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25th December 2022

Quality Street – shrinkflation trend

If the current trend in packaging size continues, a box of Quality Street could weigh less than 200 grams (7 oz) by 2050.


quality street shrinkflation trend 2050
Credit: Bruno Girin from London, United Kingdom, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Quality Street has been around since 1936, when Harold Mackintosh began manufacturing the product in Yorkshire, northern England. The company incorporated ground-breaking technology for the time, such as the first twist-wrapping machine to make chocolate affordable to working families.

Since then, the sweets have become famous around the world. Nestlé acquired the brand in 1988, and the tins moved from their historical round design to an octagonal shape. A further rebranding then followed, focused on the iconic colourful sweets and their individual shapes, along with a familiar purple background. Today, Quality Street is one of the world's most recognised and popular chocolate assortments, exported to 70 countries.

In recent years, however, the sweets and their packaging have been affected by a phenomenon known as shrinkflation. According to Wikipedia, this is defined as "the process of items shrinking in size or quantity, while their prices remain the same or increase. The word is a portmanteau of the words shrink and inflation. [...] Shrinkflation allows companies to increase their operating margin and profitability by reducing costs whilst maintaining sales volume, and is often used as an alternative to raising prices in line with inflation."

British newspaper The Sun has quantified this trend over time, by providing both the weights of each tin and the number of sweets they contain, from 2009 until the present day:


quality street shrinkflation trend 2050


We can see a decline of 45% in just 13 years. A box of Quality Street has gone from weighing 1,100 g (39 oz) to only 620 g (22 oz), while the number of sweets in each box has gone from 110 to 62. The company also changed to a new packaging material, introducing plastic tubs in 2013, alongside tins.

The Sun spoke to Martyn James, a consumer expert who explained that the COVID-19 pandemic, war in Ukraine, and high shipping and energy costs had raised prices for manufacturers. But he added: "For years, the industry has been reducing the size and amount of chocolate goods, often saying that they do so to ensure prices remain the same though the size or quantity has reduced. The problem is, this was going on before the events of the last three years. And you can only reduce items so much before people get fed up and stop shopping."

Indeed, if the shrinkflation trend continued, a standard box of Quality Street would decline to just 200 grams (7 oz) and fewer than 20 sweets by 2050 and would vanish entirely not long after that. The latter scenario is clearly absurd, and will never actually happen, but the product's future now looks increasingly uncertain.

The Sun notes that other popular chocolate assortments – including Roses, Cadbury's Heroes, and Celebrations – have also shrunk. But Quality Street has declined by the greatest percentage.

There are clearly more important issues facing the world, and this blog is a somewhat light-hearted examination of a popular Christmas gift. The trends observed in packaging do, however, underscore a more serious point: product values are being reduced by "stealth", an incremental process that is barely noticeable from one year to the next, but is obvious when viewing longer-term trends.

Corporate bodies tend to deflect attention from product shrinkage with "less is more" messaging, such as by claiming health benefits of smaller portions or environmental benefits of less packaging. Ratula Chakraborty, Professor of Business Management at the UK's University of East Anglia, believes that companies should be legally obliged to notify shoppers when pack sizes have been reduced.

Many different product types are undergoing shrinkflation, but chocolate and other confectionery items appear to be particularly affected. Due to environmental and land use changes, chocolate itself is likely to see further price rises in the near future.


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