Shrinkflation Is Ruining Grocery Stores

By: Ben Campbell | Published: Apr 21, 2024

Amid a challenging period of inflation, Americans are paying more for everyday items at their grocery store. However, some of the blame for ever-increasing prices could be directed towards shrinkflation, which experts claim is ruining grocery stores. 

The controversial practice has become so apparent in recent years that US President, Joe Biden, made a video calling out companies who partake in shrinkflation to stop treating US citizens like “suckers.” 

What Is Shrinkflation?

Shrinkflation is a term used to define a reduction in the pack size of items, including snacks and cleaning supplies, while the price remains the same. 

A woman wearing a face mask carries several large packs of toilet paper

Source: Freepik

Essentially, consumers are paying the same price for an item despite it losing a portion of its size. The reality is Americans are getting less bang for their buck each time they visit the grocery store.  


Joe Biden Calls Out Companies

Back in February, US President Joe Biden released a video just before the Super Bowl, calling out snack companies that had been participating in shrinkflation. 

US President Joe Biden is pictured during a portion of the YouTube Video

Source: Whitehouse/YouTube

“I’ve had enough of call shrinkflation. It’s a rip-off,” said Biden.

Biden Vents Frustration With Snack Companies

Biden argued numerous companies that supply products to the nation’s supermarkets are “trying to pull a fast one by shrinking the products.”

A supermarket aisle filled with various condiments and other jarred items

Source: Freepik

The president vented his frustration with the companies, stating, “The American people are tired of being played for suckers.”

Senior Economist Speaks on Shrinkflation

Kaya Bruun, Senior Economist at Morning Consult, recently joined TheStreet to explain why Shrinkflation is increasing your weekly supermarket bill. 

An image of Morning Consult’s Kayla Bruun during an interview on TheStreet

Source: TheStreet

Bruun reveals that companies who engage in shrinkflation know precisely what they’re doing and use it as a business tactic to keep profits high. 

Companies Cut the Portion Size

Speaking on shrinkflation, Bruun explains precisely what the companies are doing. 

Small plastic containers of food items pictured in a supermarket

Source: Freepik

“When costs are very high, but businesses maybe don’t want to raise prices, what they’ve done instead is actually cut the portion size,” she said


Shrinkflation Can Be Difficult to Assess

According to the financial expert, the true extent of shrinkflation can be difficult to assess. 

An image of economist Kayla Bruun during an interview

Source: Wikimedia

However, Bruun admits customers have been catching on, stating, “There definitely were some instances that consumers have been noticing over the past few years.


Shrinkflation May Begin to Ease Off

Bruun suggests now that the US is experiencing a milder form of inflation, we may see less shrinkflation.

An image of several economists sitting at a table

Source: Freepik

“I would expect that now that we are seeing more mild inflation and businesses selling food are not necessarily under as much cost pressure, I would expect that we maybe won’t see as much of that going forward,” she said


Will Companies Continue to Participate in Shrinkflation?

The Senior Economist did mention it is possible companies will engage in shrinkflation once again, should their costs begin to rise. 

An image of a couple shopping for food at their local supermarket

Source: Wikimedia

“But of course, again, you never know if we do see another price surge on the cost side that they don’t feel they’re able to pass on to consumers, especially given how much they’ve already raised prices that certainly could be another tactic that they could look to do more of.”


Noticing Shrinkflation Requires Due Diligence, Says Editor

According to Mara Weinraub, senior lifestyle editor of groceries at food website The Kitchn, identifying shrinkflation requires a certain level of due diligence. 

An image of a woman walking through the supermarket

Source: Wikimedia

Tracking your cart online or by hand can certainly help you avoid falling victim to shrinkflation and save money on weekly shops. 


A Layer of Deception

While shrinkflation isn’t a modern practice, Americans have begun to pay more attention to their budgets during inflation. Others simply feel they have been duped by their local grocery stores. 

An image of a woman staring through the glass doors of a refrigerator in a supermarket

Source: Freepik

“There’s a layer of deception that they feel like, ‘Oh, this is something that companies are trying to do under the radar without us noticing,’” Weinraub said, per CNBC.


Avoiding the Effects of Shrinkflation

While shrinkflation has become increasingly apparent in recent years, there are several ways to avoid its effects. 

An image of a woman shopping for fresh produce at her local supermarket

Source: Freepik

Keeping tabs on weekly prices and pack sizes can ensure you don’t fall victim to shrinkflation, and if you notice a company has engaged in the practice, swap out the product for a cheaper alternative.