Senators Target “Shrinkflation,” Say Products Are Shrinking, But Prices Are Not

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Everyday products you buy from the grocery store may be getting smaller, but staying the same, or even increasing, in price. 

It’s called “Shrinkflation” and if you’ve noticed it, you’re not alone. Federal lawmakers are taking action to protect your favorite products and your wallet. 

According to Senator Bob Casey (D- PA), consumers around the country are being taking advantage of by large companies through what he calls, “Shrinkflation.” 

“The product is shrinking, but the price is not shrinking,” said Sen. Casey. 

In recent months, Casey has released several reports examining corporate greed in America. In a December report on Shrinkflation, Casey cites several examples of products that have decreased in size but stayed the same or even increased in price. 

According to the report, consumer favorites like Cocoa Puffs, Doritos, Wheat Thins, Gatorade and even certain brands of toilet paper, have slowly been getting smaller, often unbeknownst to the consumer. 

“It’s a rip off. It’s a deceptive practice,” said Casey. 

Experts agree and say Shrinkflation is a very big issue for consumers across America. 

“Shrinkflation is absolutely deceptive. It really exploits the fact that consumers are less likely to notice a change to the unit size rather than the overall product price,” said Erin Witte, Director of Consumer Protection at the Consumer Federation of America. “It can be quite subtle because the changes might not be dramatic and they don’t necessarily come with any sort of warning.” 

Witte says although it’s often subtle, historic levels of inflation have created a ripe environment for Shrinkflation. 

“There’s sort of a ready-made excuse. But that’s all it is, it’s an excuse. It doesn’t excuse any of this behavior and certainly doesn’t make it okay to price gouge Americans,” said Witte. “Following COVID and inflation, we may have been able to hide behind the excuse of things like supply chains, but that’s not the problem anymore. We know that we have a supply, but prices are still very high. We took a closer look and started seeing the units, the sizing changing, that’s when we really started to notice what was happening,” she added. 

Witte says the impacts of Shrinkflation are most often felt by consumers in marginalized communities. Dollar stores, she says, are some of the worst shrinkflation offenders. 

“Their entire business model is centered around shrinkflation. First, they target low, low income, rural and black communities. They price undercut many existing grocery stores, or they set up in areas where there aren’t many existing grocery stores and they charge lower prices. Lower prices at first seem like they’re a good thing, but they are often charging more for the same product,” said Witte. “If you took the unit pricing structure that you saw at a dollar store and compare that to a grocery store, it actually would be much more expensive. But because they’re offering a much lesser product for a bit of a lower price, it seems like a good thing,” she added. 

Now, Senator Casey is introducing the Shrinkflation Prevention Act which would direct the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to establish Shrinkflation as an unfair or deceptive act or practice. 

The legislation would also allow the FTC and state attorneys general to take civil action against corporations that engage in Shrinkflation. 

“The problem now is a lot of companies can get away with it without any consequence at all,” said Casey.  

“The great thing about this legislation is that it would ensure that we have a cop on the beat. We know that we’d have a federal agency that has specific authority to define and go after this practice,” said Witte. “After record-high seasons of inflation, people are tired of paying more money.”