‘Shrinkflation:’ How companies are tricking you into paying for less

Professor discusses unique marketing approach

We all know gas and grocery prices have climbed substantially since this time last year. What you may not have noticed is that even though some products are still being sold at the same price, the sizes are shrinking.

ORLANDO, Fla. – We all know gas and grocery prices have climbed substantially since this time last year.

What you may not have noticed is that even though some products are still being sold at the same price, the sizes are shrinking.

Bottles of Gatorade are pictured, left, a 32 fluid ounce and 28 fluid ounce, in Glenside, Pa., Monday, June 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

For instance, you likely remember Gatorade selling large 32-ounce drinks. Now their slimmed-down bottles are just 28 ounces.

UCF business professor Anand Krishnamoorthy said it’s called “Shrinkflation,” and it is here to stay.

To make sure their customers don’t feel too bad about it, Krishnamoorthy said companies often pass it off as “product innovation.”

“Gatorade in this case, PepsiCo. argued that the size of the packaging decreased not because they wanted to provide less of the item, but because these containers are becoming less easy to hold so what they did is they introduced a groove in the middle of the packaging which makes a product easier to hold, so this is positioned less as shrinkage, more as product innovation,” Krishnamoorthy said.

Krishnamoorthy said something similar happened with bar soap as well.

He said soap was originally square. Then, over time manufacturers put a groove in the soap so it would be easier to hold. Then, he said the groove got deeper and deeper, meaning less product for consumers, even though the prices remained the same.

But, Krishnamoorthy said, companies are not always working to fool customers, sometimes they do just make valid changes.

“There might be cases where there is actual innovation going on because Bounty for a long time has claimed that their paper towels are more absorbent today, as a result of which you don’t need as much paper towel,” he said.

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Krishnamoorthy said chocolate bars also used to be a lot longer 15 years ago. But, changing the size of the sugary snack could be a part of trying to reduce the number of calories people are consuming.

With costs rising, Krishnamoorthy said many companies are struggling to stay profitable and even after the market stabilizes package sizes likely won’t go back to their original sizes.

You can learn more about shrinkflation on Florida’s Fourth Estate.

In this episode, you can also learn more about this year’s Fireworks at The Fountain returning to Lake Eola.

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About the Author:

Tiffany produces the 4:30 p.m. newscast and has been with News 6 since January 2019. She also produces Florida's Fourth Estate podcast. She graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in radio/TV. Tiffany has lived in Central Florida since 2004 and has covered the Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman trials and several hurricanes.