Wednesday, March 30, 2011

smidgie size me

I recently read an article in The New York Times about the shrinking size of food packages, an alternative for the food companies who don't want to raise the cost of the items we buy at the grocery store but are facing higher commodity prices for the materials they use to make and transport those items. This is nothing new. From a 2008 Times article,
Soaring commodity and fuel prices are driving up costs for manufacturers; faced with a choice between raising prices (which consumers would surely notice) or quietly putting fewer ounces in the bag, carton or cup (which they generally don't) manufacturers are choosing the latter. You can read the rest of that article here.
The newer article though sounds different to me. Maybe it's the tone.
“For indulgences like ice cream, chocolate and potato chips, consumers may say ‘I don’t mind getting a little bit less because I shouldn’t be consuming so much anyway,’ ” said Professor Gourville.
Yeah, that's right. We should be eating less. Remember when Wendy's "downsized"? That was a little different.
Wendy's is doing away with the 'Biggie' drink size and returning to the terms everybody else uses: small, medium and large.

The difference is, though, that Wendy's is increasing the size of all their drinks. What was medium is now a small, etc. So now, small is a 20 ounce drink, medium is 32 ounces and a new 42 ounce size is a called a large. I'll say! 42 ounces is 1.2 liters (or 5 1/4 cups... a third of gallon). Wendy's will still sell a 16 ounce drink on its 99 cent value menu. (link)
Talk about spin. See the processed food companies are in a pickle. They need Americans to feel like they are getting what they are used to which is a lot- often too much- food per item or serving size but the cost of cheap food is going up. The quandary, how to delicately address the needs of the American psyche and it's warped relationship with food and still make a profit.

I remember learning that in undeveloped nations the processed foods are often packaged in single serving sizes because that is what most citizens can afford. In the poorer sections of the town where I live the convenience stores sell single cigarettes. Maybe that's where we're headed with food. Unable to afford 'Biggie-Sized' any longer but mentally and emotionally unable to give up crap food we will dole out a few coins for the 'Smidgie-Sized' portions and blame it on the fact that we are an overweight nation.

Some Serving Size History

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