The term arises from the union of “inflation” and “reduction” and does not exclusively affect food , but has also been observed in hygiene and drugstore goods. According to the OCU, the intention of this practice is to “camouflage the rise in price” or “or appear to be falling further.” In fact, it can be accompanied by an illusory decrease in it, hidden behind the few grams.
In total, the organization estimates that some food manufacturers have reduced the contents of their packaging by between 5% and 10% “to mislead consumers.”
The OCU already detected last October that the resource of reducing the amount was common in the year 2021. For example, it indicates that the Cola-Cao bottle lost 40 grams , and that of the margarine Tulipán, 50. Activia yogurts also lost weight five grams .
Other products in which reduction was observed were Pescanova's hake loins , which decreased their quantity by 10% , the same percentage that the content of Gallo brand spaghetti and macaroni decreased. In the case of Pescanova, the container has gone from containing 400 grams of hake to including only 360 g . “Taking this into account, we find that the price has actually gone up 3.2%,” he says in a statement.
In general, reduflation is used by big brands and, as the OCU spokesman, Enrique García, explained to RTVE.es, it was present in 7% of the products they analyzed . García also points out that the data obtained is part of a representative sample of a shopping basket with 273 products, which is why he considers the percentage “high”.
A legal and widespread practice that goes unnoticed
In Spain, the practice, which in other years was “anecdotal”, can now be considered “generalized”, says the spokesman. However, it is completely legal. Both the OCU and the general secretary of Facua, Rubén Sánchez, warn that companies do not commit any illegality by raising or maintaining prices with a smaller amount of product, since these figures are indicated in them. They are not breaking any rule and cannot be reported, says Sánchez.
However, redufflation is difficult for consumers to detect . “It is not something that is perceived massively, despite the fact that, in some cases, a regular consumer of a product may have the notion that the number of grams has dropped,” says Facua. After all, “he doesn't stop to count the number of chips” and memorizing the weight of the packages over the years is a “very complicated” mission.
The OCU also admits the subtlety of the changes, which since last August began to warn that the increase in energy costs was going to have an effect on the shopping basket. But there are options for customers, Garcia insists, and he goes through comparing prices by looking at the cost “per unit of measure . ” The price per kilo or per liter, mandatory in commercial areas, “allows the real price of the product to be known”, since it differs from that associated with the container.
If this selling strategy continues to increase during this 2022, it remains to be seen. From the OCU they warn that they are “certain” that prices will rise “by the end of the year or at least until current conditions are maintained”, in reference to the energy crisis and the scarcity of raw materials.