By Antonio Hermosín Gandul
Tokyo, Dec 23 (EFE).- Making smaller packets that are sold at the same price is a frequent practice that companies resort to in order to avoid increasing prices in Japan, where inflation has remained almost inexistent despite the rising costs of raw material.
The trend, known locally as the “camouflaged price rise,” is receiving greater attention in local media and among citizens in recent months, even as prices witness an increase worldwide.
The practice affects packaging of cookies, chocolate, chips and other snacks, frozen food and ready-to-eat sushi, apart from other frequently consumed food products.
Examples include packets of popular potato chips brand Calbee, which are set to be reduced from 85 to 80 grams in January, or Nestle cutting the weight of its popular chocolate KitKat Mini from 11.6 grams to 9.7 grams last year.
In both cases, the manufacturers kept their retail prices unchanged at 148 yen ($1.3) and 120 yen respectively.
The gradual and miniscule reduction in sizes allows companies to absorb the increased cost of raw material without changing the sales price, but has led to discontent among Japanese consumers, who have created websites such as neage.jp to closely follow the “hidden inflation.”
“We should change the product’s name to ‘nitrogen with chips’,” says a post that tracks the changes in weight and prices of Calbee chips packets, making fun of the gas that the company uses as preservative to fill packets that contain “only air,” some consumers have jokingly complained.
The post’s author said that although the bags were reasonably big, when opened only one-third or one-fourth of them were filled with the product, adding that the strategy also reduces returns on the product compared to competitors.
Consumers have also commented online on the increasingly smaller size of KitKat Mini, very popular in Japan, which has gone from being rectangular to almost a square in shape.
Even as the United States and Europe have registered a record surge in inflation, with bodies like US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England changing monetary policies to control the price rise, the situation in Japan continues to be very different.
The Bank of Japan has predicted a 0 percent rise in the accumulated Consumer Price Index in the ongoing fiscal cycle, which is set to end in March 2022, while for the next year the forecast stands at 0.9 percent, according to the latest projections.
On Friday BoJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said in a presser that the entity would “energetically” maintain its policy of monetary flexibility until the objective of bringing annual inflation up to 2 percent is met. EFE