Now shoppers are hit by a new wave of SHRINKFLATION: Major brands such as Muller, McVitie’s and Pepsi reduce the size of hundreds of products while still charging the same prices
Hard-pressed shoppers are facing a major new swathe of hidden price increases as food giants quietly reduce the size of hundreds of products while still charging the same prices.
The Mail on Sunday has discovered major brands such as Muller, McCain, McVitie’s and Pepsi have turned to crafty ‘shrinkflation’ tactics to increase the price of their products, adding to the cost-of- living crisis engulfing families.
Some packets have reduced by as much as a quarter with manufacturers apparently hoping that will be less obvious to shoppers than direct price rises.
Supermarket brands including Muller and McCain have shrunk products without cutting prices
Such widespread shrinkflation has not been seen since the aftermath of the 2008 credit crunch and is driven by firms anxious not to raise product prices despite the rising cost of raw materials, energy and transport.
Examples include Philadelphia cream cheese which has gone from 340g to 280g but still costs £3.
Five miles puts 25p on price of a Pret sandwich
Customers at Pret could end up paying 80p more for lunch, depending on which branch they use.
The cost of food and drinks differs between its 464 branches, including those just a few miles from each other.
In London alone, sandwiches cost up to 25p more and beverages 20p more at its High Street Kensington branch compared with its Brixton branch, just five miles away.
Smoked salmon sandwiches cost £4.50 or £4.25 respectively, cookies were £2.20 or £1.95, lattes £3.15 or £2.95 and crisps £1.30 or £1.20.
Office workers buying a drink, sandwich, sweet item and crisps would therefore pay as much as 80p more.
Customer Jen Newton, a property manager, 55, from South London, said: ‘I normally get lunch near the branch at home but was out and about and saw the price was higher.
She added: I thought Pret must have increased their prices. But the server said they hadn’t.
‘So I took a note of prices and compared them to my local branch.
‘Over a month, this would really add up.’
Retail expert Sarah Coles, from financial services firm Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ‘When we’re racing around the supermarket, we’re far more likely to remember that it cost £3 last time than we are to have an eagle eye on the weight, especially as the pack looks much the same. It’s easy to overlook this kind of stealth price rise.’
McCain has started selling 2.1kg bags of chips for £4 at Asda and Sainsbury’s with ‘bigger bag’ boldly written on it. However, the previous equivalent pack weighed 2.25g, meaning the new bags are seven per cent lighter.
Muller has cut sizes across its range of Corner yogurts, and Nestle’s popular Azera instant coffee was reduced in February from 100g to 90g, but still costs £5.49.
Meanwhile, Kleenex has reduced its £1 tissues from 72 sheets to 64 per box and each of the four ice creams in a Magnum Classic multipack are now 100ml, down from 110ml.
Warburtons has discontinued an eight-pack of white sliced rolls that was available at stores including Asda for 99p, leaving only a six-pack, priced at £1, in its range. However, a spokesman said: ‘Shrinking the weight of our loaves or the number of products in a pack is not something we have done.’
Consumer groups urged brands and retailers to be more honest with shoppers. ‘It’s understandable from the point of view of the food manufacturer and the supermarket,’ said Ms Coles.
‘Their costs are rising and they want to increase the price per gram, but don’t want to put us off buying these items or encourage us to trade down [to cheaper] brands by raising the price, so shrinkflation is their solution.
‘It makes comparing prices so much harder. Ideally we should be making a note of pack sizes when we’re throwing out empty boxes and tubs, so we can check the size of the new one when we pick it up.’
Official figures show consumer prices across the board soared by seven per cent in the year to March, the highest increase for 30 years. As it raised interest rates last week, the Bank of England warned inflation would hit ten per cent this year, the highest since 1982, while reporting a 3.75 per cent fall in average take-home pay – the biggest decrease since records began in 1990.
Explaining its ‘shrinkflation’, Kleenex said: ‘Significant increases in costs for energy, transport and raw materials has made it necessary to make changes. We have removed sheets from boxes rather than increasing consumer cost.’
Magnum maker Unilever said: ‘We will always try to absorb as much of the cost pressures ourselves before increasing our prices, and in this case it also meant reducing the size.’
Nestle said: ‘To avoid increasing prices wherever possible, we do on occasion need to make minor adjustments to the weight of products.’
Muller said: ‘While our products are substantially more expensive to make, we are trying to make sure that they remain affordable.’