Lighter toilet paper, less cookies in a bag, less conditioner in squeeze tubes.
The changes are subtle and might elude less discerning buyers. But retail industry experts say we could see more consumer products start to shrink in size or quantity – or both – due to rising costs.
Record levels of inflation mean that households are paying more for everyday purchases and it is costing businesses more to produce packaged items like paper products, shampoos and food and drink products.
Companies can raise prices, and many do. Others charge customers the same price while offering less.
Downsizing, also known as “shrinkflation,” is happening with toilet paper, said Edgar Dworsky, former Massachusetts assistant attorney general, consumer advocate and publisher of the ConsumerWorld.org website.
“Downsizing happens during times of high inflation because companies that make everyday products also pay more for raw materials, production and delivery costs,” said Dworsky, who tracks the impact of the period of high inflation on consumer products for three decades.
Dworsky said product downsizing is becoming more prevalent, and he recently noted several examples of brands quietly downsizing their products.
For example, Procter & Gamble’s
(PG) Charmin’s Mega Pack of 18 Ultra Soft Bathroom Tissues now contains 244 two-ply sheets, up from 264 double-ply sheets per roll. And the brand’s super mega rolls now boast 366 sheets versus 396 sheets per roll previously.
“That’s like losing the equivalent of about a roll and a half in the new 18-stroke package,” he said.
Dworsky noted that full-size toilet paper packs are now most commonly stocked in stores. “It’s almost impossible to find a four-pack,” he said.
Although he doesn’t monitor product prices, Dworsky said that when downsizing happens, consumers end up paying more for less product or the same price but for less.
“That doesn’t mean that every toilet paper product from Procter & Gamble will see a change. But I suspect there will be changes to more products,” he said, adding that he will have a report on other toilet paper brands next.
In its latest earnings call, Procter & Gamble executives acknowledged the company faces a “challenging cost environment” due to the continued effects of the pandemic on supply chains, a labor market tense and that “availability of materials remains tight”.
As a result, P&G said it was raising prices for its retail customers for 10 product categories, including detergents, dryer sheets, baby and feminine care products.
In an email to CNNBusiness, Procter & Gamble shared a variety of reasons for variations in product sizes and that in-store pricing is determined solely by retailers.
“There is a cost element to innovation – adjusting the number per pack or pack size is a way to reinvest in that innovation while maintaining a competitive price,” the company said.
P&G said it also scales product sizes for different retailers. So the rolls may have shrunk in some stores but not in others.
“At the same retailer, the assortment you’ll find in a suburban location may differ from what’s in a smaller-footprint, urban retail store – and from what’s on a retailer,” he said.
The phenomenon of “shrinkflation” is not new. The practice is usually triggered when inflation rises and business costs increase.
When costs rise, consumer goods manufacturers look for ways to offset the increases they pay for commodities, transportation, labor, and other expenses. Either they increase the prices of existing products, or they reduce the size of existing products, thereby increasing the unit price of what you get.
These increases are passed on to shoppers via stores, who purchase products from consumer goods companies.
Other recent examples of discounted products that Dworsky has noticed are Keebler cookies. He said the Chips Deluxe with M&Ms packet fell to 9.75 from 11.3 ounces per packet.
Shoppers alerted him to new Gatorade bottles that hold less of the drink — 28 fl. oz. by 32 fl. .
“For consumer products companies, raising prices for consumers is the last resort. This is because price increases in stores are very noticeable to shoppers and can influence demand,” said Mark Cohen, director of retail studies and assistant professor at the School of Business. Columbia University.
Instead, companies are making subtle adjustments to products and packaging. “For consumers, it’s kind of an inconvenience…or a concern depending on what product we’re talking about,” Cohen said. products keep happening.”
– CNN’s Nathaniel Meyersohn contributed to this story