“reduflation”, this plan aims to reduce the amount of inflation

Fewer bites in the box of chocolates sold in supermarkets, smaller portions on plates in restaurants, smaller baguettes or sandwiches in bakeries… Welcome to the world of ” reduced (a term that combines the terms deflation and inflation) or the ” shrinkflation in English (which comes from the verb “shrink”, to shrink), a clever plan put in place by some manufacturers and restaurateurs that consists of reducing the volume while maintaining a stable or even a slight increase in sales price, to avoid sudden price increases and alienate customers. A way for professionals to stay competitive despite inflation without cutting into margins. Observed for the first time in 1987, in the United Kingdom, the technique has made a strong comeback around the world in recent months with a rise in prices.

A global phenomenon

Its origin is found in the explosion of production costs of industrialists, restaurants or other bakeries (energy, transportation, packaging) and agricultural raw materials. French restaurateurs, for example, see the prices charged by their CHD (Out-of-Home Consumption) distributors increase by 13% on average for the second half of 2022, according to the company Food Service Vision , with an explosion in the prices of some food products such as beef (+28.2%) or mustard (+23.9%). There will also be a salary increase starting April 1, 2022 at an average of 16.3%. However, the ” shrinkflation » growing didn’t stop the menu price from going up. According to a Food Service Vision and National Group of Independent Hotels and Restaurants survey, 40% of catering professionals also claim to have increased their prices since January 2022.

The phenomenon of subduction of parts of the plates is also seen across the Atlantic. According to a study on the Yelp site published in July 2022, catering is one of the sectors most affected by this phenomenon, especially fast food. The study showed that restaurants that usually serve ” cheap food who used this method the most. Fast food, pizzerias, Chinese and Italian restaurants are increasingly reducing the portions of their dishes.

Fast food, which mainly works to assemble raw products, with essentials such as burgers and fries, has many difficulties, with the increase in the price of meat and oil. It doesn’t have the same flexibility as table catering, being able to adapt its daily specials. »explained Florence Berger, associate director of the consulting firm Food Service Vision, in their latest Strategic Review.

Some fast food chains such as Burger King and Domino’s Pizza have announced that they want to reduce portions to face inflation from January 2022, while others prefer to raise their prices, such as establishments in kebab in France or even the giant McDonald’s in. United States (group price increase of 2.7% at the beginning of the year).

A limit not to be exceeded

Prices may not go up, but customers are complaining nonetheless. Yelp’s survey revealed that more and more consumers are complaining about this famous ” shrinkflation “. Isn’t there a threshold that cannot be crossed? In fact, reducing the shares while leaving the price unchanged is a practice whose ethics is questionable. It can harm the clients and, in at the same time, leads to a decrease in attendance at catering establishments. However, in recent years, some have agreed to the fact that the portions served in restaurants are too large. A study published in 2018 by an international group of scientists, with the support of FAPESP (The Sao Paulo Research Foundation), showed that 94% of the most popular meals served in sit-down restaurants are very high in calories and exceed public health recommendations aimed at combating obesity. Therefore, reducing portions helps to combat this problem but also against food waste.

In any case, the practice is in the sights of some associations, especially watch out for foodWHO “Fighting for transparency in the agri-food sector”. In the program “Complément d’Enquête” broadcast Thursday night on France 2, watch out for food pin six brand “who has changed the size of their main products in recent years”. Therefore, Lindt’s Pyrenean milk chocolate boxes were reduced by six bites, from 30 to 24 and reduced the total weight by 20%. While the price per kilo, recorded by the Carrefour distributor, has jumped 30% since 2020, the increase in box prices has been limited to 4%… Salvetat, owned by Danone, has reduced the size of its water bottles from 1.25 liters to 1.15 liters in 2020. Finally, the price of the bottle will increase slightly (+5%), while the price per liter increased by 15% in Intermarché. watch out for food points out that the reference “Generous format like the people of the South” is missing from the label.

To justify this, Lindt France explained that “The price per kilo has increased, reflecting the urgency and increased cost of its operation(s)”according to a letter addressed to watch out for food and was consulted by the AFP.

Regarding the prices, some are thrown in the supermarkets: “We can only recommend a selling price that is freely available or not the distributor”, wrote the consumer service of Danone France. The information on the packaging, however, is their own. The reduction in volume “This is a perfectly legal practice, if 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.

According to financial analyst John Plassard, of fund manager Mirabaud, about 2% of food products sold in supermarkets may be affected by “depreciation”, cereals and chocolate bars leading the way. The analyst also put his finger on another phenomenon, the “cheaflation” (from English “cheap”, cheap). It consists of “replace certain products or foods with cheaper substitutes (food or not)”. He gave an example, in the United States, of an ice cream that became a “frozen dessert”, because “it is stripped of so many dairy products (…) that it can no longer legally be called ice cream”.

If possible “to give an image problem”in the case where “The list of packaging ingredients has been changed”, nothing illegal there either, commented Guillaume Forbin. Anyone who does not comply with the “very strict” consumer law is liable “Very high fines”. Another process: the consumer specialist Olivier Dauvers points in his blog to the example of a box of baby food from the giant Nestlé, whose size has increased, from 400 to 415 grams. It is sold more expensive than the previous model (+23% of the price per kilo). But the pill passed thanks to the new packaging boasting a mixture that now contains “5 cereals”, a better quality product.


A practice seen in canteens

Collective catering is also affected by ” reduced and some schools have decided to use this practice so that the price of food does not increase. The school cafeteria in Caudebec-Lès-Elbeuf in the Seine-Maritime, with the agreement of the parents of the students, reduces the portions of the meals by only offering a main course accompanied by a starter , cheese or ‘a dessert. Our colleagues from BFMTV report that, due to inflation, the budget increase amounted to ” around 32,000 euros per year “of the city. This solution is that it is possible to make savings that, according to the city, have no impact on children.

It is better that they remove the food from the food rather than increase the price, especially if you have a lot of children eating in the canteen. “One of the parents explained to BFMTV.

Finally, the magazine of the city of Caudebec-Lès-Elbeuf insists on the fact that this measure will also contribute to the reduction of food waste if it represents 21 kilos of food per child and per year according to a study carried out in March 2022 .