Unlike at the beginning of the Corona crisis or when the Ukraine war broke out, the supermarket shelves are now well stocked again. The situation is different with the packaging of large German food manufacturers. They demand more and more money for gummy bears, jam & Co.
The process is simple: packs of the same size are filled with less material. Alternatively, manufacturers offer more ingredients per pack, only the percentage increases in price more than the pack content. This is called “shrinkage,” which is composed of “shrinkage” and inflation. The price of a Haribo gummy bear is higher today than it was two years ago. When asked whether shopping in the supermarket could become even more expensive in the future, Armin Valet, food expert at the Hamburg consumer protection authority, told Focus Online: “In the past two to three weeks we have received a large number of complaints from consumers. We are currently experiencing the first wave of such hidden price increases, which will certainly not abate in 2023 either.”
Consumers have been complaining for years
Some manufacturers sell fewer products at the same price, hoping buyers won’t notice. But it is not only in difficult financial times that consumers pay close attention to this when shopping. It is also registered by consumer advice centers, which have been criticizing “misleading packaging” from retailers for years. Sabine Hülsmann, consumer advocate at the Bavarian consumer advice center, knows the problem only too well: “We have been receiving complaints from consumers for more than ten years.”
There is always an interest in passing on hidden price increases through so-called “misleading packaging” on the part of the manufacturer. “More expensive raw materials and difficulties in the supply chain lead to higher production costs. Higher prices can be transparently passed on to consumers, and the same amount of product then becomes more expensive. Otherwise it is a question of a hidden price increase”, Hülsmann complains about the company’s strategy. But manufacturers are reluctant to label their products more expensive: “Many people have used specific product prices to price them. Increasing sales can lead to lost sales.” And veterinarians say: “Ultimately, consumers have to foot the bill. ,
food price crisis
The “Consumer price index for everyday goods and services”, which the Federal Statistical Office compiles annually, sees a dramatic price development for food across all food groups:
- in the time of From 2000 to 2019, inflation was just under 1.5 percentV aloneFrom July 2021 to July 2022, the average price increase is already 14.8 percent,
- Most dramatic price increases recorded edible fat and cooking oilhe around 44.2 percent become more expensive.
- Dairy products and eggs Now consumers are getting more and more expensive 24.2 percent More.
- meat and meat products became 18.3 percent darling
- loaf and grain products Huge price increase seen 15 percent,
There are several reasons for the rise in food prices: the costs of energy, fertilizer and animal feed have been rising massively for months, and a shortage of workers and minimum wages are driving up personnel costs. Grocery costs have been rising every month since July 2021, with no end in sight. Was in July 2022 Food price inflation at 14.8 percent, twice the overall inflation ratethat was 7.5 percent.
Manufacturers and retailers under pressure
However, not all price increases are transparent and by far not all high production costs are comprehensible. The consumer center NRW recently called on politicians and the cartel office to take a closer look at food manufacturers to see whether they would not seize the opportunity to improve their income. A random sample by the North Rhine-Westphalia consumer advice center in four large retail chains revealed significant price differences within product groups. The price range for tomatoes, which were sold between EUR 1.11 and EUR 22.17 per kilo on the same day, was particularly striking. Wolfgang Schuldzinski, Managing Director of the North Rhine-Westphalia consumer advice center, is certain: “Such enormous price differences on the same day in different supermarkets cannot be explained solely by high production costs, panic buying or the consequences of the Ukraine war. ” Consumer advocates say: “The sample proves that the pricing of food is highly non-transparent and speculative. We therefore demand that antitrust authorities be given more powers to scrutinize food prices and prevent possible price fixing.” And the valet says: “They want to trick consumers.”
make inflation visible
One of the manufacturers that has reduced the amount of its product per pack while charging the same price is the Haribo company. The extraordinarily rising costs for high-quality materials, foils, packaging materials, boxes as well as energy and logistics would have presented the confectionery manufacturer with exorbitant additional costs. So you are forced to adjust both the packaging size and the prices. This will affect a large part of the Haribo range: “The weight of some items will be reduced from 200g to 175g (e.g. gold bear) and some items from 175g to 160g (e.g. pico bat). “, he said . When asked online, a company spokesman said. “It was important to us that we no longer have any ‘air’ in the bag, i.e. that we keep the shape of the bag but make the bag look smaller. In this way, the reduction in filling volume is clearly visible to the consumer. recognizable.”
Not all companies make their pricing policy so transparent. The Theo Müller group, whose Homanns “paprika sauce” was voted deceptive packaging of the year by the Hamburg consumer advice center in 2021, did not want to comment when asked by Focus Online.
very expensive and not durable
Consumer advocate Sabine Hulsemann sees “shrinkage” not only as an economic problem, but also as an ecological problem: “You need more and more packaging to sell the same amount of goods. Product packaging often remains the same size, only the material is scarce. It doesn’t keep.” Food experts from the Hamburg consumer advice center also criticize the increased volume of packaging: “Manufacturers like to outdo each other with sustainability reports, but too little is actually happening.”
counteract rising food prices
Consumers can protect themselves against rising food prices with some effective strategies:
- Feather fruits and vegetables: KG compare prices! It is also worth buying seasonal and regional products, these products are usually cheaper. For example, the seasonal calendar of the North Rhine-Westphalia consumer advice center provides orientation.
- Particularly strong price increases meatLegumes such as peas, lentils, lupins or beans are high-quality suppliers of nutrients that contain a lot of protein, B vitamins and fiber and are therefore a cheap alternative to meat.
- a Menu Make a relevant shopping list and stick to it. This reduces the risk of costly spontaneous purchases.