The Case of the Missing Food

My kids love granola bars.

And not the good for you ones either. The sugary, chocolaty ones that are probably more like a candy bar than granola bar.  But, it’s quick, it’s easy, and it gets them going in the morning. So for at least the past two years they have started pretty much each day with the store brand “GB” as we call them.  When I opened up the new box this morning, I was amazed at how much smaller they had become.  The box was the same, the packaging was the same, but these things are downright tiny now.

Shrinking products to manage costs is nothing new. We inherently know that when times are tough, things get smaller, even if the packaging remains virtually the same. Fortune even did an article on this not that long ago tracking the relative size of toilet paper rolls against the price of paper. Not surprisingly, rolls got shorter, narrower, or less dense as the price of paper went up. And I can’t remember the last time I saw a full half gallon of ice cream on the shelves. First it went to 1.75 quarts and now it’s an even 1.5.

So why should we care that my kids are getting hosed out of an inch of granola bar or if “half-gallon” now means “1.5 quarts?”

Because it’s starting to feel like an epidemic.  Quick, make a list of things right off the top of your head that you know are smaller today than they were 2 years ago.

I bet you got to 10 without even trying.

As marketers we are setting a pretty dangerous precedent by keeping prices level while reducing content.  (And it’s not just food stuffs either.) How long before the packaging team realizes that they are making the boxes too big and the packaging too long and resize the package to save needless costs?  Then we will just be left with something that both looks and IS smaller for the same price.

In the end, less for the same equals reduced purchasing power, which sounds an awful lot like inflation. It’s the insidious, unreported kind that people can’t plan for and doesn’t get accounted for in any economic model, or health indicator.

Which will lead to trust issues. I actually feel worse that I am getting less for the same without being told. In today’s hyper-competitive market, I will probably start to eschew brands that are trying to put one over on me.  Just tell me that you had to make things smaller, or just increase the price, I would rather know up front.

So my kids granola bars are smaller, but at least I can still buy a pound of coffee at the store right?

Oh, wait…


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