From inflation to shrinkflation: the greater region price comparison

The shopping basket concocted by Paperjam has seen an average inflation of 9% in the space of eight months. From one country and one supermarket to another, there are very marked variations. Photo: Catherine Kurzawa / Maison Moderne

The shopping basket concocted by Paperjam has seen an average inflation of 9% in the space of eight months. From one country and one supermarket to another, there are very marked variations. Photo: Catherine Kurzawa / Maison Moderne

Belgium, France and Luxembourg are experiencing price rises. For comparable products, cross-border purchases can vary widely, from inflation to shrinkflation. But where is the best place to fill your shopping trolly?

Delano’s sister publication Paperjam already in September last year did a test at three locations in the greater region, with the bill at the Auchan supermarket in Mont-Saint-Martin in France 21% lower than at the Cora in Messancy in Belgium. 

Eight months later, on 19 May 2023, we brought out the shopping basket again, comparing products of identical brands in the three countries.

France particularly exposed to shrinkflation

The first finding is that no-one is immune to inflation: in the space of eight months, the price of this range of 50 products has risen. The range varies from 7% in Belgium to 11% in France. Luxembourg--which in March had the lowest inflation rate in the eurozone--has seen its prices rise by 10%, according to the Paperjam test.

Lesson two: France remains the country where shopping is cheapest. In September, the receipt at Auchan Mont-Saint-Martin cost €287.96. Eight months later, the price has risen to €320.03 for the same trolly.

Packaging has changed considerably in recent months, particularly in France, where 17 products out of a sample of 50 have changed their packaging volume. More than one in three products is subject to shrinkflation, a combination of contraction and inflation that can confuse consumers. Fortunately, they can always refer to the price per kilo or per litre to try and see things more clearly.

While this may enable manufacturers to limit price rises on the shelves, it can also have an impact on their sales volumes. That’s why some products come in smaller packaging, others in larger. Ultimately, it’s up to the consumer to choose the format, depending on their habits and, above all, how often they use the product in question.

In the case of the emblematic Coca-Cola bottle, for example, Belgium and Luxembourg have stuck with the 1.5-litre format, while in France the American soft drinks giant offers its beverage in two sizes: 1.25 litres and 1.75 litres. Get your calculators.

Herta dominates the inflationary podium

On average, prices rose by 9% on our basket of 50 products bought in the three countries. There are significant differences from one shop to another. The biggest variation was in the price of a packet of Herta Original Knacki sausages, which rose by an average of 42% in the three supermarkets. At the Cactus in Bascharage, the increase was just 6%, while at Cora in Messancy it was 61% and at Auchan in Mont-Saint-Martin 60%.

The second biggest increase was also for a Herta product, the 6-slice nitrite-free cooked ham (+36%). Liebig’s pumpkin velouté saw its price jump by an average of 32%.

Two products are less expensive than in September: Durex condoms in boxes of 10 (-31%) and Kellogg’s Special K cereals. Prices for the latter have fallen by an average of 14%. Note, however, that this conclusion is based on a rule of three, as none of the three shops offered this product in the reference format used in our September survey (550 grams).

Belgium unattractive overall

France comes out on top when it comes to dairy products and water. The latter is 46% cheaper than in Belgium. Luxembourg stands out on alcoholic beverages, with the exception of Passoa, JB and Battin, which are cheaper in France. And Belgium remains unattractive overall, with the exception of Ferrero and Lotus products, which have factories on its territory.

It should be noted that the Paperjam test excludes special offers. An important point about drinks: Cora Messancy is playing the promotions card when large quantities are purchased. For example, two packs of Vittel purchased entitled the holder to two others free of charge at the time of our visit on 19 May.

In April 2023, the annual inflation rate in the eurozone reached 7% according to Eurostat. Country by country, Luxembourg stands out with a price rise of 2.7%, compared with 3.3% in Belgium and 6.9% in France.

This article was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.