Food packages keep shrinking
Congress overrides farm bill veto
Tyson sues USDA over labeling controversy
French retailer uses carbon labeling
Kellogg puts cereals in pouches
Hershey gives promo the gas


Food packages keep shrinking

by Pan Demetrakakes
Executive Editor


“Downsizing” of food products is continuing apace, with mainstream food processors like Frito-Lay, Kellogg and Nestlé joining or continuing the practice.

Downsizing in this context refers to reducing the amount of product in a package while charging the same amount for it. It’s a way to increase the price of food without raising the cost of a package-a gambit that food companies hope will go down easier with consumers than a per-package price increase.

Lynn Dornblaser, a new-products expert with Mintel, told USA Today that in a recent supermarket tour, about 10% of the products she examined seemed to have shrunk in size while maintaining the same price. Examples include:

• Frito-Lay cut some bags of chips from 12 ounces to 10, keeping the same price on most of them (although raising the price of some).

• Unilever cut its Hellmann’s mayonnaise from 32 ounces to 30.

• General Mills is putting up to 1.5 ounces less cereal in boxes of Cheerios and Wheaties.

• Kellogg has reduced some cereal packages by an average of 2.4 ounces.

• Dreyer’s and Edy’s ice cream, produced by Nestlé, are among several major ice cream manufacturers that have shrunk standard sizes from 1.75 to 1.5 quarts.

Dreyer’s received several thousand complaints and drafted a standardized response that says in part, “We felt it was better to openly reduce the package size than to take the price of the package up and make ice cream unaffordable.”

At least one company is trying to take advantage of this situation. Blue Bell Ice Cream, the No. 3 branded ice cream in the United States, started airing TV spots last week tweaking its rivals for downsizing. The commercial, produced by agency Roger Christian & Company, shows people trying to cope with “downsized” rulers, shoes and TVs, and ends with the voiceover, “Don’t be a pint short of a half-gallon. Take home all you pay for.”

TOP DEVELOPMENTS

Congress overrides farm bill veto
President Bush’s veto of a $290 billion farm bill was overridden by Congress last week. The bill will enforce country-of-origin labeling laws and maintain ethanol subsidies, which will increase the supply of ethanol-and, potentially, the price of corn. Bush’s veto was overridden in May, but Congress needed to override it again because several pages were mistakenly missing from the copy of the bill that the White House received.

Tyson sues USDA over labeling controversy
Tyson Foods has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), claiming itself a victim of a flawed regulatory process. Tyson voluntarily removed its “raised without antibiotics” chicken label in May amid accusations that the company uses antibiotics in chickens several days before hatching. The USDA allowed the company to use the label again, but soon afterward reversed itself and restricted Tyson from using the labeling.

French retailer uses carbon labeling
Color-coded carbon labeling is being put on selected products of French retailer Casino’s private label. The color scheme tells the amount of carbon dioxide emitted in both the manufacturing of a product’s packaging and its transportation, along with the proportion of packaging that can be recycled. Casino hopes to carbon-label 3,000 of its private label products by the end of 2008.

NEW PACKAGES

Kellogg puts cereals in pouches
Several of Kellogg Co.’s most popular cereals are now available in easy-open single-serve flexible packaging. Grab ‘n Go Packs were introduced for Froot Loops and Corn Pops in January, and for Frosted Flakes in June. The pouches come eight to a paperboard carton and feature a tear strip along the top for easy opening. The carton touts the pouches’ serving size of 80 calories.








Hershey gives promo the gas
In a sign of the times, The Hershey Co. is using wrappers for two of its candy bars as a vehicle for a sweepstakes that gives away gasoline. Labels for PayDay and Skor bars tout a “Cash 4 Gas” promotion with a logo that features a stylized gas gauge. Consumers can check the inside of the wrapper to see if they’re one of 50 winners of the grand prize, a year’s worth of gas up to $2,340. Other winners will get $45 worth of gas.