It is out there for everyone to see: whether it is sodas, ice cream or candy, an increasing number of major brands has released smaller packaging. There is a double intended goal: to reduce the amount of calories and to get better margins.
Smaller bottles of soda
Recently, the Wall Street Journal noted that the sale of all larger Coca-Cola and Pepsi items was lagging behind in the United States. Consumers buy smaller packages more often even though they are more expensive per liter. Coca-Cola for instance noted a 15% sales increase for its smaller units in the United States. More than half of Coca Cola's local sales volume consists of packages smaller than 50 cl, according to Coca-Cola Belgium's web site.
Convenience and demographic evolution spray part, but there is more. Smaller bottles are an excellent way to control your intake. This means consumers can enjoy their favorite beverage is without an overwhelming sensation of guilt.
We see a similar trend with ice cream for example. For instance, Unilever has decided to limit the calorie level of every one of its packaged portions for adults to 250 in United Kingdom. Previously, the group had already placed the limit of 110 kCal for children's ice cream, even in Belgium. To help consumers live a healthier life is part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.
However, because the company does not want to alter the flavour and quality of its products, it has changed its portions. Magnum Almond went from 110 ml to 100 ml, Magnum Classic from 120 ml to 110 ml and Ben & Jerry's portions dropped from 150 ml to 100 ml, at least in Great Britain.
The company is unable to confirm whether that will be the case in the Benelux area. Spokesperson Freek Bracke did reveal that the Magnum Double, which will be relaunched this year, will be smaller (88 ml) than a Magnum Classic because of the two layers of chocolate and sauce in between. Thanks to the smaller size, this innovation has fewer than 250 kCal.
Is there more to it? Ever since the World Health Organization published the advice to limit the amount of calorie intake from free sugars to 10 and preferably 5 %, all eyes were placed on the food industry. Many felt it had to take its responsibility and help consumers eat healthier.
The soda and candy industries were the first in the line of fire and a new WHO report now even clearly backs the introduction of a sugar tax. Belgium already implemented such a tax, but it has also been introduced to other regions (and even cancelled again), like California, Mexico, Hungary, France, Finland, Denmark and even Great Britain is now considering it.
Manufacturers have to act, but it is not that easy as consumers only buy things they like. A lower amount of sugar and fat results in a weaker flavour, while synthetic sweeteners have also faced criticism. That is why the answer seems to be: eat fewer sweets. Smaller packages may help, just like smaller plates also result in a lower calorie intake.
Is there more than meets the eye? Chocolate manufactures have already been accused of "shrinkflation", which is an interesting side-effect for the industry: prices do not drop in the same way the portion shrink. The average price for soda in the United States grew 2 to 3 % in 2015 as smaller sizes result in higher prices per liter. While Ben & Jerry's portions dropped 33 %, its pricing only dropped 26 %, according to the British colleagues from The Grocer. When Twix and Snickers shrank a few years ago, its pricing even stayed at the old level.
Brand manufacturers make more money with a smaller product. Remarkable is that the consumer does not punish its favourite brands for these price hikes. On the contrary, the consumer considers this smaller portion to be a valuable alternative to limit their consumption. Now, that is a win-win situation...