Shrinking Sizes: Growing Concerns

Using social intelligence to understand grocery store customer sentiment

Henry Chapman, Research and Insights Analyst

Shrinkflation happens when companies make products smaller but keep prices the same or even increase them. Using Infegy Starscape, a social listening tool that scans and analyzes billions of consumer conversations, we discovered that conversations about shrinkflation have exploded. While before the pandemic, Shrinkflation-related conversation didn't exist online, in 2024, people are talking about it more than ever, with mentions jumping to over 32,000k per month.

Image 1 - Post Volume (4)
Figure 1: Post volume growth around "shrinkflation" (January 1, 2020, through present); Infegy data.

This post volume rise highlights how sensitive consumers have become to increased prices. But even as inflation slows, these high grocery store prices aren't going away. People notice they're getting less for their money, especially when shopping for groceries or their favorite snacks. Let's dive into this trend to see what people say about it. We'll examine consumers' negative feelings towards shrinkflation and how it affects their views on shopping and brands.

Understanding shrinkflation

Shrinkflation is a strategy employed by corporations characterized by reducing product sizes while either maintaining or increasing prices. We observe this phenomenon in grocery stores, among food and beverage companies, and in the CPG sector. The timing of this surge of attention correlates with rising inflation rates, indicating that although inflation may show signs of subsiding, the impact of price increases remains a persistent concern for consumers.

Image 2 - Screenshot
Figure 2: Screenshot of a tweet complaining about Shrinkflation.

Consumer conversations around shrinkflation

Analyzing how consumers discuss shrinkflation, we've identified an unsurprising negative sentiment across all social media platforms. Topics often revolve around dissatisfaction with grocery stores and the noticeable reduction in product sizes. There’s also a significant political dimension in these discussions, especially within hashtags. Hashtags related to shrinkflation tend to be politically charged, especially on platforms like Twitter/X, highlighting a broader discourse on economic policies and consumer rights. President Joe Biden leaned into the shrinkflation debate last week, which explains both the surge in post volume and the highly political topics with both word clouds.

Topic word cloud about "shrinkflation"
Figure 3: Topic word cloud about "shrinkflation" (January 1, 2020, through present); Infegy data.

Hashtag word cloud about "shrinkflation"
Figure 4: Hashtag word cloud about "shrinkflation" (January 1, 2020, through present); Infegy data.

Narratives and linked conversations

Now that we've looked at the Topics, let's look at how they relate. Infegy's Narratives, available in both Infegy Atlas and Infegy Starscape, is perfect for this. Narratives clusters documents into topic-linked groups, then link those groups across the whole sphere of conversation. We observe themes such as "Reduced Sizes" are central to discussions, with notable mentions of specific events like the Super Bowl, where consumers explicitly notice smaller product sizes within highly public, social settings like parties. These Super Bowl mentions highlight the tangible impact of shrinkflation on branded consumer experiences (like having to purchase more Tostito chips for the neighborhood Super Bowl party).

Image 5 - Narratives
Figure 5: Narratives graph showing linked shrinkflation topics; (January 1, 2020 through present); Infegy data.

Naming names: The brands under scrutiny

After examining the topics, let's discuss what brands consumers blame most. Infegy Starscape uses AI-enabled Entity detection to determine which brands and products break through the general shrinkflation-related conversation. We found that products like Oreo, Gatorade, and Cocoa Puffs emerged as focal points of consumer dissatisfaction. These brands' placement on this list indicates the necessity for their brand strategists and advertisers to engage in a broad social listening strategy to gauge and mitigate the negative impact on brand health.

Image 6 - Entities
Figure 6: Table showing top shrinkflation-linked entities (January 1, 2020 through present); Infegy data.

Using social listening to detect consumer resentment

Shrinkflation is causing widespread concern among consumers, especially in grocery shopping—the rapid increase in discussions about getting less for the same or higher price highlights a growing frustration. With the help of Infegy Starscape, we see how negative feelings towards shrinkflation affect views on select brands. Identifying these shifts in consumer sentiments and responding quickly can help avoid reputational damage. In a time when every penny counts for consumers, brands that pay attention and adapt to these concerns will stand out for their responsiveness and consumer-centric approach.

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