Updated every Monday!   Subscribe to free weekly newsletter.

July 14, 2008

Snap, Crackle, Poof: Kellogg’s Downsizes

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:05 am

Joining the ranks of products being downsized is an array of Kellogg’s cereals, including Apple Jacks, Corn Pops, Fruit Loops, Cocoa Krispies, and others.

Apple Jacks

*MOUSE PRINT: Though the boxes look identical head-on, the new box of Apple Jacks has two cups less of cereal.

How did they do it? The new boxes are narrower:

Apple Jacks side

The new version will also be 10 calories slimmer to your waist line. High fructose corn syrup was replaced with more apple juice concentrate (reducing sugar), and salt was also decreased.

Both boxes cost $3.49 during the week of July 6. That works out to 31.7 cents an ounce for the old larger box, and 40.1 cents an ounce for the new smaller one. That is a 26.4% price increase. Had the product been kept the same size, its new retail price would have climbed to $4.41.

Why did Kellogg’s downsize?  The company was refreshingly candid in their response:

“This package change is considered a price increase, in that box size is smaller. The reason for the price increase is the rising costs of ingredients and transportation. “

Consumers would clearly notice a price increase of almost a dollar, but the subtle change in packaging may go unnoticed. And even if shoppers did realize they were getting 2.3 ounces less in the box, they would not likely equate that with a nearly one dollar price hike.

Share this story:


• • •


  1. I know a lot of shoppers won’t figure out that the content reduction is the same as a price raise. However, not all of us shoppers are that stupid and hopefully a lot are like me and just stop buying those products.

    Comment by J Thorn — July 14, 2008 @ 6:14 am
  2. I stopped buying brand names awhile back. I save the old boxes from brand names, buy the cheaper immitation in a bag and refill the old box. My kids have never noticed…:)

    Comment by Peter — July 14, 2008 @ 7:01 am
  3. Yes, but they got rid of the High Fructose Corn Syrup, a very big plus. Glad to see some of that junk being removed from our food.

    Comment by Anita Drew — July 14, 2008 @ 8:06 am
  4. I guess there is a silver lining in this cloud:

    “The new version will also be 10 calories slimmer to your waist line. High fructose corn syrup was replaced with more apple juice concentrate (reducing sugar), and salt was also decreased.”

    Comment by Marc — July 14, 2008 @ 8:08 am
  5. marc: how about just not eating this garbage? that is the best silver lining of all. replace this junk with real wholesome food that has nutritious calories instead of sugar, artificial color, and preservatives.

    Comment by scir91 from youtube — July 14, 2008 @ 8:31 am
  6. If the manufacturers make the box depth any narrower, they’ll fall over on the kitchen table. May Mr and Mrs consumer will figure it out that way. I like all the suggestions, especially Peter’s.

    Comment by ExitRamp — July 14, 2008 @ 10:04 am
  7. @ J Thorn: I don’t know what you mean with shoppers being stupid, but let me ask you this:

    1) Assuming you are very smart and immediately notice when package sizes change, please proove so by telling me what the standard packaging size is of:
    – One pack of pasta (your favorite one)
    – One jar of peanut butter
    – One package of orange juice

    In short, nobody can keep track of that.

    2) Perhaps I was wrong, and you meant that you are just not buying products that are hit by the shrink ray. Can you tell me what is still left to buy?

    @ Peter: You are doing your kids a disservice. You should teach them that brand doesn’t matter. Let him do a double-blind test. [Double-blind is fun cuz they get blind folded on top of not knowing which brand they are getting]

    Comment by Jasper — July 14, 2008 @ 10:09 am
  8. I came to this blog over a year ago, when topics were different most weeks. In the past few months, we’ve seen this same topic almost week after week (with a break here and there). I’ll still come by every week, but I, for one, am getting bored of hearing that companies are downsizing their product to make more money. We know this already, it’s EVERYWHERE… I’d expect that your readers would like to see something else for a change (example, the previous two weeks), something new to watch for besides the absolute most basic form of inflation there is (downsize and price increases).

    Comment by Jamison — July 14, 2008 @ 10:12 am
  9. I noticed the shrinking cereal box right away by looking at the Sunday Sale ad yesterday, as I was in the market for some Golden Grahams to make snack bars. I was trying to mentally figure out how small an 8 ounce box was and if I need one or two boxes to make my cereal bars.

    And no, some Joe Blow Consumers aren’t going to notice these package changes. I, however, am not the average consumer and with increasing prices am running a spreadsheet with prices for my local Meijer, Family Fare and Sam’s Club stores. I know my package sizes, prices and per ounce what’s cheapest where between the three. Boyfriend thought I was batty until he started looking at per ounce pricing on my sheets when we were grocery shopping at Sam’s the other day.

    Comment by Julie — July 14, 2008 @ 11:04 am
  10. The truth is, we and they are just settling on a new equilibrium price. We’re not really being “ripped off”, and Kellogg’s truthful (I think) explanation makes the “rip-off” argument hard to push. But additionally, maybe we’re just settling on a new equilibrium level of consumption. We ate “this much” before this shift, and now we’re moving toward eating “that much”, which is what we should have been eating as the industrial revolution swept over us. While our way of life and business allowed us to have “all that we wanted” at prices that we found acceptable, we shouldn’t have bumped up our consumption to “all that we could have”.

    There is no one to blame here, especially for goods this removed from the oil issue (i.e., Kellogg’s makes cereal products and only consumes gasoline not produces it); this is just chance and circumstance.

    As a Mouse Print issue, I would downgrade this story. It’s not really lying or speaking legalese to weasel out of an offer.

    Comment by David P. — July 14, 2008 @ 11:19 am
  11. @ Jasper: Try forcing a kid who wont eat any fruit or vegetables and is a very picky eater to eat exactly what you want him/her to eat…I’ll give you 3 days at most before your stress level hits the roof! My kid doesnt even understand what a “brand name” is, she knows that she likes what is inside that pretty box and refuses to eat anything else.

    Comment by Peter — July 14, 2008 @ 11:24 am
  12. I too have come here from time to time for my own personal amusement. The downsized products topic is getting old, but I’m still amused from the comments. To people that cry “deception” and “dishonesty”… companies are not deceiving anyone unless the package says 11 oz. but there’s really only 8 oz. in there. Don’t whine because you missed reading the mouse print, be a smart consumer. One tip: Look at the price per ounce label that some grocery stores have on the shelf instead.

    Comment by JT — July 14, 2008 @ 12:23 pm
  13. Ha! They should downsize AppleJacks to ZERO. The stuff is putrid.

    Comment by Moses — July 14, 2008 @ 1:07 pm
  14. I hope one day HFC goes the way of trans fats.

    Comment by Nico — July 14, 2008 @ 3:21 pm
  15. Peter
    You may try transfering an “off-brand” equivalent of Apple Jacks in to the same pretty box and see how your daughter reacts. That would give you an idea as to whether or not she is reacting to the product or the box. If the taste is similar I’ll bet she won’t know the difference. Or try Jasper’s double blind study.

    Personally I don’t like any pre-sweetned cereal. But then I grew up in an age when Sugar corn pops and Post Sugar Crisp were new on the market. Pre-sweetned cereals were the exception, not the rule.

    Comment by John P. — July 14, 2008 @ 3:21 pm
  16. I agree with both JT and Moses! Shop smart for products that are essential and stay away for foods such as AppleJacks that have little of no nutritious value. Stores have made it easy for us to check like products side by side with price per ounce comparisons. Our mindset when shopping should be focused on this instead of how much contents there are in each box or jar. Downsizing is a fact of life. Deal with it.

    Comment by Frankie — July 14, 2008 @ 4:12 pm
  17. @JohnP…I think Peter said he is already doing what you suggested.

    Comment by South — July 14, 2008 @ 8:45 pm
  18. I can understand company’s downsizing due to transportation and ingredient costs. What truly disturbs me with what these large companies are doing, is deceiving the consumers by making smaller packages with larger prices. Just be honest and let the consumer know that the price will be increasing due to the economy. My husband is a farmer and had to raise the price of our products, what he did do, is he told his clients that the price had to go up due to the fuel and other related costs and let them make their own decision if they could afford our product. What he didn’t do is deceive his clients by omitting product from his deliveries. I guess that’s the difference between the large and small businessman who has a conscience.

    Comment by Beth Ann Cordes — July 14, 2008 @ 9:06 pm
  19. A big problem with downsizing, in general, is what happens when you need a certain quantity (weight, fluid oz, etc) and the recipes were written when the old sizes were standard. You now have to buy two units of a product in order to make one order of the recipe. If it is a special ingredient, what do you do with the remaining product?

    Comment by blasher — July 14, 2008 @ 9:11 pm
  20. I agree that the downsizing stories are getting old, but I don’t notice every change on the shelves. I think the argument is that we would easily notice a price increase, but we don’t notice a slimmer cereal box as quickly. This is the reality of our new economy, and it’s not going away. Just remember to keep an extra eye on any products stored in plastic.

    Comment by JG — July 14, 2008 @ 10:45 pm
  21. I noticed this some time ago, as I eat Kellogg’s Rice Krispies every morning. The old box was 21 oz.; the new one is 18 oz. Many companies are doing this with various products. Ice cream that used to be 1/2 gallon is now 1.75 or 1.5 qts. Coffee that was 48 oz. is now between 33 and 39 oz.

    Comment by T-Bone — July 15, 2008 @ 12:48 am
  22. @ Peter: I’ll admit I don’t have kids, but if you can’t control your 3-year old, you’re gonna be in trouble in 7-10 years. Again, I am no parent, but when I see my friends kids, they are excited to try new stuff. Or not. Depends on their mood. But when they don’t get what they want, they may scream, but (subconsciously) they know it’s not gonna help.

    Comment by Jasper — July 15, 2008 @ 9:14 am
  23. Jasper, I’m a grandma. Believe me when I tell you that controlling a toddler is not as easy as you think. I have to prepare meals for 3 of them who hate everything and if I can’t get them to eat something, I sure won’t get them to eat it with a blindfold on. Given that, once they reach 6 or 7 they can be reasoned with to a limited extent.

    Now, Mouseprint: The downsizing thing really is getting old. There is plenty of other material out there, about all the infomercials that sell you everything for “only $19.95” but in the fine print say except for shipping and processing which is always ludicrous!

    Comment by myra — July 16, 2008 @ 9:55 pm
  24. Controlling a toddler is not easy, but it’s not hard either. People try to create so much fine print for parenting when they should just throw the damn manual out. You either know how to do it or you don’t, simple as that. The fine print I would like to see…”Kids eat FREE! (If parents can keep them under control and civilized at the table)”

    Comment by john — July 17, 2008 @ 12:12 pm
  25. “I stopped buying brand names awhile back. I save the old boxes from brand names, buy the cheaper immitation in a bag and refill the old box. My kids have never noticed…:)”

    Don’t the boxes wear out after awhile? I mean, are you still serving up Wheaties from a box with Mary Lou Retton’s face on it?

    Comment by Shawn — July 17, 2008 @ 3:54 pm
  26. A few comments:

    1) OK, they downsized the box. I also like that they took out the corn syrup, but probably because some idiot thought it would be a great idea to take food out of our food supply to replace fuel for our cars.
    My complaint about the downsizing is that they did it deceptively by making the box seem the same.

    2) Can the box get thinner? Probably, but most likely a marketing genius will remove the box and replace it with a cereal pouch as the size drops from 8.5oz to 6oz, and call it a convenience pack or something like that.

    3) Is it really bad that there is a “price increase”. OK, a box of cereal costs us $4/box now and 50 years ago it cost under $1…is that a bad thing? Well, it all depends on values and expectations. Is $4 for that much cereal a good value or a bad value? If you earn $4/ hour, that’s really challenging. If you make $50/hour, it’s not really a problem. Somewhere in between, *you* have to decide. And if you spend $5000 on vacations every year (like apparently a lot of Americans do, maybe you need to rethink you priorities about where to spend your money.)

    4) Are brand name product better? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I like fruit loops but hate the cheap competition. I like Kelloggs Frosted Flakes but not the competitors. I like Lucky Charms, but the competitors seem just as good. I like Bisquick for pancakes but hate the Betty Crocker stuff or the competitors. For some things, I will only buy the better products; for most others I am fine with the cheaper competition.

    5) Skip these “bad” products and go get better ones? I have trouble finding them. A lot of the vegetables are either rotten, soggy or over-prices; the fruit is either not ripe, rotten, or sometimes BOTH (unripe on the outside and spoiled on the inside.) Is meat a healthy alternative? Canned food? Organic? Not always better, and ALWAYS way overpriced. Geez…do I have to become a farmer so I can get some decent produce? I think we’re stuck with a lot of the items mass-produced for us.

    Face it…the problem here is not really that you get less for the same amount of money but the fact that they tried to hide it from you with the same size box and labelling.

    Comment by RS — July 19, 2008 @ 11:32 pm
  27. RS: You must be one of the lucky ones! When you have to adhere to a strict diet to stay alive, choosing items are that much more difficult. Finding low cholesterol, low sodium, low sugar items are very limited, so playing the “shrinking” game is not an option for me. That’s life for me, unfortunately I have no choice.

    Comment by Frankie — July 21, 2008 @ 12:59 am
  28. Frankie, not to get too far off-topic here, but general consensus is that our dietary problems are typically caused by additives in our food supply, so growing your own would probably fix your problems without having to read labels. And I’m not sure what your comment refers to so I’m not really sure what you’re arguing.

    My main point is that we are being deceived by keeping the same packaging but changing the volume.

    Comment by RS — July 21, 2008 @ 11:37 am
  29. The thing that disturbs me in all this “downsizing” and increasing prices because of fuel charge increases is that when the gas prices go down (and they will .. probably not as much as we would like, but, they will), will they then lower prices at the grocery store? I doubt it very greatly. What a shame .. especially for us Senior Citizens who are forced more and more to make a choice between eating and buying “needs”.

    Comment by Lucy — July 28, 2008 @ 1:28 pm
  30. I notice these downsizings on a near-weekly basis. I’d already commented on the doritos-downsizing to my husband weeks before seeing the article about it at MSN. Coffee, mayonnaise, chips, crackers – soon I expect to see loaves of bread (currently 16 – 24 oz) and frozen vegetables (generally 16 oz, except the ‘steamers’ bags, which are 12 oz) follow suit.

    Ice cream is no longer 1/2 gallons – it is 1.75 quarts (Hiland, other brands). Special 5-quart pails are non-existent, only 4-quarts available. ‘Large’ frozen pizzas are now 14″ diameter instead of 16″. Soon we’ll buy ‘triples’ of milk (3-quart jugs) and blocks of cheese will be 12 ounces instead of 16. I put nothing past food manufacturers.

    Letter to the Ed of the local paper commented, “When was the last time the Little Missus came home from grocery shopping with a smile on her face?” How true. Who can smile about underhanded tactics like this?

    Comment by Denise — August 7, 2008 @ 4:34 pm
  31. I noticed this stuff last year. I have always shopped by unit price and I noticed the change first in ice cream: I was having to pay an new price of $4.48 for the premium “black box” when it used to be 2 for $5 and the box was 1.5 quarts instead of 1/2 gallon. I started buying the store brand after that and jazzed it up with fruit and nuts and homemade sauces instead. So some of us out here DO pay attention. It is up to us to decide to whom we give our money.

    Comment by Sharon Morgan — August 9, 2008 @ 12:07 am
  32. Less is the new More

    Comment by Hugh Morris — September 7, 2008 @ 3:31 pm
  33. Oh, another thing. Expect ‘normal’ veggies to be slowly replaced by higher priced ‘organic’ veggies in the not too near future. I’ve already seen it in SAM’s Club.
    I cannot buy non-organic baby carrots, only ‘organic’, overpriced crap.

    Another way of companies making us pay more for the same thing…

    It’s all about the $$$$$$$$

    Comment by Hugh Morris — September 7, 2008 @ 3:36 pm
  34. Here’s a thought… do what a sensible shopper would do… compare the price of the item with amount in the package. The cost divided by the total number of servings indicated on the box is called a unit price. This tells you how much each individual serving costs. It shouldn’t take a genius to figure out the generic cereals in plastic bags contain more product for a smaller price than those over-designed cardboard boxes which also contain (a much smaller) plastic bag of cereal.
    Pay attention! Eat cereal that tastes just as good, costs less, and uses less packaging.
    This is not rocket science people!

    Comment by erin — September 9, 2009 @ 2:46 pm
  35. I can sympathize with companies that are dealing with increased costs and profitablity issues. What I don’t sympathize with is deceptive marketing to remedy the problem! Just raise the price! Leave the package size alone so we don’t have to go to the store more often. If the price climbs too high, consumers will change their buying habits and go with an alternative product. But deceptively changing the package printing, the box size, and the actual ingredients without informing your loyal consumer is just wrong. I was in Target the other day and saw a Wheaties box on the shelf that was just over 10 oz, in a very thin package, selling for $4.50+. Half the boxes were crushed because they were so thin! Who in their right mind would buy this, especially since they are used to a box 3 times its size!? The cereal companies are going to make the traditional bowl of cereal extinct, and that is a shame.

    Comment by Chris — June 26, 2010 @ 7:18 am

Comments RSS

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by: WordPressPrivacy Policy
Copyright © 2006-2018. All rights reserved. Advertisements are copyrighted by their respective owners.