Less is more

July 1, 2008

It might seem like those high food prices haven’t arrived at the supermarket yet, but they’re really starting to. You’re getting less, which is the same as paying more:

American supermarkets are epics of excess: it often seems like every item in the store comes in a “Jumbo” size or has “Bonus!” splashed across the label. But is it possible that the amount of food Americans are buying is, in fact… shrinking? Well, yes. Soaring commodity and fuel prices are driving up costs for manufacturers; faced with a choice between raising prices (which consumers would surely notice) or quietly putting fewer ounces in the bag, carton or cup (which they generally don’t) manufacturers are choosing the latter. This month, Kellogg’s started shipping Apple Jacks, Cocoa Krispies, Corn Pops, Froot Loops and Honey Smacks containing an average of 2.4 fewer ounces per box.

Similar reductions have recently happened or are on the horizon for many other products: Tropicana orange juice containers are shrinking from 96 ounces to 89; Wrigley’s is dropping its the 17-stick PlenTPak in favor of the 15-stick Slim Pack; Dial soap bars now weigh half an ounce less, and that’s even before they melt in the shower. Containers of Country Crock spread, Hellmann‘s mayonnaise and Edy’s and Breyer’s ice cream have all slimmed down as well (although that may not necessarily be a bad thing).

This is OK by me; seems like a reasonable response, as long as the labels aren’t misleading. As someone who tries to shop for one, I find the portions and sizes out there appallingly huge. I usually end up buying something meant for a family of four and breaking it down into smaller units. Some of the stuff spoils before I can eat it all, and I’m sick and tired of the rest by the time it’s all gone. That’s one of the downsides of living in such a family-friendly town. Everything is geared toward those damn families.

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3 Responses to “Less is more”

  1. Bob G. Says:

    Got that right, Leo…

    The SAME 3 grocery bags that USED to cost $40 to fill are now about $56 (and change).

    B.G.

  2. Harl Delos Says:

    Don’t you have a deep-freeze, Leo? They can pay for themselves in a couple of months, in food savings.

    We buy most of our food at dent-and-bang stores, and most of the rest when it’s on sale. When it’s cheap, we buy a LOT, and freeze it. There was a dent-and-bang store open on Thursday mornings when I lived in Milan Center; I assume it’s still there. Head out highway 37, and hang a left on Graber Road – that’s a couple of miles before you get to Cuba. It’s about 2-3 miles down Graber road, on the left. No signs, but there should be a million cars parked there.

    Smaller packages don’t hurt, but some manufacturers are going to cut quality. In the late 1960s, Ralph Nader was blathering about hot dogs and baloney, and most manufacturers tried to keep the price the same by replacing organ meats with cereal. The dogs didn’t taste very good, and sales really dropped.

    One company that *didn’t* do that was Eckrich – which really helped them. Of course, when the idiots at Swift took over Eckrich, they replaced good meat with highly-seasoned turkey, and built a new factory with unskilled labor, so the meat didn’t stay fresh as long (funny thing about sanitation – it affects how the food tastes) so things went to the devil anyway.

    They did the same thing with ice cream. Back in the 1960s, everyone was trying to boost sales by cheapening the product, and instead, sales tanked. Suddenly, someone started making ice cream worth eating, and people started buying ice cream again.

    It’s amazing how stupid consumers are, that they refuse to buy cheap food, simply because they’re crappy products. The marketing geniuses need to work harder to edumacate (as Dubya would put it) the consumer.

  3. tim zank Says:

    “edumacate (as Dubya would put it) the consumer.”

    I think you can attribute “edumacate” to Ebonics, not the President.


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