Abroad, but also in the Czech Republic, in recent years there has been a subtle reduction in the portions of packaged and unpackaged food. According to the Bloomberg agency, the so-called shrinkflation (from the English term hrinkflation, which was created by combining the words shrinking and inflation – editor’s note) even the biggest manufacturers use it. Including, for example, Pepsi, Mondelez, or the German dairy producer Müller or Nestlé.
“Although Nestlé is trying to minimize the effects of extremely high inflation thanks to the introduction of new technologies, digitization and increasing the efficiency of production and internal processes, we are no longer able to compensate for increases in all inputs,” said Tereza Skrbková, spokeswoman for the company’s Czech branch. Nestlé and many others are therefore faced with the decision of whether to increase the price or reduce the size of the packaging and maintain the price.
Vít Hradil, an analyst at Cyrrus, believes that it is more beneficial for manufacturers to change anything other than the selling price, because this is where people remember the most, apart from the design. “We usually simplify our decision-making with the ‘known packaging + price tag’ scheme and then consider the price as the only variable, without regularly checking whether, for example, the composition or the volume has changed in the meantime,” said Hradil to the Lidovky.cz server. However, this is exactly what sellers can use and change the composition or weight of the product without being noticed.
Smrskflation in itself does not have to be against market rules. “If the changed weight, volume or, for example, the quantity of the offered goods is adequately indicated on the packaging, then the obligation to inform the consumer is fulfilled,” reminds Hradil. If you regularly buy a product in the belief that it always weighs the same, it may happen to you that the product has shrunk or changed its composition unnoticed during that time.
Smaller plates and less meat
According to the guarantor of the Moje restaurace Luboš Kastner, restaurants and other eating places have taken similar steps to overcome the effects of inflation. According to him, there are several ways to save in gastronomy. Kastner divided these into a bad and a better direction: “The bad direction is the use of semi-finished products and substitutes, this practice applies especially to those establishments that present themselves at a lower price. This also includes the fact that you get, for example, more dumplings and sauce, but less meat,” he told the Lidovky.cz server.
According to Kastner, the better way to go is to change the structure of the menu and add more meat-free dishes in view of the rising price of meat. “There are more dishes on the menus that have a lower cost. These are mainly pasta, vegetarian dishes and elements of Asian cuisine, where there is only a minimum of higher-cost items,” explains Kastner.
Another way is to reduce the size of the food, which is camouflaged optically. But this option is not so simple. In most cases, operators also have to reduce the size of the plate so that the portion looks optically similar, but this requires additional investment.
“Some businesses change the concept even slightly in a panic, but this is not a good way at all. In my opinion, restaurateurs need to focus on what they do and what they do well, and make the best possible customer experience. Then he must not be afraid to say and defend a higher price,” added Kastner. According to him, the big mistake of some restaurants was that they did not raise prices at the beginning of spring and did not improve the culinary experience.
Proven salami method
Reducing portions or new, cheaper recipes is a widespread practice. “At a time of noticeable inflation in food prices, the customer should read the information on the composition, volume or weight of the product more carefully than usual and be able to assess whether he is becoming a victim of shrinkflation. If he suspects that the seller is acting dishonestly, he should not hesitate to contact the Czech Trade Inspection,” advises Lukáš Kovanda, chief economist of Trinity Bank. Comparison websites can help the buyer. Another option is, for example, to buy goods under supermarket brands that offer a good price-quality ratio.
At the same time, shrinking portions is not new here or abroad. As early as 1969, humorist Art Buchwald drew attention to this practice. Smrskflation then spread throughout the world in the 1970s. “In the Czech Republic, Deli or Snickers bars have lost ten grams in recent years. The KitKat Chunky bar was originally 50 grams, after the first thinning it was reduced to 48 grams and today it weighs only 40 grams. “Figaro, Student seal, Milka or Margot bar chocolates have lost 20 grams in a few years,” Kovanda calculates, adding that this does not only apply to sweets. Alcoholic beverages are no exception, with the volume or percentage of alcohol being reduced. Even non-food products such as cosmetics or detergents are being reduced.