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As economy bites, companies use ‘shrinkflation’ to rip off Nigerians

Several companies have been using shrinkflation to rip off customers for years. In 2015, @Pepsi_Naija and @CocaCola employed it until @getbigi and @BigCola9ja disrupted the market—a move that reversed both household brands into default setting. However, Pepsi and Coca-cola aren’t the only FMCG involved in shrinkflation, as this deceptive but legal activity dates back to over a decade in the Nigerian market.

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Shrinkflation in the market, Companies engaging in shrinkflation, Cola war in Nigeria, Pepsi Coca-cola Bigi and Big Cola

Several companies have been using shrinkflation to rip off customers for years. In 2015, Pepsi and Coca-cola effectively utilized the strategy until Bigi and Big Cola disrupted the marketa move that reversed both household brands into default setting.

However, Pepsi and Coca-cola aren’t the only fast-moving consumer goods makers involved in shrinkflation as this deceptive but legal activity dates back to over a decade in the Nigerian market. 

 Shrinkflation is a word coined from shrink and inflation. It simply implies a reduction in the quality or quantity of a product with the product price remaining the same. In the case of Nigeria, product price increases without justifiable reasons given by manufacturers. This is common among FMCG firms even with regulators’ connivance. Thus  it is the act of giving customers less value for their money.

[READ ALSO: 46-years after, Mr. Bigg’s is not so big anymore]

Shrinkflation is how some companies pass on costs of production to their customers in a manner that is not usually noticeable. It is deceptive from the customers’ perspective. But in the business world, it is a legal concept particularly in Nigeria where consumer protection is weak.

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Shrinkflation is the reduction of quality or quantity of a product or goods with the product price remaining the same or hike (Credit: Money Guru)

Food and beverage markets thrive when companies compete through prices and product size. When this happens, it is advantageous to the customers. But over the years, household companies have employed shrinkflation to stay afloat as brand loyalists are often absent-minded when purchasing goods. In some cases companies don’t hide this change, they also add extra prices to their goods. 

Why brands engage in shrinkflation 

When companies’ production costs rise, they often put the burden on customers to cut back operation expenses. One of their most effective methods is the reduction of products’ quality and quantity while the price remains unchanged. 

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[READ ALSO: It’s time to break Nescafe’s two-decade grip on Nigeria’s coffee market]

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Companies prefer this strategy because it’s less visible to non-discerning customers since the difference is usually small or unnoticeable unlike price increments which can’t go unnoticed by customers. 

Occasionally, brands opted for shrinkflation over fears that price hike will provoke customers to switch loyalty to their competitors who maintain their prices though they may have reduced their product sizes. 

One reasons given by customers  or loyalists of a particular brand when such brand reduce the quality or size of its product is economy. They often cited the unhealthy economic situation in the country for sharp practices or misdemeanor by manufacturers or any other individual. 

For instance, the 2016 Cola War in Nigeria brought to fore the uniqueness of customers in the whole process as competitive prices and diverse sizes of bottles were released to the market by new entrants during the country’s economic recession of 2015 -2017. 

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A display of shrinkflation process (Photo Credit: Buddy Loans)

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Companies that engage in shrinkflation  

Drinks makers: Several brands have at one time or the other reduce the size of their products in order to accrue more profits in Nigeria. These companies don’t just reduce the size of their products, they also increase the prices.

Biscuits and confectionery firms: In the early part of this century, Coaster Biscuit  put seven pieces in a pack but as years went by the number began to drop even as each stick became leaner until the company felt three would be enough for its customers. This move was later accompanied by a price-hike. A Coaster pack with seven sticks was initially sold at N5, but today, a pack with three biscuits goes for N10. 

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[READ ALSO: How Cable TV could die in Nigeria]

Other brands that also adopted shrinkflation are Speedy, Coconut Biscuit, Fish Biscuit and Crackers. These brands have also hike their product prices. 

Burger and sardine companies: Apart from biscuits companies, the manufacturer of Burger peanut is successfully selling breeze to consumers who have termed it ‘airbag’ due to the excessive air inside the pack. Also on the list is Titus Sardine, which initially put four pieces of fish intin and sold it for N200. The product now juggles between three and two pieces for N250. 

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One day you might open a pack and won’t find anything in it (Photo Credit: This Is Money; UK)

In a chat  with our Analyst, a brand expert, Segun Akinleye, explained the term shrinkflation and the rationale behind its adoption by manufacturers.

He said: “Production costs are a major factor in pricing. So, it is not surprising that companies reduce the quality of products while retaining the price. Some, however, rather than reduce the quality, reduce the quantity without letting the public know.  

“The reason is simple: To cut production cost instead of transferring the additional cost of production to the consumers. Brands do this a lot all over the world, especially when the products have got substitutes. Secondly, as for those that reduce the quantity or quality, while increasing the price, I don’t think that’s a good business strategy. 

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“What companies need to do is cut the component costs even if it’s by a slight percentage. This can have a substantial impact on cost of production. For example, redesigning a product is an effective way of reducing production costs.” 

Akinleye, who is also the founder of Kontact Media, said shrinkflation is also necessary to enable firms survive tough economic situations.

“This is because if such a strategy isn’t employed, some companies will exit the market,” he added.

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Shrinkflation is as a result of profit making

Competition as a solution to shrinkflation 

While shrinkflation has been successful in other FMCG markets, the beverage sector has struggled to implement such business strategy. Although the likes of Coca-cola and Pepsi tried the strategy but it backfired spectacularly when Big Cola and Bigi brands made their way into the market with competitive prices in the same period that Coca-cola and Pepsi company added numbers to their price points. 

The disruption caused by Bigi and Big Cola with bigger and affordable products showed that Pepsi and Coca-cola could actually offer consumers value for their money. Both companies later return to the drawing  board to win back the low-end of the market but it was too late as majority of the distributors had already adopted Big Cola and Bigi variants as ideal replacements for the expensive Pepsi and Coca-cola.

[READ ALSO: Superstores in Nigeria: Can SPAR and Shoprite’s business models keep them afloat?]

Akinleye added: “There are substitute products everywhere. If the price of Sunlight soap is too much, I can go for Ariel. If I can’t afford Milo, I can go for Bournvita, etc. That’s the beauty of capitalism..” 

Competition is not a lasting solution 

While competition compelled Pepsi and Coca-cola to backtrack to some extent, it does not always work for all FMCG markets as evident in the biscuit market. While there are surplus substitutes, most brands have their own unique tastes which cannot be easily substituted for others.

There were reports that some companies collude to fix market price. So, competition at times isn’t as effective as customers expect. In South Africa some years back, it was discovered that four of the country’s largest milling companies Premier Foods, Tiger Brands, Foodcorp and Pioneer Foods (makers of Nigerian loaf, Butterfield) had colluded to fix market price. 

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Shrinkflation is another source of revenue (Photo Credit: The London Economic)

South African Competition Commission uncovered their secret meeting points to be churches, stadia, hotels, and other places. These companies were later fined by the regulator. 

The action taken by the regulator is laudable because when household brands choose to dump competitive prices for a fixed price, it’s almost impossible for new and smaller entrants to disrupt the market or break the grips of these household products as their entry will not have far-reaching effect in the long-term.

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The way out

To find a lasting solution to this scenario, a Deputy Director at the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Abiodun Obimuyiwa, had in 2018 promised to probe manufacturers of sachet goods after acknowledging the menace of shrinkflation 

“Information reaching our offices showed that consumers feel short-changed with the goods purchased with their hard-earned money,  he said.

 

Olalekan is a certified media practitioner from the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ). In the era of media convergence, Olalekan is a valuable asset, with ability to curate and broadcast news. His zeal to write was developed out of passion to shape people’s thought and opinion; serving as a guideline for their daily lives. Contact for tips: [email protected]

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. David

    July 30, 2019 at 1:18 pm

    This is an investigative article that I appreciate. It’s true that the economy could be blamed outright, but there are some very annoying acts of shrinkflation particularly involving some of these new chips that look bulky going for ₦100 yet the quantity should be for ₦50 plus the air in it.

  2. Mayowa

    July 30, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    I’m not sure it’s fair to tag the reduction of product prices as ‘deceptive’. It is the same way you noticed the reduction in size that other consumers would notice the same reduction. The choice is then finally up to the consumer to buy or not, especially when there are numerous FMCG substitutes.

    • Mayowa

      July 30, 2019 at 4:21 pm

      Prices, I meant to say, in the first sentence.

  3. WAHEED A Lawal

    July 31, 2019 at 6:57 pm

    That’s not rip-off but for company struggle to stay in business. The consumer should make a right choice. I am a Costco customer and used to spend $300-400 a month. But now no more overtime at my job, I spend between $80-100 for necessary items and use store promotion coupons and customer discounts

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Economy & Politics

Uganda Elections: Museveni re-elected for 6th term with 58.6% of the votes

Uganda’s President Museveni has won a 6th term in office as the opposition alleges wide-scale rigging.

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The President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, has been re-elected as President, gathering 5.85 million votes compared to 3.48 million votes by main opposition leader, Robert Kyagulanyi, a.k.a Bobi Wine.

According to Reuters, this victory represents 58.6% of the vote cast while Bobi Wine got 34.8%

Bobi Wine announced that the election results show this is the most fraudulent election in the history of Uganda and urged his followers to reject the result.

What you should know

  • Yoweri Museveni, aged 76, has been President of the East African nation since 1986.
  • Bobi Wine claimed via his official Twitter handle that military men jumped over his fence and took control of his home yesterday.

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Coronavirus

Combined Vaccine Manufacturing capacity to hit 6.8 billion doses in 2021

COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing capacity is expected to hit 6.8 billion doses in 2021.

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Covid-19: First world nations oppose waiving intellectual rights for vaccine development

Meristem Group disclosed that the combined effort in manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines for global use is expected to yield about 6.8 billion doses in 2021.

This was revealed in the Annual Outlook 2021 report presented by Meristem Group, titled Bracing for a different future.”

According to the report, the existing manufacturing capacity will only be sufficient enough to immunize about 44% of the global population, which would create obvious vaccination gap and make the pandemic last longer than necessary.

The report states,

  • The cold temperature requirements for vaccine storage pose major logistics concern particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and other low-income countries. WHO estimates that about 50% of vaccines are wasted every year, largely due to a lack of temperature control.”

According to the report, the estimated 6.8billion doses are expected to be collaboratively manufactured as follows:  CanSino – 0.2billion, AstraZeneca – 3.0 billion, Gamaleya – 0.3billion, Moderna – 0.4billion, Pfizer-BioNtech – 1.3billion, SinoPharm – 1billion, and SinoVac – 0.6billion.

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What you should know

  • The global population as of 2020 is 7.8billion and 70% is required to achieve herd immunity (otherwise called herd protection)
  • Herd Immunity or herd protection is achieved when you have most of the population immunized against an infectious disease.
  • 2 doses of the vaccines are required for each person for immunity.
  • It is expected that between 11 and 15 billion doses would be required to achieve the desired herd immunity, globally.
  • From all indications, herd immunity may not be achieved until mid or late 2022, with the subsisting 100% vaccine production capacity utilization in 2021 – with neither production nor distribution losses.
  • To achieve regulatory approval, a vaccine must undergo a three-stage clinical development process after the exploratory and pre-clinical stages and the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets a phase 3 efficacy benchmark of 50%.

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Coronavirus

Covid-19: Global deaths surpass 2 million

Global casualty record for the Covid-19 pandemic surpassed 2 million deaths on Friday.

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Nigeria blows past 40,000 COVID-19 cases

The Global casualty record for the Covid-19 pandemic surpassed 2 million deaths on Friday, with the United States accounting for 1 in every 5 deaths, as it has recorded over 386,000 casualties so far.

This was disclosed in a report by Reuters in its Covid-19 tally reported on Friday evening.

After the United States, Brazil, Mexico, India and the U.K contribute nearly 50% of the combined casualties.

The report also disclosed that an average of 11,900 casualties are recorded per day in year 2021, despite the fact that it took 9 months for the world to record 1 million casualties.

United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said the 2 million death count was “a heart-wrenching milestone.”

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  • “Behind this staggering number are names and faces: the smile now only a memory, the seat forever empty at the dinner table, the room that echoes with the silence of a loved one,” he added.

The WHO warned that 2021 could be tougher due to the nature of new variants which transmit the disease faster.

  • “We are going into a second year of this. It could even be tougher given the transmission dynamics and some of the issues that we are seeing,” WHO Chief, Mike Ryan, said.

Analysts expect the global death toll to surpass 3 million by April 2021.

What you should know 

  • Nairametrics reported that the total number of covid-19 cases in Nigeria had surpassed the 100,000 mark on Sunday 10th January 2021, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
  • The African Union stated that it secured 270 million Covid-19 vaccine doses for the continent from drug manufacturers to supplement the COVAX programme, a step towards the commencement of the complex task of vaccinating over 1.2 billion people with limited financial resources.
  • The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control on Friday 15th January 2021, announced that 1,867 new cases of the covid-19 virus were recorded across 24 states in the country. This represents the highest number of cases recorded in a single day.

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