Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Grouchy's Gripe of the Day - Portioning

Most of us have come to expect that the contents of every bag or box snack chips and cereal is going to be about 2/3 of the size of the box. Every time you open that big box of Cheerios you have to tilt the box so the ambient light extends beyond the cardboard to actual cereal. It has been documented all over the place. Packages and boxes stay the same or get bigger, the price stays the same or increases, and the product inside the box stays the same or decreases. Companies will spin this many different ways; “product research” tells us this is what the customer wants (bullpucky). My personal experience with the phenomenon has been with Morningstar Farms Veggie Breakfast Sausage Links.

I have been enjoying these meatless wonders for breakfast for well over a half a decade. Chuck them in the microwave with a bagel and two minutes later – yum. Morningstar Farms, however, has changed the product and packaging over the years, none of those changes seemingly benefiting the consumer.

  • they originally came ten to a thin box carefully arranged on a white try
  • one day, I opened a box to find the sausages had shrunk by about a centimeter (I had two different boxes, boxes and trays were the same, but the sausages were smaller)
  • they changed the white tray to a clear, flimsier tray
  • they increased the size of the box and started putting them into a sealed plastic bag instead of a tray
  • they decreased the number of sausages per box from ten to nine (which makes no sense – the serving size is two which means an extra sausage at the end or in my case where I eat four per breakfast a lone sausage left over
  • they changed the product made it - “better”, I detected no noticeable change in the product
  • they changed the box, graphically, rotated it 90 degrees, and made the box bigger, same product content
Remember, this entire time the price has been edging upward. The cheapest you can get these things is at Walmart for $2.99, unless you are close to a Trader Joes where you can get them for $2.69 or thereabouts.

My whole gripe is why lead me down this path, nickel and dime’ing me on a product I and my family seems to enjoy? People that like your product, notice the change. The people that are occasional buyers or only buy the product once in a while – won’t notice you are nibbling away at the value of the product as a whole.

I have seen this same thing happen with some cars. I owned and loved my dark blue, 1992 Mitsubishi Eclipse. It is still my favorite car. But to see how they have taken the nice crafted interior and craftsmanship and replaced it with cheap crap you would find on a Kia or Ford Escort. Plus the price has gone up $8,000. Yup - $8,000 more for cheaper parts and labor.

I thought about writing to Morningstar Farms, asking why they torment me so. But I suspect my letter would either go unread or will be answered in form-letter from someone working for pennies in a far away land. So I’ll probably stick to my sausages, taking them out of the oversized box after I purchase them so they actually fit in the freezer.

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