Less full containers, degraded quality… This is how the food industry camouflages the rise in prices

Less full containers, degraded quality... This is how the food industry camouflages the rise in prices

Fewer chocolates in the box or milk in the ice cream: in order not to increase prices too much on the shelves and run the risk of scaring off pocket-conscious customers, some agri-food manufacturers are discreetly reducing the quantity, even the quality, of their products, denounce an association.

the inflation contraction (from the English verb to shrink), which consists of hiding increases in the price of products by reducing their weight, is in the sights of Foodwatch, which “fight for transparency in the agri-food sector”.

Six brands highlighted by Foodwatch

at the show exhaustive investigation broadcast this Thursday, September 1, 2022 in the afternoon on France 2, Foodwatch identifies six brands “that have changed the size of their flagship products in recent years”.

Lindt’s Pyrenees milk chocolate boxes were reduced by six bites, from 30 to 24, and reduced total weight by 20%. While the price per kilo, registered at the Carrefour distributor, has jumped 30% since 2020, the rise in the price of the box has been limited to 4%…

The displayed price goes up a little, but the price per liter goes up a lot

Salvetat, owned by Danone, reduced the size of its water bottles from 1.25 liters to 1.15 liters in 2020. In the end, the price per bottle increased little (+5%), while the price per liter rose 15% at Intermarche. And Foodwatch notes that the mention “Generous format like the people of the South” has disappeared from the label.

To justify this, Lindt France explains that “the price per kilogram has increased, reflecting the volatility and increased costs of (its) operations”according to a letter sent to Foodwatch and consulted.

Industrial production costs have skyrocketed in recent months (energy, transport, packaging), as have those of agricultural raw materials, for example cocoa.

As for prices, some rule out in supermarkets: “We can only advise a sale price that the distributor is free to apply or not,” writes Danone France’s consumer service. The information on the packaging is, however, its own.

Not Illegal Methods

In this period of high inflation, supermarket customers are very sensitive to the prices displayed and it can be dangerous to increase them too much, at the risk of the customer turning to the competition.

Reducing quantities allows you to stay ” competitive “ preserving margins, financial analyst John Plassard, a Mirabaud fund manager, recently commented. According to him, about 2% of food products sold in supermarkets could be affected by the contraction of inflation, taking into account cereals and chocolate bars.

“It is a completely legal practice, as long as 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.

“Opacity”

Foodwatch regrets “the opacity” of the process and calls for greater transparency in consumer information, through a petition.

the inflation contraction not limited to France. Many users of the social network TikTok in the United States have pointed out a trend to vacuum pack more in the same container.

In his study, John Plassard also points to another phenomenon, the cheap inflation (from English cheap, cheap). Consists in “replacing certain products or foods with cheaper substitutes (food or not)”. He gives the example, in the United States, of an ice cream that has become “frozen dessert”because “We take so many dairy products […] that can no longer legally be called ice cream.”

yes you can “pose an image problem”in case that “the list of ingredients on the packaging has been changed”, nothing illegal there either, says Guillaume Forbin. The one who does not respect the law “very strict” of consumption is exposed to “very high fines”.

Another process: the consumer specialist Olivier Dauvers points out in his blog the example of a box of porridge from the giant Nestlé, whose size has… increased, from 400 to 415 grams. It is sold much more expensive than the previous model (+23% of the price per kilo). But the pill passes thanks to the new packaging that boasts a mixture that now contains “5 cereals”, a supposedly better quality product.

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