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There’s no “Pass”ing it “Over”!

Ita Yankovich


You know it’s bad when even Cookie Monster is complaining about it. 

“Me hate shrinkflation! Me cookies are getting smaller,” the blue-haired Sesame Street character vented recently on social media. President Biden voiced a similar complaint during a State of the Union address when he expressed indignation at the shrinkage of his beloved Snickers bars.


Shrinkflation, the practice of reducing the quantity or size of a product while maintaining its price, is a portmanteau of the words “shrink” and “inflation”.  It was chosen as the word of the year two years ago by Norway’s Language Council, and TikTok videos on the subject invoked over 296 million views last year. 


I’m sure you’ve noticed it. Your kids’ nosh bags are filled with more air than snack, the box of cake is half-empty, and your laundry detergent bottle seems half empty before you even poured it into the load. During Pesach season, when Jewish households’ grocery budgets are maxed out, the pinch is felt more than ever before. 


Shrinkflation has origins as far back as feudal Europe, according to lead financial consultant Michael Schmied, but the corporate strategy has become much more prevalent since the 1950s. Shrinkflation garnered attention in 1988 when the popular Chock Full o’ Nuts coffee brand cut its one-pound canister to 13 ounces, prompting many of its competitors to follow suit.  

A 2003 NY Times article written by Jeanna Smialek titled “Shrinkflation 101: The Economics of Smaller Groceries,” highlighted the shrinkage of Dannon yogurt containers: “Sales of Dannon’s yogurt, which declined immediately after the size reduction, have since rebounded. And Dannon is now pocketing a larger profit on every cup of yogurt it sells.” The inflation of 2009 only fueled the phenomenon, which hit its zenith during COVID times

Go Big or Go Hungry

The Grosses are just one of many local families hit by shrinkflation. Chaya, who works in special education, and Sruly who works as a payroll administrator, say the practice has left them bewildered and frustrated. 

“Snack bags are puffed up with air. My kids complain that they are hungry in school and ask for more snacks than they used to,” Chaya says. Sruly calculates ounces per unit to determine which purchases are most cost-efficient. “I used to buy 32-ounce bottles of detergent, and I didn’t even notice until recently that they got sneaky and reduced the packaging to 28 ounces,” he says.

Mountain Fruit owner Aron Nussensweig is well aware of shrinkflation, and it’s something that concerns him deeply. “The idea that customers might be getting less for their money is not something we take lightly,” he says. “Our manager works tirelessly to evaluate every purchase, ensuring that our shelves are stocked with products that offer customers the best possible value and quality.” 

President of Great Kosher Restaurants Media Group Elan Kornblum does not believe that shrinkflation has affected fine dining consumers.  “I can’t speak on the behalf of fast food or groceries, but when it comes to upscale restaurants I’m not seeing or hearing about owners reducing their portions of dishes,” he says. “There are only a few appropriate venues for us as frum Jews, and when we go out to eat to celebrate a special occasion, we are more forgiving and understanding of price increase.” 

Restaurant consultant and executive chef of Tea for Two Albert Bijou recalls that after the pandemic, when he worked as a consultant for Bay Café, maintaining prices was a huge challenge for kosher eateries. “Most people, no matter their financial status, were overly cautious about spending money,” he shares. “We were dealing with at least a 15% inflation rate, but I increased prices only about 5% and reduced portion sizes to compensate.” The move worked, but as the months passed, he needed to raise prices without shrinking portions even more. Instead, he began baking from scratch to reduce expenses.

Legally Speaking

Could the government regulate product sizes or enforce transparency in packaging? “Such interventions would need to balance the interests of consumers, manufacturers, and retailers, and consider the potential impact on market competition and economic stability,” says Schmied.

The government has not released an analysis of the impact of product shrinkage on inflation from 2019 to 2023, but in December, the Bureau of Labor Statistics identified food and household commodities as the top contenders for shrinkage, with toilet paper and paper towels 34.9% more expensive per unit than they were in January 2019.  

Shrinkflation sounds deceptive, but is it legal? Unfortunately, it is. As long as the packaging is accurately labeled with the amount or weight of the product it contains, the onus is on the consumer to evaluate its price. Some elected officials are acting, though. Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren coauthored a bill called The Shrinkflation Prevention Act a few months ago, which would grant the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general the power to crack down on corporations that reduce product size without a reduction in price. 

Passing Over the Savings

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the median annual household food expense in America is $8,000. According to “The Finances of Orthodox Jewish Life,” a 2021 study by Nishma, the typical Orthodox family spends $1,000 to $1,300 monthly, or $12,000 to $15,600 annually, on food. 

The Gross family is working to save on food expenses before Pesach by cutting out meat for the weeks that precede the holiday. They spend two Shabossos a month in Boro Park with Sruly’s parents. Chaya has traded her Loreal shampoo for V05. Sruly hasn’t bought Starbucks or any outside coffee for months. The couple has suspended birthday parties and dinners for now. 

Nussensweig suggests making a single trip to the supermarket to keep shopping more focused and purchasing larger packages of food which usually cost less per unit than smaller packages.  “Overall, being mindful when shopping will save you time and money,” he advises. 

“I want customers to understand that the manufacturers are not the villains here,” explains Kornblum. “It is very expensive to update packaging. It’s a last-ditch effort to stay afloat. No one wants to increase prices.” 


Getting More Bang for Your Buck

Go Generic

If your favorite cereal, beverage, or shampoo is shrinking, buy an alternative brand. Store brands tend to be more cost effective than the major brands. 

Go Big

 When they go small, you go big. Consider getting a membership at Costco or BJs where you can buy larger-sized items that will last you longer.

Bogus Bags

Companies shrink products by repackaging them with a snazzy new design or catchy slogan. Don’t be distracted by that. Pay attention to the size or weight of the product.

Do the Math

 Stores have the unit pricing for most products listed right on the shelves. You’ll see it listed as price per pound or price per ounce. If you have two different brands of similar products, you may have to use your calculator to determine which one is cheaper or better value for your budget.

Sruly – There are many useful and informative charts here. Please credit the site if you use any of them: 

The Truth Behind “Shrinkflation” | Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry

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