Monthly Archives: September 2023

‘Shrinkflation’ is nothing new

there’s a lot of press now about ‘short-sizing’ or ‘pack count reductions’ or ‘shrinkflation’- as BBC’s Alexis Benveniste indicated in this thoughtful piece.

Just an FYI for marketers- this is nothing new!

Pack size reductions were common in the 1970’s, again in late 80’s & mid90’s during bouts of inflation. Low inflation usually discourages such practises, but even in noninflationary times, sometimes brands’ costs increase (with product improvements, etc), yet they face a ‘sensitive’ price point eg 99 cents or $1.99 etc. The first Fast Moving Consumer Good in a competitive category brand to jump to $1.09 or $2.09 will meet huge at-shelf purchase hesitation; some of their users will give a competitive brand a try, etc, etc. Ergo– they may reduce the contents …and hold the price.

Do consumers notice? Sometimes.

Is it legal? Usually – although certain categories are regulated so that consumers may compare items head to head. Jam used to be all 250ml or 500ml sizes- shrinking to 225ml would invite regulator fury. Facial tissue used to be 100 or 200 tissues/box; White Swan tissues launched a 150 count in Canada & their product was forced off the shelf (years later, the legislation changed; the same brands who had cried “Foul!” at White Sewan, gleefully cut their 200 count boxes, to a now-legal 150 sheets).

Well so what’s the harm?

For 1 thing, per Social Media ‘outings’, an unannounced count reduction seems ….sleazy & underhanded?

And….it’s a logistical nightmare. Ever play dominoes? This is dominoes. Change the pack count, and…

the product description changes, so the UPC often must change.

if shelf dimensions change, then every Planogram system changes, corrugate shippers dimensions are altered, production line case packers are reconfigured (sometimes means ordering ‘change parts’ & taking the line down to install them).

if the unit WEIGHT changes, corrugate declarations change (OSHA!), pallet layer configurations may change (40×48!), pallet counts & case weights change, pallet weights & truck shipping logistics change,..

So the next time you Marketing gurus go for a seemingly-easy “Let’s just cut back contents per unit”, be aware you set in motion many, many consequences; the Graphics, Purchasing, Manufacturing, Logistics/Shipping teams won’t salute your genius. The Customer Service / Customer Relations ppl who must field the complaints won’t salute your genius. The Key Account Sales pro’s that now have to justify/rationalize/sell this change to retailers won’t salute your genius.

So.. be sure you have looked thoroughly at all reasonable alternatives first.