Shrinkflation Goes Viral: Brands Beware

We’ve spotted an interesting trend on Reddit: people are really starting to notice – and talk about – the impact of ‘shrinkflation’ (when a brand’s prices stay the same, but the product or portion size shrinks). People are forming communities of interest around the topic, using those communities to exchange warnings and advice on where to get the best deals.

They are talking about the brands they believe are using shrinkflation – whether that’s real or perceived – and it’s important for brands to understand what’s driving these conversations. 

The problem

Inflation is a problem for almost everyone, everywhere. Take a short trip to the supermarket and it’s easy to see prices going up regularly.

Looking at some statistics on consumer behaviour from GWI, we can see that 72% of Americans say inflation has had a dramatic or moderate impact on their lives, while for people in the UK the percentage is quite similar at 70.2%.

What people are saying about shrinkflation

We took a look at what’s going on in some of the shrinkflation conversations on Reddit, and we’ve pulled out some examples of brands that are being talked about.

Pringles is one of the brands that gets mentioned frequently in connection with shrinkflation, with consumers convinced the brand has started putting fewer crisps in the tubes.

McDonald’s also comes in for some flack:

And many other brands, including frozen food, biscuits, cleaning products, toiletries and coffee shops are seeing similar complaints.

Brands are also being accused of using cheaper versions of ingredients or less of the main ingredient to save money. For example, Australian consumers have picked up on the trend and noted that they were getting tins of baked beans that had fewer beans and more sauce.

UK consumers have also been complaining about the bean situation. With one taking to Reddit to share their outrage at a “3 tins for £5” offer at their local supermarket. What with this, and Weetabix rising to over £4 per 600g pack, we’re even more unlikely to see that famous baked beans on Weetabix combo.

What does this mean for brands?

These threads show that many people are feeling tricked by brands reducing portion and product sizes, while keeping the price the same. That’s a real concern when it comes to brand trust.

We can see the wider issue in the recent Barclays consumer spending report. It revealed that 88% of UK shoppers were worried about increasing food prices, while 65% had noticed that food was costing the same, or more, yet being sold in smaller portions. Eighty-three per cent of consumers are worried about the shrinkflation trend and how it will impact them and their families.

The report also made it clear that consumers aren’t afraid to try whatever options they can to save money on their shopping, with 63% actively looking for ways to save money when they shop.

We’re seeing brands like Aldi benefiting from this trend as shoppers say that it’s not using shrinkflation on its own-brand products, and others are reporting switching to those products after noticing their regular brands’ shrinking sizes.

In a recent poll run by Kantar, Aldi was named as the favourite supermarket in the UK, and with prices increasing everywhere it’s had a massive spike in shoppers. In a BBC interview last September, Aldi’s boss in the UK mentioned that it had gained more than 1.5 million customers in 12 weeks. Aldi is also opening 120 new stores in the US this year. It’s no surprise then that many consumers in the Shrinkflation reddit speak positively about the retailer.

When consumers are struggling to afford the basics, price rises and shrinkflation become obvious. With shrinkflation, people find themselves running out of things quicker – having to do more shopping as a result.

Reddit can be a fantastic source of information for consumer insights. And there’s a whole subreddit about shrinkflation with almost 71,000 members.

So if you want to keep an eye on what consumers think about shrinkflation, keep an eye on Reddit1 as one of your insight sources. It’s a fantastic source of information for consumer insights, and it could be shaping consumer emotion and action.

That’s why our amazing insights team at The Social Element are keeping a close eye on the shrinkflation trend to help our clients stay on top of the discussion, and navigate any backlash.

1 Reddit’s audience is sizeable – it has 430 million users monthly, and more than 100k online communities 63.8% of all Reddit users are male, and 32% female; with 36% aged between 18 and 29, and 22% aged 30 to 49. It ranks highly in trust surveys. Bear in mind its user base is skewed to the US (47% of Reddit users), but there’s also a big UK presence (7%) and Canada (7%).
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