Higher Prices or Smaller Packages, What is Worse?

Earlier this week I visited my local Kmart to pick up some Nutripals bars for my 3 year old. they are a new item there and are on special sale for 2.99. I was very happy to pay this price, as the cheapest I usually find them is $3.94 at Walmart. The next day I opened up one of them to give to my son only to notice that this bar was noticeably smaller than what I remembered. I still had an old box so I compared and the old bar weighed 1.41 ounces while the new bar only weighs 0.78 of an ounce. That’s almost half the size and their price didn’t drop as much.

Unfortunately, this is just another telling tale of the times. Almost every food company is turning to smaller sizes in order to control prices while keeping their customers happy. This CNN article that appeared Wednesday has specific examples of food packages dropping in size. This Food trade magazine has even more examples.

However, this article shows that people do not want to see smaller packages but are willing to pay more since larger sizes translate into cheaper unit costs. As a customer I feel deceived that food companies are trying to “slip this one” by me. I am afraid that in the end in an effort to maintain sales manufacturers may be creating ill-will.

What can you do to cope with shrinking package sizes?

  • Keep a price book: besides being an important tool for tracking sales and figuring out your stock up points, a price book can help you calculate unit prices to make sure you are still getting a good deal.
  • Be aware: be on the lookout for products that are promoting a “new look” or “streamlined/better” packaging. A new look could mean less product.
  • Take advantage of the situation: expect to find older packages on clearance at stores. Manufacturers and store owners want to see old packaging out of their stores before the new packaging hits the shelves. Stock up on the items that you can.

As a consumer what do you think works better for you? a smaller package or higher prices? What do you think you are more receptive to?

For more frugal ideas head to Crystal’s Blog.

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Comments

  • Jennifer

    It is hard to say that they have shrunk their size, if this is the first time you bought it at Kmart. I have found that when I shop at places like Kmart, Target and Walmart the packaging sizes and the sizing of the product is just different than that in a regular grocery store. Just like shopping at Sams club means I am getting different sizes of packaging and things. The companies just make it virtually impossible to compare because the price of an 8 pack at my grocery store is very different than the 6 pack at Walmart. I think I am getting a better deal at walmart, but I am getting less, it is hard to compare. I hate it when companies reduce their sizes, which happens almost every week here on something. But I wonder if it is just what they are doing for what they sell at Kmart?

  • Jenny’s Vegcafe

    I noticed the same thing with 2 litres of pepsi the last time I bought soda. They were filled about two or three inches away from the cap. Is it still a 2 litre if there isn’t 2 litres of beverage in there?
    I probably won’t be buying those again unless they are dirt cheap.

  • Jenny’s Vegcafe

    I noticed the same thing with 2 litres of pepsi the last time I bought soda. They were filled about two or three inches away from the cap. Is it still a 2 litre if there isn’t 2 litres of beverage in there?
    I probably won’t be buying those again unless they are dirt cheap.

  • Jenny’s Vegcafe

    I noticed the same thing with 2 litres of pepsi the last time I bought soda. They were filled about two or three inches away from the cap. Is it still a 2 litre if there isn’t 2 litres of beverage in there?
    I probably won’t be buying those again unless they are dirt cheap.

  • Lynn

    I think I would rather pay a little more for the same size. I agree it seems a little dishonest to keep shrinking the sizes of items.

  • Marly

    I just found your blog, thanks to Money Saving Mom, and I love it! Thanks!

    Regarding NutriPals bars… the best deal I’ve found is to buy them at Walgreens – stacking a $2/1 from the Walgreens Coloring Book, and a $1/1 from the EasySaver Catalog. It gets them down to less than $1 a box where I am.

    Unfortunately, they carry the smaller size now.

  • lizzykristine @ Uplifted Eyes

    Maybe it is just me, but I think there are way less MnmM’s in a package than when I was a kid. 🙂

    I’ve definitely noticed the higher price or small item trend. Yikes!

  • Andrea Reynolds

    While this article really ticks me off (at the companies, not you :)) I’m really glad you mentioned the Nutri Pals in particular. I thought I was going crazy -they seemed sooo much smaller than before, but the count was the same, so I thought I must be remembering wrong! Just one more thing…. 🙁

  • sarah

    While I do think that the way many companies have gone about switching to smaller packaging is deceiving, I do like the idea.

    A majority of Americans (myself included) could stand to eat a lot less. When eating packaged foods (ie granola bars, etc), I typically end up eating the entire package – even if I hadn’t intended to.

    So, seemingly bad motives and execution, but in the long run probably better for consumers’ health

  • BusyMom

    I agree with Sarah on the individually packed servings like granola bars, but for things that you buy in “bulk” like rice, peanut butter, cereal, etc., I’m not happy about it.

    I wrote a post about this a while back when I noticed smaller rolls of toilet paper – the fixed width holders had new plastic adaptors to make the roll fit. http://abusymomoftwo.blogspot.com/2008/07/downsizing-of-everything.html

    I’ve always been a proponent of unit pricing comparison, but not all stores post it, which makes shopping “longer” because you have to calculate on your own.

  • dicity

    I’ve noticed this too.

    8 lb bags of potatoes instead of 10.

    1/2 gallon containers of ice cream aren’t 1/2 gallon any more.

    Grrr. This irritates me. The manufacturers don’t expect us to notice and a lot of folks don’t.

    When I see it, I just don’t buy it, or buy another brand that hasn’t reduced their size.

    I hadn’t noticed the bars items ’cause I just don’t buy them.

    I agree it makes it hard to compare.

  • Sean

    Busymom’s first paragraph sums it up for me (includes some thoughts from Sarah). It is not ALL bad. This is great for people who want reasonable single serving sizes. But inefficient packaging for bulk food is annoying.

  • Anonymous

    I think some of you are missing the point. If you are discussing the potential personal health benefit of eating smaller sized and packaged food, then, sure that has merit, but this is about paying the same direct cost for less product. If you want smaller for healthier, and you are getting less in the box, then your cost should be less as well. If you would rather pay more and get less, those companies love you!
    If your active, healthy, child (or even adult)was eating a 1 and half ounce bar to sustain them, now they will have to eat 2. Which just means in the end you will end up having to spend more of your hard earned money to feed your family the same amount.

  • Anonymous

    I noticed this as well! The bars went from 1.41 oz to .78 oz and at Target the price was the same. I was ticked off when I opened the package today and the bars were 1/2 the size. I plan to write Abbott and complain. >:)(