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Charmin toilet paper, Keebler cookies, and other items are experiencing 'shrinkflation': Here's how to shop smart

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Key Points
  • Shrinkflation is a practice where companies include less of a product in a package to discreetly up profits on an item without consumers noticing.
  • It usually happens during times of inflation, one expert says.
  • Packages of cookies, shampoo, and toilet paper are all affected.

If you've been going through your groceries faster than usual, it might be due to shrinkflation.

Since the pandemic, the cost of raw materials and labor have creeped up, making goods more expensive to produce. Shrinkflation is a practice where companies include less of a product in a package that they sell for the same or a similar price so they can earn more money on an item without consumers noticing.

"Shrinkflation tends to hit a high point in times of inflation because manufacturer's bottom lines are under pressure and whenever manufactures are trying to figure out how to make more money they only have a few options," says Edgar Dworsky, founder of consumer advocacy website Consumer World.

Right now, inflation is high: the cost of all items is up 7.9% from last year, according to the Consumer Price Index. And items across product categories are being "downsized," Dworsky says. "Paper goods, candy products, chocolate" are all being sold in smaller packages.

Here are some products that are currently experiencing shrinkflation, according to Dworsky, and how to shop smarter on your next trip to the grocery store.

Charmin's Mega Rolls

Old packaging: included 264 double-ply sheets per roll
New packaging: includes 244 double-ply sheets per roll

Earth's Best Sesame Street snack bar

Old packaging: 8 snack bars
New packaging: 7 snack bars

Gatorade

Old packaging: 32 ounces
New packaging: 28 ounces

Keebler's Chips Deluxe with M&Ms cookies

Old packaging: 11.3 ounces
New packaging: 9.75 ounces

Pantene Smooth & Sleek shampoo

Old packaging: 12 ounces
New packaging: 10.4 ounces

Snyder's Honey Mustard & Onion pretzels

Old packaging: 12 ounces
New packaging: 11.25 ounces

Check the weight of the package

Companies decrease the contents of their products, as opposed to hiking up prices, because they know consumers might not notice. "Most consumers are going to recognize a straight price increase and not be happy about it," Dworsky says.

However, if you're in the habit of buying a certain sized bag of chips, you might not check if it contains the same amount as it usually does. "If you become habituated to buying the 'family size' or 'party size,' you're less likely to look at the net weight of the product," Dworsky says.

If you become habituated to buying the "family size" or "party size," you're less likely to look at the net weight of the product.
Edgar Dworsky
founder of Consumer World

The "key to being a smart shopper," he says, is to check the weight so that you have a better sense of what you're getting for your money and whether what's offered feels like a good deal. If the brand you like is decreasing the amount of product they are putting in their package, try buying the generic version. You can save anywhere from 10% to 30% on price if you're buying generic, some experts say.

The good news is shrinkflation won't last forever. "It generally comes in waves" Dworsky says.

This doesn't mean Charmin is going to add those 20 sheets per roll back, but the company might include a "bonus" roll or reduce the price to reflect the contents more accurately. Still, it's always smart to be a vigilant shopper and take note of just how much shampoo or Gatorade are in those bottles.

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