Food manufacturers shrink product containers instead of raising prices
LONDON If your jar of Skippy seemed to dissipate a bit faster than usual and your weekly peanut butter sandwich intake hasn’t faced any major increases, you’re not crazy. Skippy, as well as various other food product manufacturers, has cut back its container size and weight while still maintaining the original look of the packaging.
The bottoms of Skippy jars now contain an inconspicuous dimple that accounts for a 10 percent decrease in peanut butter, and many shopper are feeling deceived into believing they are purchasing the same amount of peanut butter for the same price as the old. The jar, once 18 ounces and now 16.3, is the result of what Skippy and other manufacturers are saying is the only solution to the rising food and gas prices.
Unilever, which produces Skippy, also manufactures Breyers ice cream and has similarly cut back on the amount of its product per package. What used to be a container 1.75 quarts full of ice cream has now been reduced to 1.5, and competitor Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream did the same. Ice cream makers had been facing skyrocketing costs in milk, cocoa, sweeteners and energy. “We looked at raising prices to cover these costs, but at some point it just doesn’t make sense to raise prices too high … The ongoing feedback from our customers it that they aren’t ready to pay $7 or more for a carton of ice cream.
Though this change in weight is stated on the product, it oftentimes goes unnoticed because the packaging looks the same and shoppers don’t realize anything is different about the product. Manufacturers are making very subtle changes, thus creating “the illusion that you are buying the same amount,” explained Frank Luby, a pricing consultant with Simon-Kucher & Partners of Cambridge, Mass. Kellogg Co. has cut back on the weight of its Cocoa Krispies, Corn Pops, Apple Jacks, Fruit Loops and Honey Smacks. Dial has eliminated .5 ounces of its soap but maintained the package’s size to appear the same as its old product. Quilted Northern has cut half an inch off the width of its Ultra Plush toilet paper, and a Hershey’s chocolate bar is now 6.8 ounces from 8 ounces.
Consumer snack trends moving more towards healthful options
CHICAGO Consumers may be watching their pocketbooks, but their snack preferences still are trending toward the more healthful options.
A recent visit to one Walgreens location proves that retailers are getting the message. While promotions were plentiful in the store, healthful snacks were the highlight. On an endcap near the front entrance, Corazona’s Heart Healthy chips and Polar and Dole brand fruit cups were merchandised together. In the store’s Cafe W area, nuts were a big part of the mix. Frito-Lay’s new TrueNorth trial size nut clusters were being promoted on an aisle wing for 69 cents. Private-label dried fruits and trail mixes shared space with Odwalla bars and 100-calorie packs from Nabisco near the fountain drinks and coffee dispensers.
Walgreens’ mix is proof that while retailers scramble to offer consumers more value, they can’t lose sight of what consumers have been telling them they want from food.
At the Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting held this summer, new-product experts from Mintel International told attendees that consumers want products that have sustainability and inherent goodness of ingredients. They also want healthful choices for their kids.
“What’s in the products is important. Consumers don’t want them to be fortified with anything,” said Lynn Dornblaser, a new-product expert from Mintel. “There are more products being made with whole grains, such as Frito-Lay’s SunChips, General Mills Fiber One cereal bars and Nabisco’s Garden Harvest toasted chips. We’ll be seeing more of that.”
Nuts continue to be a strong category with dollar sales up 10 percent for the 52 weeks ended Sept. 7, according to Information Resources Inc. Sensing opportunity in the category, Frito-Lay recently launched TrueNorth, a line of 100 percent natural nut crisps, crunches and clusters that provide five grams of protein in every one-ounce serving. Frito-Lay executives said the brand will break new ground in a category that has provided “limited options” for consumers. Diamond Foods also recently added two new products: roasted almonds and sea salt, and pepper cashews.
Manufacturers are highlighting fruit and vegetable snacks, as well as protein-rich options. “Manufacturers are finding new ways of incorporating a serving of fruit and vegetables into the consumer’s diet,” Mintel’s Dornblaser said. “There are a lot of interesting examples of products for kids with labeling that clearly says the product contains real fruit or vegetables. It sends the right message to kids.”
Clif Kid Organic Twisted Fruit Real Fruit Rope, made with real fruit puree and fruit juice, is one good example. While not a substitute for fresh fruit, the product is equivalent to one serving of fruit. Mintel’s presentation of new products at the IFT meeting also mentioned Chewits Truly Smoothy Crazy Animals fruit gums, from a United Kingdom company. Taste tester attendees rated the product, which contains real juice and 30 percent less sugar than similar products, as their favorite new product in the healthful food for kid’s category. “That’s one concept that could translate well to the U.S. market,” Dornblaser said. “We don’t see many gummy products that contain real fruit. There could be a lot of opportunity here.” Another brand of 100 percent natural fruit snacks, Stretch Island Fruit Co.’s FruitaBu organic “smooshed” fruit flats and fruit twirls, already is carried in some supermarkets.
Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp. recently introduced Let’s Grow!, a line of nutritious toddler meals and snacks backed with the company’s “No Junk Promise.” All 19 products in the line are all-natural with added vitamins and minerals, and are made with real fruits and vegetables. They contain no artificial flavors, colors, MSG, trans fats or refined sugar or preservatives.
“Moms are looking for healthful meals and snacks that they can feel good about feeding to their toddlers,” said Steve Hungsberg, director of marketing at Beech-Nut. “That’s why all Let’s Grow! products come with a no-junk promise that says we have taken out what moms don’t want and put in what they do.”
Toys ‘R’ Us recently featured several snacks from the line on a front endcap near the registers. Let’s Grow! Fruit Nibbles, Yogurt Nibbles in strawberry/banana, berries and cherries and tropical fruit, and Seven-Grain Nibbles in mixed vegetable and sweet potato flavors were among the products featured.
New research attempts to add cancer-fighting antioxidant to beer
HOUSTON In a few months, beer may be just as beneficial for you as red wine. Scientists at Rice University in Houston are currently working on new research with Texas-based Saint Arnold Brewing Company to add the antioxidant resveratrol to the yeast in beer.
Resveratrol is known as the cancer-fighting antioxidant found under grape skins and, therefore, also found in red wine. Jonathan Silberg, one of the researchers involved, said the researchers and Saint Arnold Brewing Company are attempting to synthesize resveratrol from the amino acid tyrosine. Researchers hope to have evidence within a few months to support that resveratrol can be formed in beer during the fermentation process.
A California study has discovered that low doses of freeze-dried grape powder could prevent colorectal cancer because of its high concentration of resveratrol. Scientists have also found anti-inflammatory and other cardiovascular effects, as well as the ability of the chemical to lower blood sugar in rats. Though experts assert that people should drink in moderation, resveratrol has enough healthful benefits that more people should consider including resveratrol-added food to their diet.