Toilet paper is shorter, Kleenex packets contain 60 tissues instead of 65, Toblerones have shrunk. “It’s the inflation that you shouldn’t notice”, summarizes the site of the American radio NPR, or “retreciflation”, according to the French translation of this process.
The phenomenon is not new, but it “proliferates in every period of high inflation, when companies have to reckon with rising prices for raw materials, packaging, labor and transport”. To limit the impact of the current wave of inflation on their prices, caused in particular by the war in Ukraine, some companies choose to reduce quantities.
If the result is the same (the products cost more), consumers pay less attention to the weight or quantity than to the price of the products on the shelves. Companies all over the world are therefore making this choice, in a more or less assumed way and sometimes associating it with price increases.
In Japan, the company producing crisps andedamame [fève de soja verte] Calbee has announced a 10% weight reduction, combined with an equivalent price increase. In India, this practice concerns more the rural zones, observes NPR, because the inhabitants are poorer and, therefore, more sensitive to rising prices.
The process helps maintain sales in the short term, but packages rarely return to their original size, notes a Massachusetts consumer advocate. “Once a product has been reduced, it often stays that way.”