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    Supermarkets criticised over shrinkflation

    Supermarkets were heavily criticised in Parliament for not being more open with customers about “sneaky” shrinkflation and labelling of produce.

    Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North, grilled food minister Mark Spencer over why consumers are not being told when products are reduced in size and the price stays the same or even still goes up.

    Highlighting research by consumer group Which?, he stressed at a meeting of the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that around three quarters of customers believe shrinkflation is a “rip off” and should not be happening.

    Gardiner stated, “What they object to principally is the fact that it is sneaky, the fact that it is done without them actually being told that it is being done.”

    Gardiner added that research done in France had found that over half of consumers believe that supermarkets should be telling them that some products are getting smaller, around a third said the manufacturers should be putting this on their goods, compared to nine per cent who believed it should be down to customers to work out.

    Calling for more transparency on labelling, Gardiner stressed there was a “legal obligation” on manufacturers and retailers for the weight to be on products.

    Apart from shrinkflation, skimpflation was also discussed. Committee chairman Sir Robert Goodwill intervened to say that even worse than “shrinkflation” was “skimpflation”, citing example like there is less beef in a beef lasagne or less chicken in a chicken ready meal which may be labelled “new improved recipe”.

    Tins of baked beans, he added, might be the same weight but contain more sauce and less of the more expensive ingredient, beans.

    Spencer responded that there are “different motivations” for such behaviour, including profit, marketplace positioning and public health.

    “Ultimately, the consumer has that power to make those choices and we have seen a number of examples where consumer power has driven the market in a very robust … free range eggs is the best example of that,” Spencer said.

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