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Less content, same price - the hidden inflation in the supermarket

Most consumers notice immediately that prices are currently rising in supermarkets and discounters.

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Less content, same price - the hidden inflation in the supermarket

Most consumers notice immediately that prices are currently rising in supermarkets and discounters. Thousands of products have skyrocketed in price over the past few months, many even more than once. But the amount marked on the shelf is not always the decisive factor.

With an increasing number of articles, there are hidden price increases - due to a reduction in the filling quantities and pack sizes. Customers then simply get less content for the same price. Experts call this phenomenon “shrinkflation”. The term is made up of the English word "shrink", which means "shrink" and "inflation".

A current example of shrinkflation are the bags of crisps from the Funny-Frisch brand. Manufacturer Intersnack recently reduced the capacity from 175 to 150 grams. The large pack, on the other hand, now only contains 215 instead of 250 grams, and the small packs weigh 40 instead of 50 grams. "These are hidden price increases of 16 to 25 percent," calculates the Hamburg consumer advice center and voted Funny-Frisch "deceptive pack of the month" in November.

Intersnack justifies the new grammages with enormous cost increases. "The prices for raw materials including packaging and logistics have risen immensely," says a statement from the Cologne-based company. In addition, there would be continuously rising costs for energy, which would particularly affect Intersnack as a manufacturer of energy-intensive, fried and baked products. "In order to be able to continue to meet our high quality standards, we were forced to compensate for the increase in costs by adjusting the grammage."

This decision was not easy for the company. "We see these adjustments as an extraordinary step in challenging times." However, Intersnack does not want to know anything about deceptive packaging. "The reduction in the filling quantity can be seen from the associated smaller packaging and the labeling of the quantity for our consumers."

And not only at Funny-Frisch. According to the Hamburg consumer advice center, Intersnack has also reduced the filling quantities of other brands, such as chips and tortillas from Chio or nut products from Ültje. "More than 30 snack items are likely to be affected," report the consumer advocates, who have also identified a domino effect.

"One provider starts, the others follow suit," says Armin Valet, head of the Food and Nutrition department at the Hamburg Consumer Center. "We found at least 63 snack products from the four most important suppliers with this trickery." Pringles from the manufacturer Kellogg Company, Lorenz Snack-World with the brands Crunchips and Nicnac's and Pepsico with Lay's and Doritos are also affected.

This shrinkflation is likely to have been preceded by tough negotiations with retailers. Because the tone is currently getting rougher between dealers and manufacturers. Lionel Souque, for example, the head of the Rewe Group, which includes the supermarket chain of the same name as well as the discounter Penny, openly accuses a number of brand manufacturers of price gouging. "Most of the industry behaves properly and is sensible," reports the manager. "We will then also accept price increases."

After all, there are understandable cost increases for raw materials, packaging, energy, logistics and personnel. "But there are also many free riders who surf the price wave and simply want to improve their results," complains Souque, meaning "above all the large, international, listed consumer goods groups".

Products from the US food giant Mars, which, in addition to chocolate bars, also sells pasta dishes and animal feed, are currently missing from the shelves of both Rewe and Edeka. And there is also a public dispute with Coca-Cola, which has even led to the delisting of industry leader Edeka. Rewe, in turn, is also driving the chips issue.

Souque reported in September that Intersnack had asked for high prices and also announced that it would reduce the filling quantity of the chip bags from 175 to 150 grams and publicly complained about it. The bottom line is that Intersnack demanded an increase of 22 cents per 100 grams due to cost increases. “But with our own brand, we only get five cents.

So I ask myself where the 17 cent difference comes from.” And he knows the background very well. "Because we have a large number of suppliers, are active in different countries and also have a deep insight into calculations thanks to our own brands, we can understand what is justified and what is not."

From the point of view of consumer advocate Valet, however, it is not only the brand suppliers who are conspicuous by shrinkflation. For a long time, dealers pointed the finger at the industry when there were hidden price increases, says expert Valet. In the case of private labels, they have long been shrinking the content themselves.

In any case, the Hamburg consumer advice center is reporting an increasing number of complaints about private labels. "With a share of around 14 percent, only comparatively few private labels were found in our list of deceptive packaging in the past two years," reports Valet. "But in the first six months of this year it was already 25 percent."

For example, the consumer advice center listed Jack's Farm lamb steaks from Aldi Nord and Süd in the summer, the pack content of which was reduced from 400 to 300 grams, and an organic wood-fired pizza with mozzarella, spinach and feta at the discounter Penny with 410 instead of 460 grams with a price increase of 50 cents at the same time or the Olivano's lentil bulgur salad Pikant from the Edeka subsidiary Netto Marken-Discount, the filling quantity of which was reduced from 250 to 200 grams with a simultaneous price increase from 89 to 99 cents.

However, the cases of well-known branded products are more effective in terms of publicity. The Hamburg consumer advice center names soap from Dove, washing-up liquid from Pril, sauces from Knorr, Piasten chocolate lentils and the margarine Rama from Upfield, which only made it to the sham pack of the month in August. Despite the cup being the same size, the pack no longer contains 500 grams, but 400, which corresponds to a price increase of 25 percent.

At the same time, the filling quantities at Sanella, Becel and Lätta were also reduced. There is a simple logic behind this method: by changing the pack sizes, retailers and manufacturers want to ensure that certain price thresholds are not breached, which could ultimately prevent customers from buying certain products.

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