Spare a thought for Britain’s ice cream lovers: the same day UK temperatures rose to record highs in a blistering heatwave, The Grocer revealed Magnum had shrunk its multipacks in a bid to mitigate surging costs – while prices for those packs have risen or stayed the same. 

It’s a bitter pill to swallow for shoppers on the hottest day of the year. But Magnum’s not alone in offering shoppers less for the same – or even a higher – price. Britain has entered a new era of shrinkflation.

Cases in point: TwixFlora, Bertolli, and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter have all fallen victim to shrinkflation over the past month alone. Earlier this year, Dairy Milk made headlines when it shrunk its family-size bars from 200g to 180g. There is no doubt others will follow. 

Shrinkflation in itself is nothing new. Fmcg products have been employing the tactic for much of the past decade, with thousands of lines affected. But the rate at which bigger and bigger brands are shrinking packs to mitigate costs is certainly worrying. 

It’s understandable so many are going down this route. Unilever, Mars and Upfield have all been candid about the woes they face in spiralling costs. And it’s their imperative to find solutions. 

But brands need to be seriously careful here. It’s one thing to shrink packs when inflation is low, but to do so when consumers face the worst cost of living crisis in 30 years risks undoing years of brand loyalty, no matter how expensive raw ingredients have become. 

In the face of the sheer economic cataclysm facing the UK’s shoppers, legions of whom may actually face having to choose whether to freeze or starve come the winter, it’s easy to imagine how every move to a smaller pack, every price hike, could begin to feel insulting – no matter how dire the cost situation is. 

Enough of these tweaks and rises, and the argument for buying any brand based on anything other than price and value for money steadily begins to fall away. And with shoppers scrutinising their weekly shops more intensely, it’s going to be harder to sneak any future shrinkflation past them.

A shift away from brands is already underway. Branded sales across fmcg have fallen 2.4% over the last 12 weeks compared to the same period last year, while own-label sales have risen 4.1%, and the discounters are growing their share of the market, with over 67% of the population shopping in either an Aldi or a Lidl over that period [Kantar 12 w/e 10 July].

If branded suppliers keep resorting to shrinkflation as costs continue to surge, they could end up pushing shoppers away from their products on an even greater scale.