Nyar Sindo’s guide to a supermarket floor

I can’t help but confess that my choice to go with Pampers was driven by my belief that a higher price meant better quality, and naturally, I wanted nothing but the best for my son.

Throughout my pregnancy, I found myself stocking up those iconic sky blue packs adorned with pictures of chubby, happy babies. It was almost like I was collecting treasures. That was until my sister stepped in, giving me a reality check.

She wisely pointed out that babies can outgrow diaper sizes in a matter of weeks, and I was left with an abundance of unused size one diapers. I had so many, it even sparked a fleeting business idea to sell them. But, reality prevailed, and we ended up donating them.

Fast forward to today, and if you’re a new mother, you might not be as fortunate as I was with those 80-piece Pampers size one packages. Procter & Gamble, the company behind these baby diapers, has decided to trim down the number of diapers in each pack by a staggering 17 percent, leaving you with just 66 pieces. And to add a twist to the tale, they’re charging more for it.

As inflation rates surge in Kenya, multinational companies are grappling with the challenge of maintaining a steady flow of inventory to consumers at reasonable prices. To tackle this, they’re turning to a strategy known as “shrinkflation,” where manufacturers reduce the size of their products instead of increasing the price tag.

Unfortunately, here in Kenya, both shrinkflation and price hikes are unfolding simultaneously. This means that every time we stroll into a supermarket, we’re shelling out more money for less, and it’s becoming increasingly costly to keep up with the essentials.

According to statistics on FMCG consumption seen by Maudhui House, manufacturers have been increasing their product price and have lost substantial market share over the last six months which has seen them change strategy and start to reduce the quantity of products.

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Reducing quantity of products

According to data seen by Maudhui House FMCG companies have been increasing their product price and have lost substantial market share over the last six months which has seen them change strategy and start to reduce the quantity of products.

The price of pampers newborn size one, has increased 16 percent to Kes1565 in August this year Kes1345 in August 2021and during this period the company lost its market leadership to Softcare in terms of sales volumes.

Softcare which only increased pricing by 4.3 percent now control 33.1 percent of the diapers market above Pamper’s 28.1 percent. Molifix which only raised prices 7.1 percent comes third with 23.9 percent of the market.

Huggies which raised prices 27 percent to Kes1259 has seen sales plunge by almost half to 13.9 percent of the market while Bouncy’s 201 percent hike to Kes1173 has seen sales drop more than 90 percent. Pampers still retains top share in terms of sales value but it is selling over Kes100 million less on cost of the products.

Many Kenyans are hard-pressed for money for discretionary spending given stagnant incomes, rising taxes, and deductions against the expensive cost of importing the goods. And it is affecting our generosity.

When my son was about to make his grand entrance into the world, I thought I had everything sorted. Diapers? Check. I had stocked up on Pampers, believing that their premium price equaled premium quality. But, in the eleventh hour, as I was about to head to the delivery room, the last thing on my mind was grabbing a pack of diapers.

Best diapers on the market

Amidst the whirlwind of pain and anticipation, it wasn’t until I caught sight of my son in the nursery, sporting a Huggies diaper, that it hit me. After months of meticulous planning and hoarding what I thought were the best diapers on the market, the first diaper my son wore was not Pampers.

I had my suspicions that when it came to diapers, branding might be just a façade. And when my little munchkin showed no signs of discomfort or irritation, it confirmed my suspicion that maybe, just maybe, one brand wasn’t all that different from the next.

In the beginning, I stuck to Pampers, partly thanks to the generosity of family and friends who brought them as gifts when they came to visit our newest family member. When you visit a newborn, it’s customary to bring a little something, and while not everyone shows up with gold, frankincense, and myrrh, a diaper is a practical choice. I’ve done it myself countless times.

Most of the diaper gifts I received were Pampers, reinforcing the brand’s association with quality and gift-giving. But there were a couple of outliers: Molifix.

When my stock of familiar brands dwindled, I decided to give Molifix a shot. And as soon as I tried it, I knew I was making the switch. It was not only more affordable, but somehow I convinced myself it lasted longer, had a softer lining, and zero leaks. These newfound qualities solidified my decision to switch to a cheaper yet superior brand, one I still use today as we navigate the joys (and challenges) of potty training.

Today, many Kenyans are hard-pressed for money for discretionary spending given stagnant incomes, rising taxes, and deductions against the expensive cost of importing the goods.

Supermarket experience has changed

Before this experience, every newborn I visited had received a Pampers package from me. So, when we recently visited friends who had just welcomed a baby and decided to swing by the supermarket to pick up a gift for their gift (you see what I did there), I instinctively reached for a pack of Pampers.

However, something about the supermarket experience had changed, and it shifted my perspective. Shopping has always been my thing, and I’d often thought of it as a woman’s domain. The orderly arrangement of products, the neatly lined aisles, meticulously organized shelves with a keen eye for detail, right down to the carefully chosen colors – it was a dream come true for me.

But my partner couldn’t be more different. He found supermarkets frustrating and overwhelming. When he had to run errands there, I had to keep my phone handy to guide him. “Okay, baby, just breathe, you’re almost there.”

He felt that supermarkets were overly complex and too focused on consumerism. To him, supermarket floors were designed to keep you lost among the neatly arranged, brightly colored goods for as long as possible. They put shoe polish in the farthest corner while placing the sugary treats right by the checkout to entice the restless children waiting in line. He could never figure out where anything was, and the plethora of options left him more confused than anything else.

For me, it was a different story. It took just three supermarket visits to memorize the layout, and I found the organization of products by category in each aisle extremely helpful. Once I had the layout down, finding anything became a breeze.

In fact, I found the experience rather therapeutic. But as it turns out, what I’ve always considered retail therapy might just be the result of some exceptionally well-designed stores.

Retail therapy

Man in the Middle: The Designer,” criticized a number of its audience members for being willing dupes in the grand illusion that was consumer society. “Wants do not originate in some vague realms of the consumer’s personality,” he said. “They are formed by an elaborate apparatus of jingle and fashion, of persuasion and fraud.”

In this sublime hoax, Mills argued, the designer was central. He made people “ashamed of last year’s model”; he tied “self-esteem” with the purchasing of this year’s model; and he “created a panic for status, and hence a panic of self-evaluation” that could be sated only by the “specified commodities” that he designed. This was what came to be known as “retail therapy”.

Over the years, Kenyan retailers have held tight to their old floor plans, designed primarily to maximize space utilization. However, the ever-evolving preferences of consumers are compelling supermarkets to embark on a transformational journey.

They’re transitioning into expansive, well-lit, and aesthetically pleasing spaces, all in a bid to captivate the hearts of customers and vie for a larger slice of the market.

Walk into most Kenyan supermarkets today, and you’ll notice a shift in how products are presented. Supermarkets are going the extra mile to make the shopping experience even more delightful.

Plastic trees adorn the fruit displays, massive boards guide you through the store, directing your path to groceries, and the wafting cool air conditioning in sections housing perishable goods serves as a reminder of their commitment to freshness.

As I strolled down the aisles, I couldn’t help but observe a significant change on the shelves. In areas where multinational fast-moving consumer goods giants like Proctor & Gamble and Unilever once reigned supreme, local brands were now making bold incursions.

With the overall rise in prices for most goods, my shopping habits have shifted. Nowadays, I actively seek out more economical alternatives to the same product.

Forget gold, frankincense, and myrrh

A salesperson I know shared with me that the supermarket floor is meticulously organized based on market share. A quick glance revealed that products like Pampers, which once dominated entire sections, were now sharing space with new, competitively priced alternatives.

By the time I reached the shelf, I was already open to considering alternatives. My experience had altered my perception, so when I was selecting a gift for our friends, I chose what had worked for me, all the while saving a few hundred shillings. It dawned on me that what was good for my son could be just as suitable for any newborn. Forget gold, frankincense, and myrrh – Molifix would do just fine.

It was a delightful surprise to discover that our friends also trusted the same brand. She even wondered if we had consulted her husband before making the purchase. I thought, perhaps we should have, but deep down, I knew I was on a mission to recruit others to the cost-effective brand.

She revealed that she had also started with Pampers but soon switched her allegiance when she realized how cost-effective and efficient Molfix was. The affordability of Molfix had won her over, and she acknowledged that when price becomes a critical factor, brand loyalty tends to take a back seat.

With the overall rise in prices for most goods, my shopping habits have shifted. Nowadays, I actively seek out more economical alternatives to the same product. I no longer cling to the same brand that might now cost twice as much. As long as it performs the same task effectively, I am content.

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Price now the primary selling point

Corporations, keenly tracking consumers like me who are price-conscious, and facing the challenge of declining market share, are recognizing the necessity of adaptation. In a world where price has become the primary selling point, they’re compelled to adjust. This is where the concept of “shrinkflation” steps in, offering a logical solution to maintain price points while reducing product quantity to stay above costs.

When my son was born, just about a year and a half ago, the newborn-size one used to carry just about 80 baby Pampers.  Today the same package has 66 diapers.

But the executives at P&G are not just reducing the sizes, as such they are also subtly changing the packaging to veil the Shrinkfaltion while highlighting that while a bit costlier, Pampers will actually be paying for better quality. 

Today, pampers are no longer marketing their product as the ‘number one choice of moms in the world’ but now goes as ‘double protection’ choosing to focus on its attributes like having baby lotion with olive oil and layers for ultimate absorbency to distract us from the shrinking product.

But for many like me, this has meant you either have to pay more for less or shift to cheaper sometimes lower quality brands.  Move over quality, cheaper brands are taking over.

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