Nestlé, Lindt & Sprüngli or even Danone have found the solution not to increase prices too much on the shelves and risk scaring away customers worried about their wallets: they discreetly reduce the quantity, even the quality, of some of their products, denounces the Foodwatch association in a study taken up by the program “Complément d’Enquête”, broadcast on Thursday 1er september on France 2.
Foodwatch implicates six brands – Kiri, St Hubert, Saint Louis, La Salvetat, Lindt and Teisseire – “who have changed the size of their flagship products in recent years”. The association, which “fights for transparency in the agri-food sector”, denounces the shrinkflation (from the English verb to shrink“shrink”, translated as “reduflation”), a business strategy by which, while the quantity of product contained in a good decreases, the price of the good is stable or increases.
“Who manages to see that their Kiri is missing 2g?” 🔴These products that quietly shrink and inflate your ti… https://t.co/4PmuuoAvmW
In detail, Lindt’s Pyrenean milk chocolate boxes have been reduced by six bites, from thirty to twenty-four and reducing the overall weight by 20%. While the price per kilo, recorded at the Carrefour distributor, has jumped 30% since 2020, the increase in the price of the box has been limited to 4%… To justify this, Lindt France explains that “the price per kilogram has increased, reflecting the volatility and rising costs of [ses] operations »according to a letter addressed to Foodwatch. Industrial production costs have soared in recent months (energy, transport, packaging), like those of agricultural raw materials, for example cocoa.
La Salvetat, owned by Danone, reduced the size of its water bottles from 1.25 liters to 1.15 liters in 2020. Finally, the price of the bottle increases little (+ 5%), while the price at the liter rose by 15% at Intermarché. Foodwatch points out that the mention “Generous format like the people of the South” has disappeared from the label.
On Twitter, Olivia GregoireMinister Delegate for Trade, reacted, asking the General Directorate for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention (DGCCRF) “to immediately carry out a series of checks in order to ascertain whether there are deceptive commercial practices”.
The phenomenon would concern 2% of food products sold in supermarkets
Regarding prices, some are discarding on supermarkets: “We can only recommend a sale price that the distributor is free to apply or not”, writes the consumer service of Danone France. The information on the packaging is, however, their own.
In this period of high inflation, supermarket customers are very sensitive to the prices displayed and it can be dangerous to increase them too much, at the risk of the customer turning to the competition. Reducing the quantities allows you to stay ” competitive “ while preserving margins, recently commented financial analyst John Plassard, fund manager Mirabaud. According to him, about 2% of food products sold in supermarkets could be affected by the shrinkflationcereals and chocolate bars in the lead.
“It is a completely legal practice, provided that the weight of the product is clearly indicated on the packaging so as not to mislead the consumer”explains Guillaume Forbin, a lawyer specializing in consumer law at Kramer Levin.
Foodwatch regrets “the opacity” of the process and calls for better transparency in consumer information, through a petition. The shrinkflation is not confined to France. Many users of the TikTok social network in the United States have pinpointed a tendency to pack more vacuum in the same container.
In his study, Mr. Plassard also puts his finger on another phenomenon, the cheapflation (from English cheap, ” cheap “). It consists of “replace certain products or foods with cheaper substitutes (food or not)”. He gives the example, in the United States, of an ice cream that has become “frozen dessert”because “we took away so many dairy products (…) that it can no longer be legally called ice cream”.
If it can “to pose an image problem”in the case where “the list of ingredients on the packaging has been changed”, nothing illegal there either, comments Mr. Forbin. The one who does not respect the law “very strict” of consumption is exposed to “very high fines”.
Another process: consumer specialist Olivier Dauvers points on his blog to the example of a box of baby food from Nestlé, whose size has… increased, from 400 to 415 grams. It is sold much more expensive than the previous model (+ 23% of the price per kilo). But the pill passes thanks to the new packaging boasting a mixture now containing “five grains”a supposedly higher quality product.