Noticed your favourite chocolate bar has… shrunk a bit over the last few years? No, it’s not just that you’re getting bigger, it’s actually true!
In 2021, we saw the size of multipack chocolate bars in the UK shrink under the guise of ‘lowering calories’. And then in 2022, Cadbury announced they were reducing the size of their family-sized chocolate bars by 10% in order to keep retail prices down. What’s that about? No one wants LESS chocolate!
But we’re sure the mystery of the shrinking chocolate bars started way before this. As a team of dedicated chocolate lovers, who are happy to do a bit of edible research for the greater good, we took it upon ourselves to delve deeper and investigate what has been happening to our beloved chocolate bars and also why.
Why are we still buying them? How are the chocolate companies getting away with it? Which marketing strategies are being used to convince us to keep buying? Or is it just plain nostalgia that keeps us hooked?
Why Have Our Favourite Chocolates Changed Size?
Detective hat and looking glass at the ready? Animal sidekick, optional. Let’s go. Why are our favourite chocolate bars shrinking? Every delicious bite matters after all!
Supply and Demand
Ok, fine, we can’t blame the chocolate makers for supply and demand problems. As demand around the world for chocolate increases, so too does the cost. Ghana is the biggest source of cocoa, yet their government short-sightedly put a price cap on the crop, making farmers abandon the industry as a, sadly, unprofitable option. This has meant less cocoa (considering the effect of price caps on over 700,000 cocoa farmers) to meet demand.
Are chocolate manufacturers’ claims that they’re reducing the size of chocolate bars for ‘health reasons’ legitimate? It seems like a bit of a cop out to be fair, yet obesity is still on the rise and government legislation, such as the sugar tax, puts increasing pressure on junk food producers to show they’re making changes. So, shrinkage could be happening to protect our health.
Here’s the crux – are profit margins the real motivation behind the changing size of chocolate bars? Instead of increasing the price of our chocolate bars, causing uproar and a reduction in sales, many businesses choose to cut the size of the chocolate to cut costs. This is known as ‘shrinkflation’ and a smart marketing move. You could also call it greedy.
The Strength of Marketing while Changing your Offering
In 2023, the global chocolate industry is said to be worth a whopping £105 billion. But, since the pandemic, when we definitely ate a lot of chocolate, the amount we spend on chocolate is now falling as we hold onto the pennies more than ever. Along with the decline in cocoa beans and the effects of inflation, fears for a drop in demand have led to chocolate companies finding smart marketing strategies to boost sales.
Remember the outrage over the increased price of a Freddo? (We still buy them though!) We, as consumers, are more likely to notice the price difference before the size difference of a chocolate bar. Especially, in the current market where we’re seeing rising costs everywhere we turn!
Chocolate marketers are aware of the challenges their consumers face (for money or out of kindness… you decide) and look for smart ways to absorb the increasing costs in making chocolate. This has resulted in the gradual shrinkage in the size of our favourite choccies.
And shrinkflation can be applied to just about any product in the food industry. We’ve seen similar trends with Domino’s (don’t shrink our pizzas!) and Gatorade. What would you rather as a consumer? A price hike or a reduction in offering? There are pros and cons whichever way you look at it but the statistics have obviously swayed businesses to change their offering in most cases.
So, how do chocolatiers persuade their customers to stay loyal while losing out? Marketing in the chocolate industry is leaning towards the ethical offerings chocolates can offer. In an increasingly ethically conscious society, this makes sense.
If we look at the stats, consumers are willing to pay more if they know the packaging is fully recyclable or made from sustainable materials, or that the chocolate is organic. In fact, 57% of consumers prefer buying fairtrade chocolate and 63% think responsible labour practices are the most important thing when deciding which chocolate to buy.
These desirable offerings can help chocolate producers prevent the size of the chocolate shrinking to counteract the increasing costs. Instead, they can justify a price hike and we can keep eating chocolate!
Add these smart marketing moves to the nostalgia of the chocolates you grew up with and still love, chocolate companies are holding onto their loyal customers.
Shrinking Chocolate Bars – The Evidence
It’s time. Let’s look at the facts. Were chocolate bars as big as we remember? And how much exactly have they shrunk by?
Do you remember when Wagon Wheels were the size of your head? Or was that just our over exaggerated childhood memory? Maybe, but since the 2000s the weight of a Wagon Wheel has reduced by 10%. And the diameter has also been reduced by 5mm since the 1980s. Not as much as we thought, but it’s definitely not as big as it used to be.
The Yorkie used to be a massive 70g in the 2000s (the golden years for chocolate!). A serious chocolate bar for serious chocolate eaters with some quite sexist slogans. Within a decade the infamous Yorkie became a whole 21% smaller! We used to get a decent six blocks to break off on a Yorkie. Now we have just five. It’s not the same.
Top tier, the king of chocolate bars (don’t fight it)… we’re sure the Twix used to last longer. And we’d be right to think that. Since the 1980s it has downsized by 17%. Sad times. Bring back our supersized chocolates!
What about the Creme Egg? We’re sure that one is smaller than before. They used to be the size of an ostrich egg, remember? Actually, they are now 15% bigger than a few decades ago. Maybe it is just us who have grown, rather than the chocolate getting smaller.
Ok then, everyone is saying the Mars Bar is smaller. Wrong! Mars Bars now weigh in at 51g, 4% more than the 2000s (BUT, in the 1990s they actually were bigger at 65g… so we’ll forgive you if you’re comparing today’s Mars Bar to the 90s).
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