Little things mean a lot (or The Amazing Shrinking Package)

Several products have come out in the last several months in scaled-down versions, in a faux-altruistic attempt to curb the obesity epidemic that has been the flavor-of-the-month topic.

Ever since Morgan Spurlock’s video diary Supersize Me made overeating newsworthy (not to mention disgusting), food manufacturers have been looking for ways to have their cake by cutting the customers’ in half (at least).

Hostess, Nabisco, Frito Lay and others have come out with 100 calories versions of the product in snazzy, if tiny packaging. At the moment I can’t remember which company it was (I’m thinking sugar-free Jello), but one of their ad campaigns showed how small 60 calories-worth of snack foods — candy bars, ice cream — were. Similarly, a popcorn company (OR?) compared the volume of their low-fat/low-cal micorwave product to other, less-filling snack foods.

Of course, what they don’t tell you is that you pay more for less. Forget about the ice cream companies that no longer sell half gallons (although the containers look almost identical). What’s almost as bad is that these mini-products come with additional packaging, creating an extra burden on the environment.

An article in the July 7 edition of The New York Times reported, among other things, that:

  •  sales of 100-calorie packs of crackers, chips, cookies and candy have passed the $20-million-a-year mark
  •  Hershey plans to offer 100-calorie bags of Twizzlers, and Nabisco will sell two new cookies, Alpha-Bits and Animals Choco Crackers, in 100-calorie packs.
  • The smaller sizes “are about 20 percent more profitable than larger packages.”
  • “Consumers do not seem to mind paying more even though they are getting fewer Goldfish.” Oh yeh? Says who?

”If they felt duped, they wouldn’t buy it,” the Times quotes one industry insider as saying. I don’t think that’s true. I think people, especially the demographic formerly known as “yuppies” (there must be some new label by now) is just plain lazy, for all their good thoughts about the environment. They could accomplish the same goal, for less money, by buying regular-sized packages and dividing them into their own, reusable containers. The article fails to address this issue.

”People like to think, ‘Oh, this is healthy, it’s only 100 calories,”’ said Lisa Young, author of ”The Portion Teller Plan,” a book on portion control. ”A single portion of junk food is better than a large portion of junk food, but it’s not better than an apple, a peach or a vegetable.”

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