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Package Shrinkflation: What It Is, Why It’s Used, and How to Spot It

Brands avoid raising prices on packaged products by downsizing the packaging or releasing pricier limited editions.

Rick Lingle

April 14, 2022

“Reduce” has long been a tactic used in make packaging more sustainable, but brands can also reduce packaging size or portions to avoid raising product prices.

Called shrinkflation, this tactic is popular during inflationary periods like we’re seeing now when brand owners face higher cost pressures.

In a highly revealing 6-minute Wall Street Journal video, WSJ food expert Annie Gasparro explains what shrinkflation is, why it’s done, and how to spot it.

Shrinkflation can be a seamless part of a brand’s packaging redesign or when moving to different packaging. Another common option is the introduction of limited-edition packaging

Among other examples, she calls out Oreo “limited editions” that are in smaller packages and cost more.

Adds Gasparro, “that's a tactic we're seeing a lot more of now than straight-up shrinkflation."

Shrinkflation can also occur when a brand owner releases a product in a more convenient package, citing a Kellogg’s jumbo “Tiger Paws” snacks. It’s a zippered 6-ounce pouch version of a cereal brand that’s otherwise boxed.

“Companies are charging more, but noting that they’re giving you an added benefit,” she says.

I’d never heard the term “pack price architecture” either, a broader term she uses that refers to changes in brands’ product lines that may include shrinkflation.

Shrinkflation is not always about inflation; sometimes brands downsize to account for increased production costs.

Alas, these changes are usually permanent.

The video is an informative eye opener for a tried-and-true strategy that often slips under the radar. If you want to be a more enlightened consumer, it’s worth a look.

 

About the Author(s)

Rick Lingle

Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday

Rick Lingle is Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday. He’s been a packaging media journalist since 1985 specializing in food, beverage and plastic markets. He has a chemistry degree from Clarke College and has worked in food industry R&D for Standard Brands/Nabisco and the R.T. French Co. Reach him at [email protected] or 630-408-7184.

https://twitter.com/PackmanRick[email protected]

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