting less for more has been an ongoing byproduct of the pandemic, with inflation still near a 40-year high. Prices for most consumer products are up, in some cases by double digits. Beyond paying more, consumers also have to deal with shrinkflation. That happens when manufacturers downsize the number or count of items in the package. It’s a way to pass on increased costs for ingredients and labor to consumers without raising the price. ​

“Shrinkflation has been with us since the 1950s and will never disappear. It is worse, certainly, during times of inflation when manufacturers are trying to find ways to pass on their increased costs to consumers,” says Edgar Dworsky, founder of Consumer World, and a consumer advocate who has tracked shrinkflation for over 30 years. “When inflation subsides there will be [less] downsizing, but it won’t go away.” 

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Shrinkflation has touched almost every category of consumer goods, but some tend to be repeat offenders. From toilet paper to snacks, here are seven products getting hit hard by shrinkflation — and how you can save on them all. ​

1. Toilet paper

To offset rising production costs, some toilet paper manufacturers are lowering the sheet count in each roll rather than raising prices directly. Consumer World and its team of shrinkflation sleuths have spotted this common tactic with several brands this year. ​

Charmin is one example. It recently reduced its Mega roll to 242 sheets from 264 and cut the Super Mega roll to 363 sheets from 396. That’s 8.3 percent less product for the same price. Scotts has kept its paper count at 1,000 sheets since 2010, but the paper it uses has gotten thinner. It now has 20 percent less paper than it did in 2006, according to Consumer World. ​

2. Paper towels

Paper towels are another common consumer product susceptible to shrinkflation. Is a consumer really going to notice if the paper roll has 10 fewer sheets? Sparkle is a recent offender. Consumer World found it cut six sheets off each roll, reducing it to 110 from 116, or by about 5 percent. ​

3. Breakfast cereal

To entice consumers to spend more, cereal companies have been adding size names to cereal boxes such as party size, family size and in some cases mega size. They hope that, instead of shopping by net weight, you’ll just grab the box that fits your household and/or consumption level. Some are even putting the family size label on smaller boxes in a tricky shrinkflation tactic. Post’s Honey Bunches of Oat cereal is one example. It moved its box sizes down one notch. Its family size box went from 23 ounces to 18 ounces, according to Consumer World. That’s a 21.7 percent difference. Meanwhile this summer the advocacy group spotted shrinkflation with Quaker Oats’ Cap’n Crunch peanut butter cereal: It went to 11.4 ounces per box from 12.5 ounces, which is an 8.8 percent reduction.​

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4. Laundry detergent

To reduce costs without raising prices, makers of laundry detergent will change the shape or size of the bottle. It happens occasionally over the years but more often when input costs are soaring. Take Seventh Generation laundry detergent for one example: It went from a 100-ounce bottle to 90 ounces but kept the price the same, according to Consumer World. ​

5. Snacks

This category is constantly feeling the effects of shrinkflation with everything from cookies to pretzels getting downsized over the past year. Take Utz pretzels for one example: Its big pretzel jars went to 26 ounces from 28, resulting in a 7.1 percent reduction. Meanwhile Consumer World found various Breton crackers are getting downsized. The multigrain variety is now 7.3 ounces, down from 8.8 ounces, or 17 percent smaller. Even raisins are feeling the effects of shrinkflation: Sun-Maid Raisin canisters got downsized by 2.5 ounces or 11 percent to 20 ounces from 22.58 ounces.​

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6. Shampoo and conditioner

Just as with laundry detergent, some shampoo and conditioner manufacturers are reducing their bottle sizes to save money and spread the increased cost of business to consumers. Suave shampoo and conditioner are just two examples that Consumer World sleuths found while shopping. Both got a 25 percent reduction in bottle size, but the prices remained the same. ​

7. Yogurt

This category has gone through some downsizing over the years, and as a result, long gone are the 8-ounce cups of this healthy snack. Today it can be hard to find even a 6-ounce cup. The ones with fruit or nuts to mix in are getting even smaller. Chobani flip-lid yogurt is one example: It went to 4.5 ounces from 5.3 ounces, a 15 percent loss, according to Consumer World. ​

How to save​

When it comes to combating inflation, consumers have to be savvy and, as Dworsky puts it, “net weight conscious.” That means you not only need to check the price of the item you’re coveting but also the net weight or count. That will clue you in if there are fewer of your favorite cookies in the package or if your toilet paper has fewer sheets per roll than last time you purchased them. Shoppers can also circumvent shrinkflation by shopping for the lowest-cost offering instead of brand. In times of high inflation, loyalty doesn’t pay all the time as generics tend to be cheaper than their household name counterparts. “Shoppers can vote with their pocketbook. If your favorite brand has gotten smaller, complain to the company, but buy a different brand that perhaps has not downsized yet,” Dworsky says. “Or switch to the store brand — it tends to be the last to shrink.”

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