less product, but more or just as expensive

Prices are rising, but they may be rising more than it seems. According to the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU), some manufacturers have decreased the amount they include in their packagingbut have maintained the price or even increased it. This is an increasingly widespread trend that the media have baptized as “reduflation”.

The term arises from the union of “inflation” and “reduction” and does not exclusively affect food, but has also been observed in hygiene and drugstore goods. According to the OCU, the intention of this practice is “camouflage the price increase” or “or look like a bigger drop.” In fact, it can be accompanied by an illusory decrease in it, hidden behind the few grams.

In total, the organization estimates that some food manufacturers have reduced the contents of their packaging by between 5% and 10% “to mislead consumers.”

Cola-Cao lost 40 grams and Tulipán 50

The OCU already detected last October that the resource of reducing the amount was common in 2021. For example, it indicates that the Cola-Cao bottle lost 40 gramsand that of the margarine Tulip, 50. Yogurt too. Activate slimmed down five grams.

Other products in which reduflation was observed were in Pescanova hake loinswho lowered their quantity 10%, the same percentage that decreased the content of the Gallo brand spaghetti and macaroni. In the case of Pescanova, the container has passed from containing 400 grams of hake to including only 360 g. “Taking this into account, we find that the price has actually gone up 3.2%,” he says in a statement.

In general, reduflation is used by big brands and, as the OCU spokesman, Enrique García, explains to RTVE.es, was present in 7% of the products they tested. García also points out that the data obtained is part of a representative sample of a shopping basket with 273 products, which is why he considers the percentage “high”.

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Image of the investigation of the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) OCU

A legal and widespread practice that goes unnoticed

In Spain, the practice, which in other years was “anecdotal”, can now be considered “generalized”, says the spokesman. However, it is completely legal. Both the OCU and the general secretary of Facua, Rubén Sánchez, warn that companies do not commit any illegality when raising or maintaining prices with a smaller quantity of product, since these figures are indicated in them. They are not breaking any rule and cannot be reported, says Sánchez.

Nevertheless, reduflation is difficult for consumers to detect. “It is not something that is perceived massively, despite the fact that, in some cases, a regular consumer of a product may have the notion that the number of grams has dropped,” says Facua. After all, “he doesn’t stop to count the number of chips” and memorizing the weight of the packages over the years is a “very complicated” mission.

The OCU also admits the subtlety of the changes, which since last August began to warn that the increase in energy costs was going to have an effect on the shopping basket. But there are options for clients, Garcia insists, and goes through compare prices by looking at cost “per unit of measure”. The price per kilo or per liter, mandatory in commercial areas, “allows the real price of the product to be known”, since it differs from that associated with the container.

If this selling strategy continues to increase during this 2022, it remains to be seen. From the OCU they warn that they are “certain” that prices will rise “by the end of the year or at least until current conditions are maintained”, in reference to the energy crisis and the scarcity of raw materials.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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