Expert: Beware of ‘food crime’ at grocery store

[CUOMO]

(NewsNation) — The next time you go to the grocery store, be sure to look at the fine print. You may not be getting everything you used to.

As the price of groceries surges due to high levels of inflation, consumer experts are also warning about what’s called “shrinkflation” and “skimpflation.”

It’s “food crime” in the eyes of Phil Lempert, founder of SupermarketGuru.com.

Shrinkflation, Lempert explains, is when food containers maintain their size but are filled with a different amount of product. For example, the size of a Pringles can hasn’t changed, but the net weight — often listed in the bottom of the front or on the back of a package — is now 5.2 ounces instead of 5.5 ounces.

“How often are you really look at the net weight on these products? Not very often,” Lempert said Thursday on “CUOMO.”

For those with a sweet tooth, check your next pint of ice cream: it might not be a full pint. While Ben and Jerry’s fills their cartons to the brim with 16 fluid ounces — a full pint — some competitors such as Haagen-Dazs put only 14 fluid ounces in the container.

“When you’re looking at that frozen food case, you don’t know because all the packages are the same size,” Lempert said.

While shrinkflation concerns product packaging and sizes, skimpflation is when companies change the ingredients of food.

A notable example is Smart Balance butter spread, which now contains 39% vegetable oils instead of 64%. Consumers have flocked to the website to complain, calling it “terrible,” “inedible” and “tasteless.” Water is now listed as the primary ingredient on the packaging. Likewise, Campbell’s potato soup is more water than potato.

The goal of the tactics is twofold, Lempert said: a way for companies to save money, but also to not have to raise prices. But the end result is that consumers are getting less or different products for the same, or even higher, price.

“It bothers every single shopper that’s getting sticker shock when they buy the stuff then bring it home and find out there’s less in the package,” Lempert said.

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