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Food manufacturers sell less to survive

Tuesday - 3/29/2011, 8:55am  ET

AP: 53b626ac-a06b-4ad7-89d6-0b7e0b30f3e3
Cereal boxes are getting skinnier. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Evan Haning,

UNDATED - When money is tight, you try to buy less, and food makers are trying to stay afloat by selling less.

Frito-Lay's 2011 Super Bowl commercials for Doritos may have raised some eyebrows, but viewers might have been even more shocked had they known that bags held 20 percent fewer chips the year the Steelers lost than in 2009, the year Pittsburgh won.

The rising cost of energy and raw materials has forced companies to either raise prices or reduce quantities in the products they sell.

Shoppers notice increases in price more than decreases in product volume, John T. Gourville, a marketing professor at Harvard Business School tells The New York Times.

Shrinking the depth of boxes while keeping the height and width the same is one unobtrusive way of reducing volume, as are adding more air to bags of chips or building a convex scoop to the bottom of a jar.

More consumers may be checking labels for nutrition data, but not necessarily for quantity.

When Chock Full o' Nuts replaced its 1-pound product with a 13-ounce tin, consumers were shocked, The New York Times reports.

Now 4-pound bags of sugar are showing up on shelves, along with 13.25-ounce whole wheat pasta, downsized from 16-ounces, and 5-ounce cans of tuna.

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