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What is Shrinkflation?

By Ramsey Qubein

May 11, 2022

What is shrinkflation? Well, it may be a word you don’t hear often, but you’ve surely seen it in practice. Shrinkflation is the concept where manufacturers shrink the size, quantity, or quality of a product, without lowering the price. This generally happens due to the cost of ingredients, overall inflation, and the marketplace of goods being accessible, like supply chains.

What are some examples of shrinkflation? That two-liter bottle of Coke we used to buy years ago is now just 1.75 liters. Toilet paper rolls now feature, on average, 20 fewer sheets than a decade ago. These reductions are usually intended to fly under the radar and can happen slowly over time, or change overnight with tactics like new packaging.

Shrinkflation written in white chalk on a black chalkboard isola
The new box seems bigger, but contains less product

Shrinkflation is most common with food, drinks, and consumer goods. Most people do not notice it unless they are someone that pays very close attention to details like product ounces or new packaging. Shrinkflation is often effective because it is rooted in consumer behavior. People are more likely to notice when the cost of a product goes up, rather than if the product size gets smaller. Shrinkflation is a way for producers to keep the cost the same, while reducing the amount of those goods, thereby increasing or maintaining their profits. 

There are tricks to help you avoid the brunt of shrinkflation and save a little cash though. After all, no one likes to be duped by companies and have the costs passed on to them.

To save money on your grocery bills, Fetch Rewards has curated six top tips to help you combat shrinkflation and be a smarter shopper:

1. Shop Wholesale

Buying your goods in bulk from retailers like Sam’s Club and Costco is one of the easiest ways to maximize your spending power. While you may not have space for 24 paper towel rolls or 36 boxes of tissues in your home, the cost per item goes down significantly when buying this way. Yes, shrinkflation is still occurring with those items, but the fact that you are lowering the cost per item helps you to save money in the long run.

The unit price of what you’re paying is very important, and many websites like Walgreens are adding this information to their search functions. It helps to understand how much you can save when you purchase in multiples. Keep in mind that if you buy too much of something that can go bad or expire before you use it, you could actually be losing money in the long run.

2. Compare Prices

As consumers, we must change the way we shop. Instead of relying on your neighborhood grocery store for everything, it may make sense to compare the cost of items across multiple retailers. Online shopping is the most obvious and simplest way to do this. Services like Google Shopping (formerly Froogle) will help you compare prices, and you might just be surprised where some of those things come from. Cleaning supplies and snack food from Staples? Yes. Grocery items from the drugstore? Sure. Spend an hour researching everything on your shopping list. Perhaps there are ways to shave down the cost by dividing the list across various retailers.

3. Scan Your Receipts for Free Cash

Woman with money raining around her

Fetch Rewards is a great tool to save money and earn rewards for little effort. You scan your receipts and earn cashback, via the app, in the form of free gift cards to your favorite shops and restaurants. This will help you save money, but it can also help you spend time thinking about all of the purchases you make. You may discover that there are some things that you can do without as you review your receipts when scanning them on the app. The app can also help you find products that offer more points, allowing you to earn gift cards faster.

4. Consider Buying Generic Items

Start paying attention to the brands that you buy. Often, the generic version of a product is very similar, if not exactly the same, in terms of quality, but it may not have been subject to the same sneaky shrinkflation as the name-brand item. For instance, generic medications can often offer huge savings. Check the ingredients, especially the active ingredients, to figure out which generic medications are ideal. 

5. Shop Online or with Local Providers

eBay and other online marketplaces are great places to find deals.  People sometimes buy too much of a certain product or have access to lower prices on goods where they live. They will then sell these items online at a discount. You can buy almost anything on eBay, and it can be a huge resource for saving money when you shop. You can even use your Fetch Rewards points to get an eBay gift card.

For fresh items like produce, turn to a local provider like your area farmer’s market. You might be able to get better-quality items at a lower cost. You should also check out online stores like Perfectly Imperfect Produce and Misfits Market that sell misfit or ugly produce at a lower cost. While their fruit and veggies may look weird, they are still safe and healthy and will save on your grocery bills.

6. Join Loyalty Programs

How to Use Fetch Rewards to Get the Most out of Grocery Savings

Many retailers have their own loyalty programs that provide instant discounts or promotions on the things that you already purchase. This can help combat shrinkflation on the spot, but be sure to read the price tags in the store. Sometimes, certain items on the same shelf may have a higher discount than others.

Inflation is leading to shrinkflation, but your wallet doesn’t have to suffer as much if you put your brain to work. These tips can save you cash while also helping you better monitor your budget and spending patterns as well.

More Grocery Saving Tips

Get Fetch Rewards to Help Beat Shrinkflation

If you haven’t yet, click the buttons below or scan the QR code to download the Fetch Rewards app. You can combat shrinkflation, while having fun snapping receipts.

Topics: Grocery, Shopping Hacks


Ramsey Qubein

Ramsey Qubein is a freelance travel journalist covering hotels, cruises, airlines, and loyalty programs from around the globe. He's a contributor to NerdWallet, Forbes, Fortune and more.