Funding research on shrinkflation and skimpflation

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How do we define shrinkflation and skimpflation?

Shrinkflation is the practice of reducing the size or quantity of a product while the price of the product remains the same or slightly increases.

Skimpflation is using less expensive, and perhaps inferior ingredients to produce or manufacture what appears to be the same product.

In both cases, Canadian consumers may unknowingly be paying the same, or in some cases more, for a lesser quality product or reduced quantities.

What we know about shrinkflation

'Undersizing', another term for shrinkflation, is the practice of reducing the amount of a product just enough to go unnoticed by consumers, without changing the price. This can be achieved either by retaining the same container or package, or by changing it in such a way that the product looks no smaller than it was before.

Undersizing: trends and regulation in Canada and abroad, by Option Consommateurs, outlines the various shrinkflation tactics used by manufacturers, how consumers are impacted by the practice of shrinkflation, it examines the ethics and legalities around the practice and recommends the development of a national approach to address the issue of per unit pricing.

Developing a national approach for standard unit pricing was also the focus of an ISED funded study by the Consumers Council of Canada (CCC) in 2019, titled Unit Pricing: Time for a National Approach.

These studies remain important today as there continues to be a number of areas requiring further research and evidence in the face of rising food prices in Canada.

New funded research on shrinkflation and skimpflation

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Équiterre

340-50 Sainte-Catherine Street West
Montreal QC H2X 3V4
Telephone: 514-522-2000

Focusing on the premise of skimpflation and shrinkflation, Équiterre will study the practice of consumers prioritizing cost savings over healthy eating due to the rising costs of food. The organization's research will focus on finding innovative solutions in order to access affordable, healthy and sustainable food, while ensuring that industry improves its social and environmental performance.

Équiterre's project has three main components: stakeholder consultations, research, and awareness and outreach. The focused efforts through these activities will target three primary audiences: consumers, retailers and policy makers.

Option consommateurs

440-50 Sainte-Catherine Street West
Montreal QC H2X 3V4
Telephone: 514-598-7288

Option consommateurs (OC) will create an online campaign to help consumers identify and protect themselves from potentially unfavorable sales practices by grocers. These practices include discounts for multiple purchases, false rebates in flyers and strategic placement on shelves, customer loyalty cards and shrinkflation and skimpflation.

Consumers Council of Canada

201-1920 Yonge Street
Toronto ON M4S 3E2
Telephone: 416-483-2696

Consumers Council of Canada's (CCC's) research will focus on the consumer interest in the retail experience, especially in regards to Canadians' "grocery baskets". It will explore broad themes like food fraud, per unit pricing, price scanner accuracy and 'shrinkflation' and 'skimpflation'. Consumers, civil society organizations, businesses, governments, as well as academic experts and researchers, will be consulted to support the Council's work.

The CCC will facilitate the creation of a national, online discussion forum, which will be used to gather, discuss, and disseminate information among civil society organizations involved with the consumer interest. The Council will engage consumer protection and empowerment professionals, and the general public concerning how to make the retail grocery marketplace work better for Canadian consumers. Canadian residents will be invited to participate in a nationally promoted questionnaire series, as well.

Food Secure Canada

4067 St Laurent Blvd
Montreal, Quebec H2W 1Y7
Telephone: 514-271-7352

Food Secure Canada (FSC) proposes to examine both retail practices that negatively impact consumers, including shrinkflation and skimpflation, and how to strengthen alternative food marketing approaches that embed transparency and fairness. The project will work collaboratively with partners in civil society, government and with the general public to better understand and engage with affordability challenges faced by consumers in retail and grocery sectors.

FSC will reflect the voices of those most impacted by connecting with diverse communities across the country, and will provide a snapshot of current conditions, recommendations and future policy options around access to affordable food.

Other funded grocery affordability projects

Union des consommateurs

201-7000 Parc Avenue
Montréal QC H3N 1X1
Telephone: 514-521-6820

Union des consommateurs' (UC) Consumer Movement project titled Symposium: finances personnelles et vulnérabilité face aux crises aims to organize a symposium of approximately 100 experts from across Canada to establish a clear picture of the current economic climate Canadians are facing.

As a result of increased funding for this project from the OCA Program, UC will include grocery and retail challenges as a priority area of focus and to reflect and enable discussions on sustainable solutions to help consumers cope with economic crises.

Public Interest Advocacy Centre

285 McLeod St Suite 200
Ottawa, ON K2P 1A1
Telephone: 613-562-4002

As part of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre's (PIAC) Consumer Movement project titled Consumer Interest in the Financial Services, Grocery Retailing and Communications Sectors, the organization will work with other Canadian consumer associations to make effective and rigorous representations in the priority areas specified above.

As part of this project, PIAC proposed the creation of a consortium of pan-Canadian consumer representatives focused on new modes of payment and credit financing, payday lending and high cost credit, open banking and digital currency as well as food pricing policy and regulatory challenges such as "shrinkflation" and grocery pricing and competition concerns.

Consumers Council of Canada

201-1920 Yonge Street
Toronto ON M4S 3E2
Telephone: 416-483-2696

The Consumers Council of Canada will research and report on "name and shame" as an enforcement tool. The project will include a review of the academic research, current practices and consumer views regarding the effectiveness of the tool in changing business practices when there is non-compliancy and/or transgressions that impact consumers.