Shrinkflation Intensifies – Stealth Inflation As Thousands of Food Products Shrink In Size, Not Price

- Shrinkflation continues to take hold across UK, Ireland and US for sixth year running
- Shrinkflation sees consumers gets less product, but at the same or increased price
- 2,500 products have shrunk according to Office of National Statistics in UK
- Reported inflation is between 1.7% and 3% but actually much higher
- Shrinkflation is financial fraud, unreported inflation in stealth mode
- Gold is hedging inflation and shrinkflation

Editor: Mark O'Byrne

Two bars of the Toblerone Swiss chocolate. New style 150 gram bar showing the reduction in triangular pieces (front) and older style 360 gram bar at back. Credit: Alastair Grant via The Telegraph

Your wallet might still be feeling the pinch after Christmas. Shrinkflation means this is likely to continue. Now in its sixth (official) year the phenomenon that sees you get less product for the same price is beginning to be covered more frequently.

Another example of this came last week when McVitie's biscuits, some of the most popular digestive biscuits in the UK and Ireland, saw a 20% cut in volume, but not in price.

Officially, inflation is pretty low across the developed world. In the US, it is so low (1.8%) that it is proving to be a cause for concern for policy wonks. It is 1.7% in the EU and in the UK it is at 3%. None of those readings are a true reflection of where prices really are and how much the cost of living has increased.

One of the best measures of inflation is shrinkflation. We've written about it before in reference to Toblerones and toilet rolls. This time, its all about the Brits' and Irish precious McVitie's Digestive biscuits.

Last month the manufacturer announced they were shrinking the packet a 500g packet of 34 biscuits down to 400g. The price will be 10p less, but this is nowhere near the 20% cut in product amount.

McVitie's insists the quality is the same. The reduction in biscuits is thanks to rising raw ingredient and manufacturing costs. Rather than increase the price onto customers they have decided to maintain quality, but with fewer biscuits.

When the UK's rate of inflation fell from 3.1% to 3% last month, many economists and financial commentators were quick to point out that this was evidence that the era of low inflation had not yet come to an end.

The problem is inflation measures as published by central banks and campaigned upon by governments, do not give markets a real portrayal of how much living really does cost.

Shrinkflation is a real indicator of inflation

Just a simple glance at a packet of biscuits gives you more information than any RPI or CPI reading can. For example, in the case of the digestive biscuits, under the RRP of £1.25 for the 500g packet, each biscuit cost roughly 0.037 pence. Now, the price is under the RRP of £1.15 for the 400g packet, which means each biscuit costs roughly 0.043 pence.

McVitie's is just one in a long line (2,500 to be exact) of food and other household items that have fallen victim to the invisible inflation ray that has so far eluded the sights of so many economists.

In the last four years Snickers, Toblerone and KitKat have each shrunk by at least 20% in size, not always accompanied by a matching price change. A bag of Snickers Bites rocketed from 74p per 100g to £1.26, up 70.9 per cent, whilst a four-finger KitKat bar lost just 3g in weight, dropping from 45g to 42g, a difference of 7.8 per cent, yet 100g of the snack soared by 62.7 per cent, from 89p to £1.45.

The two main culprits of rising prices, according to the manufacturers is the cost of raw materials and the weak pound, which makes imports more expensive. Obviously the pound has gained in strength recently and  the European import price of sugar has been falling since the middle of 2014, and reached a record low in March 2017, but consumers shouldn't expect these to make much difference.

Source: BBC


A lack of innovation?

Food manufactures do not want to be seen bowing down to rising costs and passing them onto consumers. It's obviously bad for business as most food items have straight forward substitutes to which consumers have few qualms when it comes to switching to. Yet there is also a growing view amongst the consumers that 'rich' manufacturers should not pass on rising costs to the poor consumer. It is bad PR basically.

But the manufacturer does still have to run a profitable business. Hence why shrinkflation is such a common phenomenon. They have been accused of lacking innovative ideas by Clive Black, head of research at Shore Capital.

Speaking at the Food Manufacturer's Business Forum Black told leaders shrinkflation should be the last resort. He asked whether shrinkflation is "an admittance of a lack of innovation, a lack of capability to add value to a product and keep it relevant in consumers’ minds?”

It seems to me that manufacturers are perhaps showing little innovation but more likely they have little choice. Margins are being squeezed, uncertainty is rife when it comes to which manufacturers the Brexit deal will leave you able to work with and costs are rising despite statistics telling you otherwise.

The BBC has recently tried to argue that a decrease in product size sometimes means sees a bigger fall in price. However when looking at their analysis it is clear to see that products which did not increase in price were mainly those in ‘bulk buy’ or large pack products. This just shows that economies of scale makes margins less stringent.

This is perhaps the only place where 'innovation' can currently be seen.

Ultimately a smaller pack size does mean a higher price.

How to protect yourself from the rising of living

This is a bit like the Emperor's New Clothes scenario. We can all see inflation is happening in front of our very eyes, yet economists and central banks are telling us the opposite.

Shrinkflation is happening and real inflation is much higher than is being reported.

Your purchasing power and your wealth can be preserved from the ravages of shrinkflation. Investments such as gold and silver by their very nature are immune to the shrinkflation effect and are an important hedge against it.


Gold prices in GBP (10 Years) via GoldCore

Next time you’re considering that packet of biscuits at the supermarket checkout, just imagine how much is missing compared to when you would have bought it say 10 years ago, or anytime before the financial crisis.

Then consider how much a bar of gold would have changed since then. The fact is that it hasn’t. You would still have the same sized gold bars (1 oz), with the same gold content or purity and they are worth a lot more now than they were 10, 15 or 20 years ago.

 

Related reading 

This Is Why Shrinkflation Is Impacting Your Financial Wellbeing

Shrinkflation in UK & Ireland – Real Inflation Much Higher Than Reported

Gold Hedges Devaluation, Rise in Oil, Food and Cost of Living Since 1971 – Must See Charts

 

News and Commentary

PRECIOUS-Gold rises on declining equities amid rate hike views (Reuters.com)

Gold edges up on global cues, jewellers' buying (AsianAge.com)

Stocks Extend Selloff as Dollar Drops; Gold Rises: Markets Wrap (Bloomberg.com)

Yellen Says Prices `High' for Stocks, Commercial Real Estate (Bloomberg.com)


Source: Bloomberg

Crypto Isn’t Like Gold During a Stock Rout (Bloomberg.com)

Stockmarkets have finally noticed the widening cracks in the bond market (MoneyWeek.com)

History says we’re nearing the end of the U.S. bull market (StansBerryChurcHouse.com)

Gold-Backed Cryptocurrencies: Icing On An Already Tasty Cake (GoldSeek.com)

Forget bitcoin and give unloved gold a chance (Independent.ie)

Gold Prices (LBMA AM)

05 Feb: USD 1,337.10, GBP 947.20 & EUR 1,072.49 per ounce
02 Feb: USD 1,345.00, GBP 946.48 & EUR 1,077.61 per ounce
01 Feb: USD 1,341.10, GBP 941.99 & EUR 1,077.98 per ounce
31 Jan: USD 1,343.35, GBP 950.29 & EUR 1,078.98 per ounce
30 Jan: USD 1,345.70, GBP 954.37 & EUR 1,083.56 per ounce
29 Jan: USD 1,348.40, GBP 955.07 & EUR 1,085.46 per ounce

Silver Prices (LBMA)

05 Feb: USD 16.88, GBP 12.01 & EUR 13.56 per ounce
02 Feb: USD 17.14, GBP 12.05 & EUR 13.72 per ounce
01 Feb: USD 17.19, GBP 12.09 & EUR 13.82 per ounce
31 Jan: USD 17.23, GBP 12.17 & EUR 13.84 per ounce
30 Jan: USD 17.30, GBP 12.24 & EUR 13.91 per ounce
29 Jan: USD 17.34, GBP 12.33 & EUR 13.99 per ounce


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Comments

RedBaron616 Mon, 02/05/2018 - 09:12 Permalink

Thousands? No, I doubt that many, because I look at the size of the items I buy. All you show are candy bars, something that no one looks at, but many of us don't ever buy. It is a pure luxury, not "food" as one normally thinks of such. Apparently this guy is obsessed with candy bars.

Donald J. Trump NoDebt Mon, 02/05/2018 - 11:16 Permalink

The 8oz little blocks of cheese are shrinking to 6oz.  Not only does the shrink suck but it seems all my recipes call for 8oz. So now I have to buy 2.  I switched brands/stores to get 8oz but it probably won't be long before they shrink too.  How long beford we just buy the package?  Or pay at a restaurant to look at the menu?

In reply to by NoDebt

BabaLooey NoDebt Mon, 02/05/2018 - 18:55 Permalink

Not to mention the creative way the cunts use the plastic containers. Dents and all sorts of "inflationary fiords" are noted in all sorts of ways. indented cans. Juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust a tad smaller. Weigh and size in metrics (totally fucks up the average American't do the math)

All sorts of stealth packaging crime

In reply to by NoDebt

Kayman CRM114 Mon, 02/05/2018 - 11:04 Permalink

Said before:

Big Mac, side of fries, and a coke.  Change back from a dollar in 1970. Today you barely get change back from a $10 bill.

And no, the size hasn't increased, and please don't tell me the quality has improved.

Inflation, over time is at least double what governments tell you it is. Governments, true to their credo, have no incentive to tell the public the truth.

In reply to by CRM114

Gerrilea RedBaron616 Mon, 02/05/2018 - 12:02 Permalink

Are you employed by the Federal Reserve? 

Candy Bars show the scam being perpetrated on us. A great visual.

How about tuna fish? I used to buy 3 cans for 99 cents, 9 ounces each. Today 1 can is $1.09 and is only 5 ounces.

Bounty paper napkins used to be 275 count for $2.99, now you get 144 count for $3.99. Ditto for tissues.

Navel Oranges used to be 25 cents each, now they're "on sale" for 99 cents each.

Spaghetti sauce used to be on sale for 99 cents, 28 ounces...now it's "on sale" for $1.79 and is 24 ounces for the generic store brand in a plastic container.

Sugar used to be 5 pounds, now it's 4 pounds

A can of coffee used to be 16 ounces, now it's 13 ounces.

A package of bacon used to be 16 ounces, now it's 13 ounces.

A bar of soap used to be 6 ounces, now it's 3.1 ounces.

I could go on and on. 

You wanna bitch that the article used candy but have you EVER paid attention yourself?  Surely you've noticed it, so your argument is clearly specious and a distraction.

 

In reply to by RedBaron616

Gerrilea Indelible Scars Mon, 02/05/2018 - 23:43 Permalink

NO, Buffalo, NY.  As for the size of the tuna can, nope...it's gotten smaller. Bacon is crazy here. I don't eat it often...too expensive and not even a full pound.  Soap, I found this out when I went and stocked up just a few months ago.  I buy enough for a couple years at a time.  I hate shopping and I have the room to store stuff.  I was down to 3 bars left and went to the store to stock up again, I like Oil of Olay....they're now almost 1/2 the size of my old ones which were 6 ounces, now...just over 3 ounces. UGHHHHHHHHHH...

In reply to by Indelible Scars

GeezerGeek Gerrilea Mon, 02/05/2018 - 20:03 Permalink

In 1962 a Ferrari cost $12, 500 dollars (silver or otherwise). Anyone care to price a Ferrari in silver dollars now? Not everything is subject to shrinkflation. Most family cars, however, are. Compare the size of a 1970 Chevy Impala to one today. The back seats are so much smaller now, as are the trunks. Not that I ever spent much time in a trunk.

 

In reply to by Gerrilea

SILVERGEDDON RedBaron616 Mon, 02/05/2018 - 14:27 Permalink

None of that crap is actually food. 

Buy local, buy organic, buy real food. 

If you can, grow your own produce as much as possible - your body will thank you as you age. 

Put down your phone, and learn how to prepare and eat real nutrition, not processed dog shit in a wrapper. 

You can't beat inflation 100 percent, but you can avoid becoming a guinea pig for medical mistakes and drugs. 

In reply to by RedBaron616

Miffed Microbi… SILVERGEDDON Mon, 02/05/2018 - 15:10 Permalink

I've been harvesting our Rio Red and Oro Blanco grapefruit this month, thankfully they haven't shrunken in size and the taste is as Mr Miffed said the other day " God damn sweet and juicy fucking awesome" ( I'm not sure what the wink meant, probably some male nefarious thoughts I am not privy) 

 

we cant grow everything in our arid climate ( cool weather crops can be a disaster here) but citrus is easy and economical. Wish we could trade with our northern friends :)

 

miffed

 

 

In reply to by SILVERGEDDON

sodbuster Mon, 02/05/2018 - 09:14 Permalink

Remember when the price of corn was over $7 and everyone was screaming about how ethanol was to blame for high food prices???? Well, now corn is 3 bucks. Have food prices come down? Well, gee whiz Wally, guess it wasn't ethanol after all- it was just plain old-fashioned f'n GREED!

sodbuster Kayman Mon, 02/05/2018 - 13:10 Permalink

Exactly K! That was my point all along- the raw materials make up such a small part of the  price! Take a semi-load of corn flakes cereal- the diesel in the tanks of the semi tractor cost more than the corn in the flakes!!

In reply to by Kayman

LawsofPhysics Mon, 02/05/2018 - 09:37 Permalink

Yes, the motherfuckers in banking and finance continue to steal from everyone, so what?  Are you still accepting their FIAT currency? It's your own damn fault then!

"Full Faith and Credit"

Same as it ever was!!!!

canisdirus asteroids Mon, 02/05/2018 - 13:59 Permalink

Almost all modern food has essentially no nutrients compared to the same foods (even things like fruits, vegetables, and meats) 30+ years ago. You could eat a tiny fraction as much in 1960 to acquire the same nutrients, but eating more likely wouldn't have made you fat.

Most "food" we have today is total garbage, even down to unprocessed things like this.

We've overshot the carrying capacity of the planet through creative solutions. Some people react poorly to poor nutrition and end up eating enormous amounts to compensate, hence the obesity epidemic (there are some that are legitimate addicts, but most people that are under about 400lbs are simply more sensitive to poor nutrition and therefore crave/eat more to fill the nutritional void).

In reply to by asteroids

Miffed Microbi… canisdirus Mon, 02/05/2018 - 15:23 Permalink

BPA may have a part in this problem. Stay away from plastics and cans. Cracks me up when people run to the BPA free water bottles.  They just use another bisphenol that's not on the radar but the chemical composition is roughly the same. Just like all the morons flocking to margarine fearing heart disease when trans fats were shown to be far worst then regular butter. Then they made trans fat free margarine and the morons bought that. There's no cure for stupid. 

 

Miffed 

In reply to by canisdirus

CRM114 Mon, 02/05/2018 - 09:39 Permalink

What appears to be happening round here  is that processed foods are inflating significantly above official inflation, and that unprocessed foods are rising at or below official inflation. The retailers are exploiting people who either don't have the time, the competence, or the willpower to cook for themselves*.

With tools and appliances, there is a two-fold problem. The first is that features have replaced basic quality as a major marketing tool. As a consequence one gets flashy goods that fail, either partially or completely, much sooner. Coupled with this is that many sub-systems are now impossible to repair, they can only be replaced. Also, getting a specialist to fix them is now more expensive, and more necessary since people are less able to repair things themselves (even if they have the expertise). This is also inflation, as it increases the cost of ownership per year of items.

In one sense, this is perfectly reasonable capitalism. If people want quality and simplicity, then they only need vote with their wallets. What's unreasonable is Governments' failure to correctly measure this inflation, because it means economic policies are fundamentally wrong.

The solutions, as I have discovered, are quite simple. Cook your own food (and preferably grow some), Buy quality, low feature products and tools - the best is quality manufactured products that have recently been replaced by the newer, flashier model, and are on sale at a discount. These will also have some kind of review history, so one can assess their quality. The last is to do your own repairs, which will mean acquiring some skills if you don't already have them.

This will all take some time to research. One also needs to plan ahead and purchase things at their cheapest - many goods are seasonally priced. This may mean doing without for 6 months. However, I would estimate I am currently saving on the order of $30 per hour as a return on that investment in time.

 

*Many people tell themselves it's lack of time, and this is what the marketers also say, but the truth is it's usually one of the other two. Easy, Quick and Cheap sells to lazy, impatient, easily-gratified people. Be honest with yourself.

 

XBroker1 CRM114 Mon, 02/05/2018 - 10:26 Permalink

This is true. Eggs have come down or stayed flat. Beef & chicken are cheap where I am. Fresh veggies as well. Good time for someone who doesn't mind shopping and who likes to cook to be retired. Plus I stay away from whores. Quality of pussy has gone way down and they have an over inflated sense of what they're worth. I just look at how miserable the married guys around me are and I'm cured of even shopping for that.

In reply to by CRM114

Gerrilea XBroker1 Mon, 02/05/2018 - 12:09 Permalink

Eggs are $1.49 for a dozen "small" ones. Butter is $2.99 for the store brand. Milk, I stopped drinking it when you could no longer get a 1/2 gallon....Ground Beef is now $8.99 a pound. Chicken, if you get it on sale, it's $1.79 a pound. Fresh veggies are absolutely outrageous. $2.99 for a stalk of celery. A bag of 8 apples is $4.99.  A 5 pound bag of red potatoes are $4.99. I love pears, they're $1.79 a pound, I buy 4 of them and it costs me almost $5 dollars.

In reply to by XBroker1

canisdirus Gerrilea Mon, 02/05/2018 - 14:13 Permalink

I have seen much the same as you. Just a bunch of spring onions will run you at least $1. Potatoes aren't killer expensive yet, but definitely not cheap. Fruit, unless at the absolute peak of their season, is getting so expensive that it's a bit painful to buy. My wife and I buy around $150/week in groceries and at least $100 of that is fresh produce and meat, and we don't eat anything terribly exotic. I get a steak once or twice a month and ground beef is at least $7/lb. Where I live chicken is around $4-6/lb, depending on quality. High quality stuff is around $7-8/lb, and it is poorer quality than what I used to buy 15-20 years ago for under $1/lb.

In reply to by Gerrilea

canisdirus Aerows Mon, 02/05/2018 - 14:31 Permalink

The funny thing is that features are mostly software these days, so the cost is fixed across a production run. Most of the problems you're encountered are with poor quality physical hardware. They could easily make modern feature-rich products that are far more reliable than old equipment if they wanted to, although it wouldn't be as easy to repair for the layman as it was when there were big physical pieces that could be replaced/altered/fabricated.

That said, have you noticed how reliable and simple cars are these days? 100k miles is nothing for modern cars, whereas it was about time to swap a block on most cars prior to about 1990, plus in that era you'd spend considerable time/money repairing and tuning them. Today's cars are extremely reliable and easy to maintain in comparison because they've replaced many physical components with software. They're also cheaper to produce.

In reply to by Aerows

True Blue canisdirus Mon, 02/05/2018 - 15:27 Permalink

I have noticed that parts which used to be (and should be) metal are plastic -so Mrs. Blue's (2006 $50K) Toyota uses a 40d nail to open the rear hatch. Nylon nuts instead of metal ones, pot-metal instead of steel (Ford front end 4WD) etc. etc. Not reliable or 'simple' and most 'repairs' I encounter are 'replacement' due entirely to cheap OEM material choices. My mother's 2 year old Chevrolet has been in and out of the shop, and now her radio doesn't work when it is wet outside.

Problems my 1969 Ford never seems to have.

Not exactly 'reliable' by any stretch of the imagination.

In reply to by canisdirus

Drop-Hammer Mon, 02/05/2018 - 10:59 Permalink

Same thing is happening in the U.S. due to the food growers and processors exporting a huge amount of our food/crops that creates artificial shortages in the U.S. and higher prices for us.  Plus, our (((gov't))) pays farm subsidies to not grow crops/plant orchards which also creates the above for American consumers.  And, to top it off, we import foodstuffs that we had previously grown in abundance:  various fruits, vegetables, that cost more to import than if grown by us so again, higher prices for us.  The jew 'share-holders/investors' in America created this in cahoots with our corrupt shit-weasel politicians who get huge campaign contributions from the food/agriculture industry.  No surprises to any of this other than we just let it happen.