France's Carrefour has begun plastering signs across its shelves warning shoppers where products have shrunk in size while prices have remained the same or increased. Food manufacturers Nestle, PepsiCo and Unilever are among those being named and shamed, with 26 products called out, including Lipton Ice Tea, Lindt chocolate and Viennetta ice cream.
The signs read, "This product has seen its volume/weight fall and the effective price charged by the supplier rise", in a bid to highlight where customers are getting less bang for their buck, while placing pressure on brands to keep prices fair.
"Obviously the aim in stigmatising these products is to be able to tell manufacturers to rethink their pricing policy," Stefen Bompais, the director of client communications at Carrefour said in a statement.
Does supermarket have ulterior motives?
However, Professor Roberta Crouch from the College of Business, Government and Law at Flinders University thinks the supermarket may have less-than-genuine motives. "It's a strange thing for Carrefour to do because they run the risk of annoying their suppliers," she told Yahoo News Australia. "You don't usually run that risk unless you're feeling very sure of yourself."
Professor Crouch suggested that the "mammoth multinational company" might be doing it as a strategy to direct customers towards other, locally produced products. "People might go, 'okay, well what else can I buy instead?' and look at substitutes, so Carrefour might use this as a way to point to substitutes," she explained.
Or, Carrefour might just want to come out as the good guy. "They also don't want to be aligned or associated with any hard feelings if people notice this [shrinkflation], and say 'well, these buggers, they didn't tell us that the price had gone up'," Professor Crouch argued. "So Carrefour gets to distance itself from any negative feelings on it."
Watch out for 'rising prices by stealth'
In Australia, shoppers are growing increasingly frustrated with popular supermarket items shrinking in size but not in price, as the cost of living soars. Maxibons have become one of the latest victims, with a photo showing two four-packs of the shrinking ice cream sandwich. While they're both priced at $9.50, one is noticeably smaller at 560ml compared to the older boxer at 620ml.
Professor Crouch is urging people to watch out for shrinkflation on supermarket shelves. "You might think, 'gosh, I think this is smaller', well have a look," she encouraged. "And it may be. Most of us don't necessarily look and see, is it 200 grams or 250 grams? It's a form of price checking to make sure that the packaging and the sizes are not being reduced because that's a way to raise prices by stealth.
"They [brands] don't need to communicate to you that they've done it. There's no legal requirement for them to do that. So consumers should just be mindful and make sure that they're getting the same value for money."
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