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Is ‘shrinkflation’ the answer to the surge of supply chain costs?

(BUSINESS) Consumers are catching onto ‘shrinkflation’. What do companies have to say when they’re caught…and can you follow their lead?

Man carrying small food boxes representing shrinkflation.

Infinite growth is impossible. 

CEOs, shareholders, and easily duped corporate cheerleaders enjoy pretending otherwise, but even literal parasites can only breed and feed for so long before the host expires. 

When large companies need to create the illusion of making nothing but higher profits year after year with no natural dips allowed, they turn to two different strategies.

1: They lay off staff in favor of hiring either lower paid newbies or contractors. 

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2: They start committing adulteration.

Of course now that class action lawsuits, consumer protection agencies, and mandatory recall notices are in effect, that second ‘sleight of brand’ bit doesn’t really work with sawdust and rat meat anymore. Now, much like in Kung Fu Panda, the secret ingredient is…nothing. 

Who here’s heard of “shinkflation”? 

It’s not a new term exactly, Pippa Malgrem is credited with the coinage a few years back. Us plebs tend to be “price sensitive”, what with stagnant wages, rising rent prices, and general political chicanery. So when shareholders and top execs demand yet more blood wrung from stones, they sometimes turn to downsizing their products, while selling them for the exact same price. 

Check this out:

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Shrinkflation of snack bags.

Don’t get distracted by the sexy bordello-bordeaux shade of the new packaging. Look at the numbers. That’s 6.75% less pretzel mix goodness, approximately one good April-sized bite. 

The price didn’t change, but the amount included did. And the new packaging preserves costs while also creating an effective smokescreen—even for people who do try to shop consciously. 

Gatorade’s curveaceous new bottles do the exact same thing. On the surface the sports grip is a fresh change, but when you look closer…

Shrinkflation of Gaterade bottles

You’re settling for less. 25% less in this case. Special thanks to Mouseprint.org for tracking these changes!

I got intense as per usual at the beginning, but technically this isn’t always bad

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Sometimes in the light of crop blights, or large swaths of blue collar workers falling ill and dying (I hear normies call this “supply chain issues”) companies do have to make cuts to stay afloat. 

And I do think it’s way better to have a little less chocolate per bite in my independant market muffin than having them downsize whoever’s putting smiley faces on the packing slips. 

However. 

As with all relationships, transparency and an understanding of power dynamics are key. 

A small business like Goddess Ghee can tell me ‘We have to shift things around to stay afloat but we still love you’, and I’ll still be 100% good. In fact, they did. 

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Shrinkflation banner

This tasteful banner across their site, highly visible, not hidden at all reads: 

Dear beloved customers, We recently had to raise our prices due to the increases in costs in all of our ingredients and materials over the past 2 years. We hope you will be able to continue supporting us. We are doing our best to make high quality food medicine available to you at an affordable price + pay ourselves living wages + do this work in the utmost integrity. And even with the price increase we still have waay lower profit margins than industry standard. Thank you for understanding. <3

Lovely! 

Compare that to Doritos, a megaconglomeration-owned, famous worldwide, making kajillions in profits kind of snack. Their shrinkage was found out, rather than admitted, and their statement was

“Inflation is hitting everyone,” a spokesperson told Quartz. “We took just a little bit out of the bag so we can give you the same price and you can keep enjoying your chips.”

Emphasis is mine. ‘Give’, as though no one’s paying for anything. Not exactly what you want to hear from the portion of Pepsico making “solid gains”, is it?

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On the flipside of that— the bloated monster which is Pepsico which includes Frito Lay which includes Doritos is already too big to fail, no matter how much of a flop their PR-engineered responses might be. 

Does your business have that kind of giant, unsinkable cushion? No?

Then you have some banner copy to write.

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You can't spell "Together" without TGOT: That Goth Over There. Staff Writer, April Bingham, is that goth; and she's all about building bridges— both metaphorically between artistry and entrepreneurship, and literally with tools she probably shouldn't be allowed to learn how to use.

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  1. Pingback: 'You Snooze While We Dooze' service set to hit the B2C 'sweet spot' - The Loadstar

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