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American snack sizes getting smaller due to economy

By Francis Walshe
|
May 1, 2023

A recent report from the Daily Mail revealed that the sizes of many popular snacks in the US have decreased, ostensibly due to inflationary pressures in many cases.

Among the brands to reduce the sizes of their products are Doritos, Hershey's, Reese's, Wheat Thins, Domino's, and Toblerone.

In some cases, the reductions have been quite significant. Domino's, for example, reduced its $7.99 portion of chicken wings from 10 pieces to 8, a 20% decrease.

In most cases, the prices of the shrinking products have remained the same or increased.

In March of last year, Frito-Lay, the company behind Doritos, told Quartz it reduced the size of its chip bags because of pandemic-related inflationary pressures.

A spokesperson for the company said "we took just a little bit out of the bag so we can give you the same price and you can keep enjoying your chips."

A Long-Term Trend

Though the shrinkage in food package sizes seems to have escalated in the last few years due to pandemic-related inflation, it's been going on for much longer.

The Daily Mail report highlights that the sizes of some brands' offerings have been shrinking for decades.

Reese's peanut butter cups, for example, were 1.6oz in the 1980s and 1990s, but shrank to 1.5oz by the 2010s. Cadbury's Creme Eggs dropped from 1.4oz in the 1970s to 1.2oz in 2015.

Luxury ice cream brand Haagen-Dazs cut the size of its standard tub from 16oz to 14oz in 2009, during the global financial crisis.

A company representative told CNBC the change was "a result of increased costs of energy, dairy and some of our key ingredients."

They continued by saying "we chose to downsize rather than increase the price or compromise on quality. We were sensitive to the fact that increasing the price would have made Haagen-Dazs unaffordable for many in that economic climate."

Reducing Calories

Some snack companies have claimed their size reductions are not because of cost-cutting, but to promote health by reducing the number of calories in their products.

A report by the New York Times in 2014 revealed that 16 major food corporations had reduced the calories in their products by a total of 6.4 trillion over the course of five years.

The article noted this was likely partially due to "intense pressure by consumers who are shunning high-calorie, high-fat foods in search of healthier alternatives."

However, not all experts are convinced that the companies' motivations are related to the health of their customers. Margo Wootan, the director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said "changes in Americans’ eating habits" likely had more to do with the cuts than industry efforts.

However, Wootan conceded, the reductions seen at the time were significant in terms of managing societal obesity.