Secretly the products in your Spanish shopping cart are getting more expensive

by Lorraine Williamson
supermarket products more expensive

MADRID – Am I just imagining it or did that package get smaller than the last time I bought it? Or shouldn’t there be more cookies in this package? A sensation like this may become more and more common in the Spanish supermarket as producers are trying their hardest to keep their margins up to scratch. Therefore, effectively, the products in your shopping cart are getting more expensive.

El País headlined on Saturday: ‘The art of the “reduflación”: how companies give less product for the same price. Huffington Post calls it “the legal, yet deceptive, practice consumers suffer from their shopping carts”. The word is a compound of ‘reducción’ (reduction) and inflación (inflation). We also wrote about it before, but it turns out that the phenomenon is now rearing its head again. 

Phenomenon increasingly applied 

The practice is therefore certainly not new, Mercadona already used this technique regularly during the financial crisis. However, with current prices continuing to rise and inflation breaking all records, more and more companies are starting to take advantage of this. In this way, they hope to maintain their margins a bit, without having to make their products more expensive. This would put them at risk of losing consumers. 

Consumer organisations: Pay close attention 

Consumer organisations warn about the effect of ‘reduflación’ and offer tricks not to fall for it. It hits your wallet without you noticing. The term is not yet in the Spanish official dictionary but has come over from the United Kingdom, where the phenomenon is referred to as ‘shrinkflation’. 

Little ethical practice 

According to Eduardo Irastorza, a professor at the OBS Business School, this is a ‘little ethical practice’. “Products come in opaque packaging, and until you open it, you have no idea that there is less in it”. 

He points to snacks like chips, each time you get more air for your money. The Doritos brand is already a notorious example. The bags with tortilla chips have recently (according to OCU) contained 5 nachos less. But the same goes for cookies, pasta, yogurt, canned foods, frozen foods, and products like laundry detergent, shampoo, or fabric softener. 

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Also, an OCU spokesperson recently said on the Antena 3 program ‘Espejo Público’ that it is not an illegal practice, but “it is considered cheating because the commercial margin remains the same and the one who loses is the consumer”. 

Offer of lesser quantity 

The Spanish consumer organisation OCU already warned in October that producers usually put between 5 and 10% less of the product in their packaging, but still charge the same price. A related phenomenon is even more insidious: A product is offered for a lower price, but at the same time the amount of product in the package is reduced even further. 

OCU mentions as an example a bag of fish fillets of the brand Pescanova. The price has been reduced by 5.6% but then the weight by 10%. In reality, that means a price increase for the consumer of 3%. you pay less, but you get even less for it. 

Legal practice 

The practice is legal because, on the packaging, however smaller, the total weight is always indicated. The fact that the consumer does not look at that is another story. Another technique that producers increasingly use is they start working with cheaper ingredients. However, reducing the amount of product per package is by far the easiest technique from a producer’s point of view. 

Don’t fall for an ‘offer’ too soon 

Again, the phenomenon is not new, but the culmination of the war in Ukraine, the transport strike and ensuing shelf shortages, and the rise in energy prices have intensified this fatal cocktail for the household economy. It is therefore worthwhile to conduct comparative research. Be wary of ‘so-called’ offers and keep track of the weight of your favourite products that you buy regularly. 

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