Brexit not to blame for shrinking UK chocolate bars - ONS

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[January 21, 2019]   LONDON (Reuters) - The sizes of chocolate bars, rolls of toilet paper and boxes of breakfast cereal on sale in Britain have all been shrinking, but this was just as big a problem before the country voted to leave the European Union as after, statisticians said on Monday.

 A woman poses with a 150g of Toblerone chocolate in Loughborough, Britain, November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Darren Staples/File Photo

Between September, 2015 and June, 2017 about 206 products used to calculate British inflation shrank in size, while only 79 increased, the Office for National Statistics said.

Some Britons have blamed the fall in the pound and an increased cost in imports after June 2016's Brexit referendum for reduced product sizes, most obviously when the Toblerone bar lost several of its chocolate peaks in November, 2016.

But the ONS said there was no evidence Brexit was to blame for so-called "shrinkflation".

"There was no trend in the frequency of size changes over this period, which included the EU referendum," the statistics agency concluded, echoing its earlier research into the topic.

Toblerone's makers always denied Brexit was the reason for the change, and the bar returned to its traditional shape last July.

Food products changed in size most often, especially cereals, meat and confectionery -- but toilet rolls, nappies, tissues and washing-up liquid were affected too.

Retailers rarely adjusted prices immediately after a product's change in size, so the shrinking size of some products will have added to British consumer price inflation, which hit a five-year high of 3.1 percent in November, 2017.

However, the ONS said it estimated the effect was small as only 1.0-2.1 percent of products used to calculate inflation shrank in size, while 0.3-0.7 percent increased.

British manufacturers have been under pressure from public health authorities to reduce the calories and sugar in their products for a number of years.

Confectioners agreed in 2014 to reduce the size of single-serve chocolate bars so they contained no more than 250 calories. A new sugar tax last year led to Coca-Cola and other soft drinks being sold in smaller bottles.

(Reporting by David Milliken, editing by Ed Osmond)

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