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Same Price for Less Food?: The Secrets the Food Companies are Keeping from You

By , Posted on Apr 14, 2011

The current state of the economy is difficult enough, but paying more and getting less doesn’t help, especially when it comes to putting food on the table. Lately, the amount of food consumers are getting for the price they are paying just isn’t adding up.

Chip companies are sending out bags with about 20 percent less product than what was packaged in 2009. (The spokesperson for the company said that the extra 20 percent was just a “limited time offer.”) This trend can also be seen walking down the pasta aisle. This quick and easy dinner option used to be sold at 16 ounces per box and is now weighing in at 13.25 ounces per box. The same can be said for canned vegetables which also used to weigh in at 16 ounces a can and can now be found weighing as low as 13 ounces. This list goes on and on and ranges from canned tuna to sugar.

But how are companies getting away with charging the same prices for less food?

According to The New York Times and John T. Gourville, a marketing professor at the Harvard Business School, it’s all about the packaging.

“Consumers are generally more sensitive to changes in prices than to changes in quantity. Companies try to do it in such a way that you don’t notice, maybe keeping the height and width the same, but changing the depth so the silhouette of the package on the shelf looks the same. Or sometimes they add more air to the chips bag or a scoop in the bottom of the peanut butter jar so it looks the same size,” said Gourville.

One example of this would be the new “fresh packs” of crackers. Though the box shows stacks of crackers that are broken down and packaged into several groups so they stay fresh for longer, the packs are actually a marketing ploy to give you less food…a whopping 15 percent less!

Another excuse companies use is that they are trying to make their products “greener.” Procter and Gamble is using this method stating that it’s “using at least 15 percent less energy, water or packaging than the standard [size].” What they fail to mention is that if there’s less packaging, there is less product.

No matter what the companies say to try and excuse their products, now is the time to be more observant than ever. Make sure to closely examine the labels on items before sticking them in your cart. Also try to avoid grabbing the newer packages. Though the packaging may state all the qualities that make it better, the standard container is likely to have more product.

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