Like Those 100 Calorie Packs? You're Paying Twice As Much.

Portion control is going to cost you, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. They took a look at the new “100 calorie” portion control fad and guess what they found? You’re paying a hefty premium for your portion control. Those packs cost, on average, about two-and-a-half times as much as bigger bags.

“Cheese Nips” were the worst offenders—charging an unbelievable 279% markup on their 100 calorie pack. Other price offenders: Keebler Chips Deluxe Cookies (250%), Chex Mix (248%),Ritz Crackers/Snack Mix (229%) and
Goldfish Pretzels (196%.)

“Hundred-calorie packs are an ingenious way for companies to charge consumers more for less,” said CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson. “Manufacturers get the best of both worlds–they make more money, and they look like they’re helping people control their weight. But consumers could save money by divvying up their regular box of Cheese Nips themselves if they are worried about downing the whole container. Or better yet, they could skip the junk foods altogether and reach for a piece of fruit.”

CSPI says companies get away with charging an arm and leg because the packages look and cost about the same as a regular box of crackers and cookies. It’s only when you look at the prices per ounce that sticker shock sets in. Keebler Deluxe Chocolate Chip Cookies in the regular box, for example, are $.17/ OZ at internet grocer Peapod. The same cookies in the 100 calorie packs weight in at a hefty $.82/ OZ. Both boxes cost about the same $3.59 for the 100 calorie packs and $3.07 (on sale) for the regular box.

Eating smaller portions of snacks is a great idea, but do you really want to pay, on average, 146% more?


Consumers Pay Hefty Premium for Air, Packaging in 100-Calorie Packs
[CSPI]
100-Calorie Pack Cost Comparison (Full Results, PDF) [CSPI]

Comments

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  1. timmus says:

    Well at least here you have the option to not choose the portioned packs and just get the regular item. This is a voluntary laziness tax, or a convenience tax, depending on how you want to look at it.

  2. LeJerque says:

    Potion control?

    Sounds like an awesome 5th-level feat. My cleric could totally use potion control.

    Guys, I know nobody is a perfect proofreader, but COME ON. It’s the first freaking word in the article.

  3. Fujikopez says:

    Yeah, you guys really need a copy editor.

  4. Meg Marco says:

    @LeJerque: I apologize.

  5. Meg Marco says:

    @Fujikopez: I apologize to you, too.

  6. U2_Rocks says:

    I always do some basic math for price/amounts and decide that way. Everybody knows its cheaper to buy in bulk.

  7. LeJerque says:

    @meghannmarco: No apology necessary. I wouldn’t read Consumerist if I didn’t think you guys were, overall, doing a great job.

    Mostly I just thought the idea of “potion control” was funny.

  8. homerjay says:

    @meghannmarco: How dare you make mistakes. I think you owe those two a full refund of their membership fees.

  9. SOhp101 says:

    Oh, the price for convenience!

  10. acambras says:

    @homerjay:

    I say she should DOUBLE that amount! Hell, she should triple it!!!

    Oh, and how could the Snack Fairy do us wrong like this?

  11. thedreamingtree says:

    The advertisers and food producers prey on the sheeple’s stupidity. Anyone with half a brain knows that if you are trying to lose weight, you don’t do it by buying processed convenience foods. They charge you more for what they take out, plus you often get nasty additives like Splenda and Nutrasweet. What is so hard about buying fresh food and portioning it out yourself?

  12. DeeJayQueue says:

    the snacks you get in the 100 calorie packs aren’t the same as the ones you buy in the bigger packs. The oreos are little wafers instead of whole cookies or even mini cookies, as are the wheat thins and the cheezits.

    You do pay more for the taste, but they have to make the money back from buying the extra processing machinery and extra line time somewhere.

    If you want, you could have 2 oreos or 6 cheezits or whatever…

  13. foghat81 says:

    what bugs me about these things is that some snacks (chips ahoy is one that comes to mind) makes a “special product” for the 100 calorie packs. Those little chips ahoy-flavored waffers are wonderful. I just wish they’d sell those in BIG packs so I could portion myself.

    These can sometimes be handy when traveling with kids. Just barely enough to offset the mental block I have with being ripped off! [what I’m saying is that “yes, I purchase these from time to time even though I’m well aware I’m being screwed by snack makers!]

  14. Kwummy says:

    I’d like an apology, too.

  15. categorically says:

    I’d pay more to eat less. I bought a box/package or Oreo cookies on Sunday and by Monday morning they were gone. No self control….

  16. texasannie says:

    You can get a perfectly good kitchen scale for around $10, weigh out your own 100-calorie portions, and put them in zip-top bags. It’s not difficult, and buying the scale and the baggies is way cheaper than paying that much for the wasteful amount of packaging that goes into those snack-packs. And just think: anyone visiting your kitchen will think you’re either on a diet, or dealing pot.

  17. SaveMeJeebus says:

    Just buy a big box of whatever-snacks and get some snack-size zip bags. Fill ‘em up and go if you need “potion control.” Or just eat the whole box in one sitting and fast for a few days.

  18. gawieshnot says:

    You guys are missing the point. The problem here is that most people CAN’T seem to exercise portion control. You buy a large bag of Doritos, read the nutritional information for 1 serving size (around 11 chips) and then you go home, open the bag, and eat 40!

    This limited portion size for a higher price is a win-win scenario for producers and consumers. I know that when I want a snack that I can open one of these bags and not be tempted to eat the entire jumbo bag. Perhaps you are one of the minority who can stop at the recommended portion size, but I (and most others) are not.

    Frankly, we need more of this mindset in America. For too long we have harped on the idea that bigger is better. We need bigger portions for less money. That’s why we are a nation of obese people! We want to get the best value for money, health be damned!

    Super size me? No, slim size me please!

  19. Meg Marco says:

    @Kwummy: I apologize.

  20. Meg Marco says:

    @homerjay: @acambras: Full refunds all around! In all seriousness, I’m sorry for my typos. I do try not to mess up, but sadly, I often forget not to suck.

  21. Truc says:

    Yeah, but who has time to sit there and weigh out and repackage every snack item they buy when they go to the grocery store? Plus, as pointed out above, the products aren’t actually the same thing that you can buy in a larger pack. I’m aware that there’s a price markup, and I’m glad that it’s being publicized (at least a bit) how much it is so people can make their own decision, but it’s definitely worth it to me to have the little baggies. I eat microwavable dinners and don’t bake my own bread too, because if I can’t buy happiness, I might as well buy convenience.

  22. matukonyc says:

    @thedreamingtree: “What is so hard about buying fresh food and portioning it out yourself?”

    A little holier-than-thou, don’t you think? Obviously many people cannot or choose not to always buy fresh food and portion it out. Try living and working in Manhattan, for example. Or being poor.

    The point of the story is that people who do eat “junk food” yet are at least trying to moderate their intake are paying a hefty price.

  23. statolith says:

    Not to mention all the extra landfill-fodder packaging it takes to individualy package this stuff and then box it all up.

  24. Lullaby says:

    Do we really have so little self control that we pay extra for someone to portion control our food? Fat, lazy Americans…..I’m ashamed…..

  25. acambras says:

    @meghannmarco:

    Oh, you know we’re just kidding. Like my mom used to say about kids at school, “They tease you because they LIKE you.” ;-)

  26. foghat81 says:

    A key issue I (and Deejayqueue before me) mentioned is that for certain snacks, the food itself is different. That makes buying a big box of oreos and portioning it out yourself impossible.

    I’m not saying it’s not over-priced, I’m just trying to paint the whole picture here. It’s more than just paying somebody to portion your food for you!

    Where’s the outrage directed towards the snack size chips or 20 oz cokes you buy? The price per ounce is way higher for the smaller item. I think everybody knows that.

  27. wishlish says:

    Since when is it a big surprise that people on a diet end up paying more for some items? My wife and I are on a sugar-free diet, and we’ve paid some premiums on natural peanut butter, sugar-free desserts, and other products. It’s worked for me; I’ve lost 40 pounds this year. If I hit my target weight (and I have a long way to go), I’ll see big savings in clothes and medical care.

  28. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @Lullaby:
    Do we really have so little self control that we pay extra for someone to portion control our food?

    Yes. It appears to be what people want to buy.

    Fat, lazy Americans…..I’m ashamed…..

    Oh, come now. Fat people are not buying things in 100-calorie packs unless they want to become un-fat. Lazy people are not taking desperate measures to try to lose weight. And what’s more shaming than to have to be seen eating the “fat people’s portion” while odds are you’re next to someone enjoying the regular portion?

    No, that’s OK, go enjoy your feeling of contempt if that’s what gets you off. Sorry to interrupot your self-pleasuring.

  29. SaveMeJeebus says:

    @matukonyc: If someone can gorge themselves on an entire package of junk, they should have plenty of time to bag the shit up into responsibly sized portions. It takes maybe 5 minutes.

  30. Magister says:

    Uh… The price per ounce is usually written on the shelftag. It’s right there for anyone to see and though bulk is usually cheaper and that definitely applies to these convenience foods, it’s also not always the case.

  31. thedreamingtree says:

    @ Matukonyc:

    News flash: I AM poor! Yet I still buy fresh food primarily. I have some healthy canned or frozen items, but the point is, why did you assume that I know nothing of the poor consumer’s plight? It’s all a matter of priorities…I don’t consider cable a necessary utility like many Americans, and I buy many things used on eBay.

  32. Lullaby says:

    Oh Speedwell….angry much?? I sense I’ve hit a nerve….

  33. deeme22 says:

    These 100 calorie packs are directed to people trying to diet, lose weight, yet as I was reading yesterday are packed with High corn fructose syrup, which any health freak knows is a no no. So in actually we’re paying more cause we think we’re eating less to weight less but we’re really not. I still love those little oreo thingies though.

  34. maevro says:

    I buy them at BJ’s or Price Club so they are much cheaper then at the normal supermarket.

    My girlfriend doesn’t understand portion control so the extra money is well worth not having to buy her new clothes after she gains weight.

  35. Elviswasntmyhero says:

    Meg Marco is a rock star (tip of the hat to Nickelback).

    Keep up the good work, Fly Girl.

  36. And, who does this surprise? Bigger packages have always cost less. This is just another way for big food companies to sell more high fructose corn syrup.

    What Consumerist should be wondering is how much money got wasted by CSPI figuring out an Econ 101 question, and where that money came from.

  37. rdm7234 says:

    Why is everyone acting all shocked?

  38. MagicJewball says:

    What DEEJAYQUEUE and Truc said. They’re not the same snacks. They’re thinner, without all the frosting or sprinkles or whatever. It’s more bang for your calorie buck which for me is as worth it as bang for my literal buck. Yes, I eat fruit and fresh foods but these are great to have around the office when other snacks spoil or are unavailable.

    You’d think CSPI which is constantly griping (justifiably) that Americans eat badly would embrace some step towards portion and calorie control.

  39. Anitra says:

    If I were going to buy packaged cookies or chips, I would probably buy these 100-calorie packs. I’d think anyone with a brain would realize that you are paying more for less food here – it’s about the convenience of pre-portioned snacks. I admit I have a very hard time stopping with “just one” cookie (or anything else I’m snacking on)… which is part of the reason why I don’t buy packaged snack foods at all – if they were in the house, I’d eat them. I’d rather pay a premium for a cookie at Subway or Starbucks when I’m really craving one, than eat a whole box of cookies.

  40. ptr2void says:

    @meghannmarco: “I often forget not to suck.”

    You know, I just can’t hear women say this enough.

    Seriously though, what’s the big surprise? I just buy them on sale. They make a convenient and tasty late afternoon snack. In fact, I’ve got some Oreo ones right here. Num-num-num.

  41. andrewsmash says:

    Oooh, smaller portions of garbage for a higher price. Aren’t we lucky to live in such a day and age? Honestly, not all calories are created equal, and if you want to eat junk food, go and buy the big cookie and enjoy it, don’t skimp on this ridiculous diet food.

  42. @wishlish: Exactly.

    Sugar free costs more.
    Low fat and non fat costs more.
    “Diet” costs more (except for soda).
    Smaller portions cost more.

    No new information here, just a bunch of people freaking out that other people won’t lose weight the way they think they should.

  43. drjayphd says:

    @gawieshnot: (ding ding ding ding)

    I forget when and where I heard this, besides somewhere on NPR, but there was some study that showed the smaller packages do work as far as getting people to eat less. How to get the manufacturers to sell them, though? Mark it up. Hey, as long as there’s money to be made in eating healthier or at least less (see: Subway, TGI Friday’s), companies will gravitate that way.

  44. ReccaSquirrel says:

    I buy the Gold Fish 100 Calorie Pack.

    My lunch consists of three carrots, peeled and sliced; A whole wheat sandwich with two slices of roasted turkey breast, a slice of swiss cheese, and a little bit of mayo; and a single 100 Calorie Pack of Gold Fish.

    My reason for this is very economic. My entire meal costs under $2.00 which is my budget. So spending a bit extra for five packages of gold fish fits my budget. Time wise, it is also economic. The carrots take the longest to prepare, the sandwich next. Grabbing the gold fish takes absolutely no time. Finally it is a calorie economic reason. I know exactly how much calorie intake I have in my meal and it is below my set limit.

    Now, if I did my own gold fish packages, I’d have to sit and count out the exact same number of them to get a 100 calorie limit. That adds a lot of extra time, I’ll assume 15 minutes a week. 15 extra minutes of time is worth more to me at work doing overtime than at home counting gold fish.

    So, yeah, the fat lazy american comments may apply to some, but it strikes me as a more ignorant stance without putting much thought into the consumer’s position.

    But that said, I’m surprised I’m only paying 199% retail price. Considering the price of gold fish, that isn’t that bad of a deal.

  45. endlessendres says:

    I buy one kind of these portion packs for one reason, they don’t sell it any other way! I’m talking about Cheeto’s balls. If I could buy them in a normal bag I would… but they just don’t sell em that way. So here goes my money…

  46. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @Lullaby:

    Hit a nerve? Yeah, my funny bone. I already apologized for interrupting your superiority party. Now go take a bath in some elementary logic, mmm-kay?

  47. samiamiamsam says:

    Coincidentally I was polishing off the last broken cookie in my 100 calorie pack of Keebler Chips Deluxe Cookies as I read this article. And though I love me a bargain, I truly don’t care that I paid more for the portion control. If I could pay someone to take the package of regular sized Chips Deluxe away from me so I wouldn’t eat the whole thing, I’d do that too.

    BTW I’ve tried every variety of 100 calorie cookie and the Keebler Chips Deluxe are def the best. And no I don’t work for Keebler even though I’ve mentioned their product three times.

  48. not_seth_brundle says:

    @MagicJewball: “You’d think CSPI which is constantly griping (justifiably) that Americans eat badly would embrace some step towards portion and calorie control.”

    My thoughts exactly, it’s like there’s no pleasing these guys. Most people are simply not going to buy a big box of Cheez-Its and sit there counting them out into 100-calorie portions. And even if they do, I think there’s a bigger psychological barrier to opening a factory-sealed pouch than opening the Ziploc bag you prepared, so people are more likely to eat multiples of homemade 100-cal packs. Just a hunch.

  49. kaitlind says:

    Kudos to GAWIESHNOT! Everybody is missing the point. Some people (including myself) have a problem with food. I’ve been working on mine for a long time- I eat for the wrong reasons and I have a real problem with controlling portions. If I am pissed off and hungry, I will not take the time to weigh my food before I eat it. Lots of people have this problem.
    The problem with lots of diets (Atkins, etc) is that in order for them to work, the changes to your eating habits have to be PERMANENT; you can’t stop eating cake everyday for a few months, lose weight, then start eating cake again. You’ve got to realize it’s ok to have something bad for you (cake) every once in awhile, and that you only need a small piece.
    If this helps people to control their eating then it is good, and kudos to the people for trying to help themselves. I don’t want to hear the holier-than-thou bullsh** about just buying veggies and eating whole grains. It might be healthy, but not everyone wants to do it. I eat lots of healthy foods and go on walks in the park often- I carry around a few extra pounds. My skinny-as-a-string-bean boyfriend eats cookie dough ice cream, red meat, and bread with lots of butter. He complained that his fingers were really tired from playing too much guitar hero (yeah, it’s his exercise. Just about the only way I can get him to eat something with veggies is salsa (with lots of chips) and he’s never had a weight issue….

  50. MyCokesBiggerThanYours says:

    For years Americans have been “bigger is better” when it comes to food portions. Thats how marketing plans like “Super Size Me” succeed. I think small portion containers are good thing for those of us trying to lose weight. You may bitch you are paying more at the cash register, but you are also bitching that you can’t afford health care for diabetes or cardiovascular illness. Paying more upfront for less down the line is not that huge of an issue.

  51. CaptainSemantics says:

    Well, if you think about it, it’s like getting double-bang for your dieting dollar:

    If you buy the pack, you waste money that you could have used to spend on more food. So it’s less calories while spending more money, siphoning off the food fund. Wonderful dieting strategy!

    (This is all in jest, btw. Please don’t throw anything. lol.)

  52. Allura says:

    As several commenters have said, the product is different. This resulted in a bit of disappointment for me when I discovered the 100 cal packs from Hostess use malitol as one of their sweetners. I avoid pretty much all artificial sugars and sugar alcohols, so I passed them off to my sister. :) But if that’s an issue for you, check those ingredient lists carefully. They’re not just a smaller product; they could be very different.

  53. formergr says:

    @meghannmarco: Meghann-

    The typos certainly aren’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, but don’t they make all the recent postings of Wal-Mart’s misspelled aisle signs a bit hypocritical?

  54. selectman says:


    @RECTILINEAR PROPAGATION:
    Actually, you are missing the point. The reason the CSPI is responding is that the producers are being intentionally deceptive by selling junk food as “healthy options”, packaging the box with the same volume as the normal kind and adding a huge price markup. For instance, you can buy a low sugar version of Tropicana OJ for the same price as regular. However, the low sugar version is simply half water and half regular OJ.

    Or take Oroes Carb Well Cookies, weighing in at – you guessed it – 100 calories per serving. Regular Oreos on the other hand have 160. Here’s the kicker – the Carb Well ones are two cookies per serving and the regular ones are three. Eat these “healthy” cookies and you save 3 1/3 calories per cookie and get a healthy (no pun intended) dose of acesulfame potassium, an artifical sweetener. Source: What To Eat by Marion Nestle.

    “Healthy” junk food is a scam and I praise the CSPI for exposing it.

  55. crimsonwhat says:

    Who thought of this? I need to know who’s responsible.
    Absolutely outrageous.

  56. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @meghannmarco: Have you considered hiring a proofreader? I’m bored, nitpicky, and unemployed…

    Gosh, that doesn’t sound as appealing as I meant it to.

  57. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    “Bachelor Chow…now in 100 calorie packs and now with flavor!”

    I was in the store the other day when I saw tiny 8 ounce cans of Coca-Cola that exclaimed “100 calories!” Of course, they were twice the price of 12 ounces cans. Less really is more (profitable).

    But then again, hey, if you know that and don’t mind paying the premium for “portion control”….knock yourself out!

    And now, introducing the 100 calorie Oreo cookie pack…contents: 1 cookie.

  58. synergy says:

    I just get the big boxes and then allot myself portions into my small reusable tupperware.

  59. @selectman: Actually I didn’t. My reply to wishlish was about the cost of those foods. Several other people said the same thing: it isn’t new that smaller portions cost more. The only thing new here are people like lullaby having a fit because there are people in the world not following the diet they think people should. I wasn’t talking about how they make their diet versions diet in my last comment at all.

  60. Snakeophelia says:

    I buy these packs at BJ’s in bulk, so I think in the end the prices average out. Plus, the snacks are different, and I am someone who struggles with portion control. These are perfect for work. I know it’s not healthy food, but they’ve been a godsend for when I am craving non-healthy food and will not be satisfied with an apple.

    Don’t bother with the 100-calorie “Nutter Butters” though. They are NASTY.

  61. HungryGrrl says:

    Portion control isn’t that hard… open the bag of Doritos. Put 11 Doritos on a plate. Put Doritos back in your cabinet. Go into another room. Eat Doritos, savoring them as you can clearly see when your portion is going to be gone. If you want more you have to go back to the kitchen and portion them out again, which makes you fully aware that you’re eating more than one portion.

    Don’t eat directly out of bulk bags! Don’t even eat in the same room as them! That also goes for ‘healthy’ stuff like dried fruit, trail mix and nuts, which are pretty high in calories too unless you watch the portion size.

    If you have no self control whatsover skip the fried snacks and buy a bunch of grapes!

  62. MagicJewball says:

    “If you have no self control whatsover skip the fried snacks and buy a bunch of grapes!”

    I’ll remember that the next time I’m at work late and the choice is between:

    a. Snickers bar from the vending machine
    b. 100 calorie pack
    c. spoiled grapes in the fridge from previous week
    d. stale crackers I portioned out a month before


    “And now, introducing the 100 calorie Oreo cookie pack…contents: 1 cookie.”

    Exactly the point. This is what you’d get if you portioned out Oreos whereas Oreo cookie packs have a whole bunch of thinner, smaller cookies.

  63. Haltingpoint says:

    While I love Consumerist, this is another instance where you have failed to paint the entire picture. While I’m sure the companies are increasing their profit margin on these a bit by raising the price, there are a couple other factors you neglected to mention which are completely valid reasons for a price increase of some extent:


    New Product Launch – As other posters have noted, sometimes these new versions are a different product entirely made to be smaller, contain less sprinkles, etc. To do that they have to retool their factories to make this change. Add in new packaging that needs to be designed and produced, the additional marketing expenditures for launching a new product and the additional shelf space they may need to purchase to bring to market, and the costs add up.


    Additional Packaging – The reason the bulk packages get you more bang for your buck is that compared with these individually packaged portions, they use overall less packaging and it tends to be cheaper as well. Going from a single box with one bag inside to a single box with MANY individual bags inside costs more. Period.


    Without actual numbers to go against, there is no point in accusing them of gouging consumers since you are unaware of the actual costs involved in bringing a product to market. Not to mention the fact that it is ultimately up to the consumer to decide if the value of the product justifies its cost. They are simply filling a demand in the marketplace.

  64. HungryGrrl says:

    @MagicJewball:

    They don’t have Three Musketeers bars in your work vending machine? 40% less fat than the leading chocolate bar! (and about 80% less chocolate!)

    My work hours are unpredictable so I usually have a wide selection of snacks at hand… granola bars, almonds, low-fat graham crackers and peanut butter are all shelf stable for a while, and daily I bring in a cup of yogurt and a piece of fruit.

  65. MagicJewball says:

    3 Musketeers = 260 calories
    100 calorie pack = well, you know

    All those things you mention are definitely better choices but again, lose their shelf stable quality once you divvy them into ziploc bags per the example. I’ve tried with grahams and they just don’t stay fresh past a few days or so. So I get a few days worth of snacks and the rest of the box is wasted, no savings there. Granola bars are the same as 100 calorie packs, really. Small amounts of food individually packaged and higher priced.

    I’m not into yogurt but I do try to bring fruit. However, the day I don’t need a snack is the day I remember the fruit and it languishes in the fridge, and the day I’m starving is the day there’s no fruit around. The 100 Calorie Pack is genius and I’m willing to pay for it.