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Can someone explain to me the angst people have towards smaller food packaging?

ipsedixit Nov 9, 2008 08:48 PM

Yes, I know it sucks to pay the same amount of money for a smaller box of cereal, or carton of ice cream, or jar of peanut butter.

But what's the alternative?

Would people be happier, or less peeved, if the food packaging size stayed the same but the price increased?

I'm not necessarily happy about either of these alternatives, but I've simply come to accept it as (1) part of general inflation (2) rising commodity prices (3) corporate profits and (4) a combo of all three.

Same price, smaller packaging ... "food companies are being deceptive! shame on them!"

Higher price, same packaging ... "food companies are being greedy! shame on them!"

I just don't get the angst ... esp. when the alternative isn't all that better.

  1. Richard 16 Nov 9, 2008 09:51 PM

    The packaging itself is rarely smaller, and someone used to buying a product rarely checks the amount. If the companies consistently used smaller packages it would not be as misleading.

    For recipes that have units based on, for example, "one can" it will throw off the recipe - especially for baking.

    1. Caroline1 Nov 9, 2008 10:20 PM

      I haven't noticed any reduced sized packaging. What I have noticed is regular or larger sized packaging that is as little as half full when you open it. That ticks me off! Not because of any "overcharging" (you do buy by weight or count, which is unchanged), but the extra shelf space it takes up is a pain.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Caroline1
        Bill Hunt Dec 1, 2008 04:22 PM

        Good point. Make it smaller overall, fill it to brim, list the volume, etc., and be done with it. Let's campaign for more choices within the same shelf space and not waste packaging, whether it's paper, or plastic.

        Hunt

      2. RShea78 Nov 9, 2008 10:41 PM

        ""But what's the alternative?"

        I pay for the better/larger part of a deal, whenever possible.

        Now, not always is the family/giant/bulk size item be a better deal. I mean cost per ounce can be higher in the larger form, for some odd reason. Items placed on sale or feature will generally be of a brand's general moving size. I have seen people debating in getting a large #10 can vs several other cans of the same item and have no clue of which way to go. I looked and at the time the #10 can of beans was 11 cents per oz, with the regular cans going for 7 cents a can while on sale, 9 cents was the regular price.

        I lose my cool whenever they expect me to pay beyond what I feel as reasonable for whatever the item is. Like recently Save-A-Lot started carrying barley at $2.49 a box when I can get it everyday for under $1.40. The stuff can develop shelf rot as far as I am concerned.

        1. l
          lgss Nov 10, 2008 04:32 AM

          Food packaging makes up a huge amount of the waste stream...

          1 Reply
          1. re: lgss
            lynnlato Dec 31, 2008 06:33 AM

            Yes. The trend right now seems to be packaging individual serving sizes (i.e. 100 calorie packs) in little bags in a box of 8. All that extra material for far less food. It just seems so lazy and wasteful to not take the time to put a serving size of Cheez-its in your own reuseable container.

          2. jfood Nov 10, 2008 06:51 AM

            As the saying goes, you cannot please everyone. Jfood agrees that the angst people have to payingthe same for smaller packages is understandable but the level of the vitriol seems a bit much. Companies are trying to survive and they have three choices:

            1 - keep package size the same andincrease price
            2 - shrink package size and keep the price the same
            3 - decrease the expenses associated with the contents usually by reducing quality

            Sometimes companies do more than one of these.

            Jfood also understands in these times it is important to watch every dollar and the idea that thepound of coffee is now 12 oz or the half gallon of ice cream has shrunk 12-25% is unnerving. but it's just part of life. Jfood remembers $0.05 candy bars, change back from your dollar at McD's and $0.15 bread. But times are different and everything is more expensive. Remember gasoline at $0.29 per gallon?

            The one thingthat bothers jfood is many of his recipes call for a 28oz can of something and the new size is 22 oz. Now what to do, by 2 and place most of can 2 in a container in the fridge? Sorta adds to the cost of the dish.

            And in CT/NY the grocers have not only the price for anitem but the comparable price for an item. So the can at 28 oz can be compared per ounce to the can sized at 22.8 oz. If you want to see some interesting differences look at detergent and soap for dishes, huuuuge spread.

            So is jfood happy, nope, but he does the best he can, reads the size of the container and the price per oz and then decides which to buy.

            2 Replies
            1. re: jfood
              Bill Hunt Dec 1, 2008 04:30 PM

              I do not know how large your family is (the one dining at the Jfood table most nights), but for me, I choose #2, then #1, and please, please do not even consider #3.

              Down the way, you relate to size/quantity disparities. I'm all for a pack of Johnsonville Brats containing 8, not 10 brats, to match the number of buns in a pack. I get more upset over that little disparity, than any package re-sizing. What do I do with those two extra brats? My Bulldogs are on a special diet! Still, I loose not sleep over this issue. It is, as it has been, and I've gotten by for all these years, with little damage, or even lost sleep.

              "The one thingthat bothers jfood is many of his recipes call for a 28oz can of something and the new size is 22 oz. Now what to do, by 2 and place most of can 2 in a container in the fridge? Sorta adds to the cost of the dish. "

              And he, or Mrs Jfood, buys a nice kitchen calculator. Hey, I have an old slide rule to give ya'...

              Oh, did I urge the producers to NOT choose door #3?

              Hunt

              1. re: Bill Hunt
                jfood Dec 1, 2008 06:11 PM

                Jfood is indifferent to #1 and #2 since he eats everything that comes into the house. And he agrees #3 is unacceptable.

                Jfood had that same argument with the last two hot dog rolls last week. HN and Pepperidge farm have different hot dog & bun counts. Always a WTF moment.

                And jfood did have a slide rule so he understands the concept all to well. Infact he actually used one in HS for a test. And he has a great digital scale.

                And currently there are M&M jfood in a normal dinner with me sitting between them looking for hand outs. Every Sunday night one of the little jfoods comes over with a friend to keep the jfoods young.

            2. Karl S Nov 10, 2008 07:18 AM

              The "angst", as you probably inaccurately term it, has to do with the fact that the change is designed to be stealth.

              When was the last time you saw a box of cereal that said "New! Smaller Size!"?

              Hence, what you consider angst is more properly anger.

              A price increase, however, announces itself more transparently.

              Environmentally, it's less efficient to have to buy more packages of a smaller-sized item.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Karl S
                ipsedixit Nov 10, 2008 12:39 PM

                I disagree.

                Nowhere is a company required to announce or advertise* that its product size has changed -- either bigger or smaller.

                *Of course, every box is required to state its size in terms of volume, as miniscule as it might be sometimes -- it's there nonetheless.

                1. re: ipsedixit
                  RShea78 Nov 10, 2008 01:01 PM

                  Hey, ipsedixit. I think Karl was being a bit sarcastic...

                  1. re: RShea78
                    Karl S Nov 10, 2008 04:42 PM

                    Indeed.

              2. c
                CrazyOne Nov 10, 2008 07:25 PM

                I'd rather pay the higher price for the same amount, and I don't think it's greedy of the companies. But, apparently most others think otherwise, as there is a long-standing tradition in the food industry to reduce the amounts for the same price. The difference this time is that it affects long-standing typical packaging amounts, like 1/2 gallon of ice cream. Plus, that one was done in quick succession to two different smaller sizes, first to 1.75 quarts and now to 1.5 quarts in at least some brands. And I believe there are a few 14-15oz "pints" out there as well, though the Haagen-Dazs in my freezer says "One Pint" (I just looked ;-) So, I think it's a little touchier this time than in the past. I mean, it's kinda one thing if the box of crackers drops by an ounce when you really think of it in terms of "box" and not in terms of its weight or volume. It's quite another when you think of a "half gallon" of ice cream, and the packaging is the same or similar size, and you find that it now contains less.

                How about if suddenly the price on many gas station signs was for 3/4 a gallon? How would that go over? Not well, I suspect. :-)

                1 Reply
                1. re: CrazyOne
                  RShea78 Nov 11, 2008 03:24 PM

                  ""How about if suddenly the price on many gas station signs was for 3/4 a gallon? How would that go over? Not well, I suspect. :-)""

                  A local Town store took lots of heat for changing how the Deli sold cold-cuts, several years ago.

                  The store got cute and used "price per 1/2 pound" instead of "price per pound". The Town wasn't ready for such change, as I recall, the idea came from larger city Deli's. Today that former popular Deli is history, but I believe some stores still price their pricey- high end cold cuts in 1/2 pound increments.

                2. m
                  ML8000 Nov 10, 2008 08:12 PM

                  I don't get the angst. It's really a matter of half a dozen of one, 6 of another. You're going to pay higher prices regardless. It's also been going on for a while, at least for some items.

                  Pepperidge Farms cookies has reduced the count/ozs several times over the years. When you notice it, it's like gee com'n but you get over it.

                  1. q
                    queencru Nov 11, 2008 06:55 AM

                    I think it really depends on the item. If it's an item that's typically used as an ingredient in something else, I'd rather the size stay the same. I would not be thrilled by a shrinking stick of butter, or if a quart of milk suddenly became slightly less than a quart.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: queencru
                      RShea78 Nov 11, 2008 03:41 PM

                      My sister had a disaster when she got some imported pasta that was mistaken for a pound. (It was a metric size that was a bit over 17or 18oz, but I do not know the exact measure) Her baked dish then didn't have enough liquid content so it came out somewhat crunchy in the double recipe.

                    2. coney with everything Nov 13, 2008 04:53 AM

                      I understand the need for price increases one way or the other, but when the package size is the same with less product, it smacks of deception.

                      And jfood makes a good point--recipes call for x amount of an ingredient based upon the original package size. You either must attempt to reduce other ingredients to compensate for a lesser amount of the repackaged ingredient (obviously this would depend on what you're making whether it would make a big difference) or buy a second package and have leftovers.

                      1. r
                        ricepad Nov 13, 2008 06:32 AM

                        I wouldn't mind paying more for the original size package. Neither would I mind paying the original price for a smaller package. What cheeses me off is when the package APPEARS to be the original size, but is actually smaller...like the peanut butter jars with a huge punt in them. Come on...PB doesn't need a punt. They're just being deceptive in their packaging, hoping the consumer wouldn't notice. Well, I *did* notice, so I bought another brand - a brand where the jar didn't have a punt.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: ricepad
                          m
                          mordacity Dec 31, 2008 06:17 AM

                          What's a punt?

                          1. re: mordacity
                            a
                            adamshoe Dec 31, 2008 07:42 AM

                            It's that indentation at the bottom of a wine bottle or other vessel. It's usually used for champagne to help "strengthen" the bottle so it doesn't explode. Adam

                        2. Bill Hunt Dec 1, 2008 04:20 PM

                          I feel that it is basically something else for people to complain about. Personally, I like smaller packages, as it's usually just the wife and me dining. Large packages go to waste. That's why I buy very little food at Costco. What couple needs a 55 gal. drum of Dijon mustard?

                          The other part of this equation is that the news media has focused on this, to show "consumer outrage." I'm not sure there is much "outrage." OK, so NBC finds four people, tell them that the size of familiar food packages have been reduced and then record their reactions. It finds a common ground with many consumers. "The big corporations are charging us the same, but giving us less... " Again, all of victims come forth and write their newspapers, or e-mail the consumer reporter of their favorite TV station.

                          To me, it's pretty much a non-issue. The newer packaging offers me a better option. I'd rather have that, than a price increase on a large bag/box, etc.

                          Obviously personal thoughts and perspective, and others might have differing opinions.

                          Recently, I watched a TV news panel discussing the US economy. There was a moderator, who was an "anchor-type," while the panel members were contributors to that network. The issue posed was "consumer confidence down, why?" After a lot of discussion on various reasons, the moderator interjected, "do you think that our broadcasting of how BAD everything is, 24 hours a day, might have some weight on this?" The panel fell into silence and the TD had to cut to a commercial. If Oprah tells us it's bad, we believe it and boycott the food products producers with signs and rants.

                          Hunt

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                            1sweetpea Dec 5, 2008 11:40 AM

                            I sighed, but accepted it when my boyfriend's fave healthy cereal sized down its box yet kept the price the same. Last week, I noticed that the box art had changed. This is going to require me to "out" the product, but what the hell. The previous box read: "Nature's Path Organic Optimum Power Cereal". Underneath the title was the following: "Flax-Soy-Blueberry". The new box carries a small print message at the top which reads: "New Look! Same Great Optimum Power Taste!", yet consider the new information and title: "Nature's Path Organic Optimum". Underneath the altered title is the following: "Blueberry Cinnamon". The ingredients haven't changed, but clearly the contents have. Some ingredients have moved up or down the list, meaning that the composition of this cereal has changed. Additionally, the serving size weight measurement has remained the same, but the volume measurement has changed, as have the calorie count, fat content, sodium content, sugar content, protein content, carb content and most importantly, fibre content. I realize that this is most likely a cost cutting measure, but using the serving size weight measurement, which hasn't changed, the per-serving fibre content of this cereal has dropped from 12g to 7g. This, to me, is an outrage. We pay extra for this cereal because it is (or was) so packed with goodness (flax, blueberries, wheat bran, kamut, soy, oat bran, etc. While 7g of fibre is nothing to sneeze at, what happened to the other 5g? They didn't get scrapped because the consumers were getting the runs from so much fibre in one bowl, that's for sure. They got the axe because they are costly ingredients. I can't believe this company has sacrificed both quality and health benefits just to keep the price down. I'd rather pay an extra dollar per box to have the original formula and not be subject to outright falsehoods printed on the packaging to snow me into thinking I'm getting the "Same Great Optimum Power Taste!". There's a reason that the title no longer contains the word "Power". It's NOT the same cereal. Needless to say, we're pissed about this. We don't like being deliberately misled. We also don't like being ripped off, which is what I see happening in this case. I'm not a cereal eater. I don't care for it, but I have to say, this particular item was quite tasty, which is a feat for something so healthy. It won't be easy to find something that is comparable to the previous incarnation. I suspect that he'll stop using this product as soon as he runs out. Sour grapes will prevent him from choosing another product from the company. Was it worth it for them to change the cereal vs. raising the price? In our case, absolutely not!

                            1. re: 1sweetpea
                              Bill Hunt Dec 30, 2008 06:50 PM

                              1sweetpea,

                              I think we will see more, rather than less, of this, as certain ingredients begin to cost more. Not sure what a producer would be better off doing - down-scaling, managing ingredients, or charging more. Tough call for the product managers.

                              For me, I'd say keep the premium ingredients and charge me what it costs. With regards to size, I find that for a family of two, many sizes are a bit large to begin with, but that is just me. If I had a couple of teenagers, I'd probably be buying the 35 gal. drums of stuff from Costco. You know, the ones that come with their own handtruck.

                              What I hate is when we find a great product, that satisfies us completely and it disappears from the face of the Earth. Thank goodness for the Internet, as we can often find the producer and just order the product in, because no retailer carries it any longer. Just ordered a case of a particular salsa, because Phoenix no longer handles it in any retailer within 50 miles of us. Sign of the times. All retailers will have 1,000 jars of Pace salsa, but not the producer that we love - shelf space, I guess.

                              Hunt

                              1. re: Bill Hunt
                                saltwater Dec 30, 2008 08:09 PM

                                "What I hate is when we find a great product, that satisfies us completely and it disappears from the face of the Earth."

                                Oh, exactly! You find the perfect frozen dinner for when you too sick to cook and poof! one day the package boldly announces "Now with more chicken!" Those little words seem so innocuous as they pronounce doom upon your happiness. The product has been re-engineered to please someone other than yourself. (It was cheaper chicken, of course.)

                                Barilla just got me within the last few months or so by making their wonderful linguine to cook in a shorter amount of time. They accomplished this by making it thinner, and hence it is no longer the perfect size. Perhaps now it matches the boxes of Prince and whatnot on the shelves next to it, but I am left with tears in my mushroom pasta (linguine with mushroom sauce).

                                1. re: saltwater
                                  Bill Hunt Dec 31, 2008 04:23 PM

                                  Most of my inferences, it was less a "new & improved," and more a total loss of the product in my market. Thanks to the Internet.

                                  While I attempt to support the local purveyor, it's been all too common for us. Then, I go to the Internet and order a case.

                                  I do hate the meddeling with a proven recipe though. If it's been good, then keep it. If you wish to introduce a variation, make it separate. If I like the new, I'll buy it, but please, please do not discontinue the old. Maybe we're just not atuned to the "latest, greatest... " and enjoy what we enjoy.

                                  I hate when a producer messes with perfection in my eyes, like the linguine.

                                  Good call,

                                  Hunt

                          2. m
                            mpjmph Dec 5, 2008 12:03 PM

                            I have to agree with others who say it's the deceptive nature of packaging changes that irks me. I don't mind paying more for a product when changes in the market warrant it. I do not like the methods of marketers when they try to pull the wool over our eyes, downsizing packages in less-than-obvious ways. I can't tell you exactly how many ounces are in a bag of chips or a jar of mayonnaise, so I most definitely won't notice when the size changes by an ounce or two.

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