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Honey, I shrunk the chocolate

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has highlighted the ‘shrinkflation’ effect – that is household goods manufacturers reducing packaging sizes while keeping prices the same – being felt across a range of items in the UK.

Over the last five years, ONS says 2,529 products have decreased in size, while just 614 have increased, and the reduction in size or weight is most noticeable in the food and drink category.

We have previously reported the disappointment felt by Toblerone fans after product maker Mondelēz International revealed a new shape for the distinctive chocolate bar, resulting in the weight of the 400g bar being reduced to 360g and the 170g bar to 150g. And many other food and drink products have followed a similar path. ONS highlights Mars’ Maltesers, M&Ms and Minstrels as examples of ‘shrinkflated’ confectionery.

Many have been quick to blame Brexit, with the fall in the value of the pound blamed for manufacturers’ rising costs. However, ONS notes, “Our analysis doesn’t show a noticeable change following the referendum that would point towards a Brexit effect.

“Furthermore, others, including Which?, had been observing these shrinking pack sizes long before the EU referendum, and several manufacturers have denied that this is a major factor.”

Instead, ONS highlights that sugar and cocoa prices have fluctuated considerably in recent years, and “most chocolate manufacturers have blamed the need to resize their products on rising raw material costs”.

As part of the UK government’s ambition to reduce sugar by 20 per cent by 2020, Public Health England offers three approaches the food industry can take to achieve this; one of which is reducing the portion size and/or the number of calories in single-serve products.

So while manufacturers are feeling the effects of rising raw material costs, reduced portion sizes are also in keeping with government health ambitions – between the two, smaller pack sizes are only to be expected.

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