Sunbelt Brags About Adding More Granola Bars Per Box, Hits Said Bars With Grocery Shrink Ray

The bane of loyal customers everywhere has struck again, and this time the Grocery Shrink Ray fixed its beady glare on reader Chuck’s favorite granola bars — Sunbelt chocolate chip. At first, he was pleased about the “new” number of bars in a bigger box. There were now 10 bars to be enjoyed instead of the previous eight. Hurray! But all was not as it seemed, as Chuck soon found out.

Chucks says one of the reasons he’s always liked Sunbelt’s bars is that they were bigger than your typical granola bar. He was intrigued by new packaging and the additional two bars while at the store, so he bought a box.

Upon closer inspection, this wondrous, larger box filled with more food was far from pleasing, writes Chuck, along with submitting the picture of the two boxes of bars (old on the left, new on the right)

As a fairly regular reader of The Consumerist, I was interested to compare the new box with the old box I had at home. As you can see from the attached photo, the new box is bigger, but that’s about all. The size of the bars decreased and the net weight of the box decreased from 12 oz to 10.56 oz. I forgot to check the price, but I’m sure it didn’t decrease.

To be honest, I’m a little offended that they would think they could put less food in a bigger box and advertise that the box has more bars, and not expect me to notice it. Are people like me really in the minority? I don’t know about others who buy their product, but now that they have lost their size advantage, I think I’m going to look closer at whether I’d rather just switch to another brand.

Sure, maybe Sunbelt used a thinner cardboard for the box, but if there were two bars of the original size added, super thin cardboard wouldn’t do much to decrease the net weight. And as for that likely price decrease, we agree. There’s rarely ever a Grocery Biggify Ray that shrinks prices as well.

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  1. Murph1908 says:

    I empathize with Chuck. I like the Quaker Oatmeal Bars, and they were shrunk recently too. One used to be a good size for breakfast. Not too caloric, and a good size to get me through the morning.

    The new size is too small, so 2 bars are needed for an adequate breakfast. Annoying.

    • elangomatt says:

      Have you tried the Belevita breakfast cookies yet? I can’t believe it but those 4 little cookies get me through the morning. They are great dunked in the morning coffee to.

    • mubd says:

      It’s good to see how American products are switching to a good, round, metric size.

      However, it disheartens me to see that this is being used as an excuse to downsize the product.

  2. suezahn says:

    I’d have more respect for companies who are honest with me and just mark up the price than for those who insist on this sort of slight-of-hand with the intention of tricking me. Do they really think we don’t notice? Have you SEEN the size of cereal boxes lately? I nearly burst out laughing last night while in line to check out–the guy ahead of me had a box of Trix, and I’m not kidding it was about 1.5 wide, and not nearly as tall as they use to be, either. No doubt the bag inside has plenty of air, as well.He’ll be lucky to get two bowls out of that box. Why do people even bother with that anymore?

  3. The hand that feeds, now with more bacon says:

    What does the cardboard box have to do with the net wieght?

    “Sure, maybe Sunbelt used a thinner cardboard for the box, but if there were two bars of the original size added, super thin cardboard wouldn’t do much to decrease the net weight.”

    FYI: “Gross weight is a term that generally is found in commerce or trade applications, and refers to the total weight of a product and its packaging. Conversely, net weight refers to the weight of the product alone, discounting the weight of its container or packaging; and tare weight is the weight of the packaging alone.” (Wikipedia, where else?)

    • wade says:

      I too noticed that this Consumerist blogger is unaware of the difference between net and gross weight. It seems like the quality of articles here has been hit with the Shrink Ray, but then, you get what you pay for.

  4. Razor512 says:

    When will people learn to boycott products that get hit by the shrink ray. These companies will not charge a price or offer a price per gram that people will not accept.

    Most price increases are an experiment so see if people will still pay, if they do then they plan ahead for their next price increase, if it fails and people stop buying it, then the price goes back down (even better when this happens, they often lower it to more than before in order to get back the lost customers).

    • RandomHookup says:

      Most consumers don’t pay attention, so it’s almost impossible to get the needle to move with a huge CPG company.

    • nybiker says:

      I’m with you. I no longer buy Tropicana OJ, Breyers Ice Cream, and Häagen-Dazs pints. Those are 3 of the products that come to mind real quick.

      As for other boycotts, I also avoid any products from companies that are naming rights corporate johns. So, no chips from the company that is a bowl game john. And I just found out that that donut company has a ‘center’ in Providence, RI, so no more getting their stuff.

    • shepd says:

      People will learn when the competition gets smart and advertises “66% larger than Sunbelt granola bars” emblazoned on their 1.5 oz granola bars.

      I doubt consumers will boycott, but they will gravitate towards a better value.

  5. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I’m tired of the shrink ray, just simply because it plays havoc with recipes. I wanted to make raisin filled cookies. I needed 1 pound. Box is 14 oz. My best lasagne recipe calls for 2 jars of spaghetti sauce. When the recipe was published, jars were 32 oz. Now they’re 24 oz. BIG DIFFERENCE!!

    Plus, cereal weight vs price (which I’ve recently cut out of my diet) is getting ridiculous. Boxes are getting smaller and smaller, while the price remains the same or gets higher, which I totally get due to the drought affecting wheat, corn, etc. But geez – I’d rather pay more and at least get a full pound of something than pay less and get much less.

    • dolemite says:

      It’s gotten to be that while you could make a meal out of one jar/box/bag of something, you need 1.2 of it now, which means you’ve got .8 leftover…and even if you made it again, you need 1.2 but now have 1.8.

    • Velifer says:

      But the marketing hacks only see the average shopper behavior, and price sensitivity is so high compared to package size or anything else that stupid shrink-ray tricks like this WORK.

    • pegasi says:

      I refuse to buy cereal at the regular grocery store, unless it’s on sale and/or I have a coupon because the prices are crazy. I go to the discounters, because I can often get the brands I want – honey nut cheerios, trix, cinnamon toast crunch, etc. and pay 2 bucks less a box for the same size boxes – and so I stock up once every few months. And, if you keep the stuff in the house in the a/c – it’s good for several months past the date on it, easily. Most of the stuff I buy is for DIY cereal bars anyhow… cheaper than the premade ones, and I also will snack on dry cereal vs chips – portioning out some cereal (and not munching out of the box!) and munching on that is healthier than chips, and you still get the crunch factor for chewing.

    • Smiling says:

      Skinner did this. They sell spaghetti in 12 oz. increments now instead of 16. I now buy imported Italian pasta. Italians would piss and shit on the lawn of the pasta company if they started making the packages less than 1 lb.

  6. LuzioFantazmic says:

    Near East did this same thing with their rice pilaf.

    Made a bigger box and printed on it “Great New Size. Same Low Price”.
    They had it placed next to the old smaller sized box on the store shelves.

    But when you looked at the weights, the great new size in the bigger box had 1 oz less product.

    All they succeeded in was alienating me and caused me to learn how to make my own rice pilaf.

    • That guy. says:

      They took a cue from Amazon shipping.

      “Let’s make the box much bigger than we need to for the item inside!”

  7. shepd says:

    One of the weirdest shrink rays I’ve come across is cross-country shrink rays!

    Consider Hungry Man, the maker of ridiculously huge and terrible for you meals, advertiser of food by weight and not taste.

    In the US, their Fried Chicken Meal is emblazoned with “1 LB OF FOOD!!!”. In Canada? The packaging is less exciting, because it contains 360 grams (0.8 lbs). The meal is otherwise basically identical, it’s just missing a piece of chicken and has smaller slots for the sides.

    Of course, it’s been a while since I’ve been to the states to pick up groceries, so perhaps yours have shrunk, too? I kind of doubt it, though, because the Canadian version has been this way for at least 5 years, and there’s a review of the US one on youtube from only a couple of years ago showing the “1 LB of food” advertising.

  8. dullard says:

    This is more than just the Shrink Ray. This should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission.

  9. Banished to the Corner says:

    Folger coffee got hit with it too. My local store had a discontinued sign on the breakfast blend, when I looked closer I realized that they had a stack with some of the larger containers on closeout and the new/smaller size. I bought 2 of the larger ones. Today’s payday, so I’m going back today and check if they still have any of the larger packages.

    • Kestris says:

      Wow, hopefully the Black Silk blend doesn’t get hit with the shrink ray.

      • Gravitational Eddy says:

        Has already happened. The Black Silk is one of my favorites too. It shrank.
        BTW, they even got it in K-cups now. For more of a price increase than ever before!

  10. Kestris says:

    Oreos(Double Stuf in particular) have been hit with a shrink ray recently as well. Same sized packaging, but fewer cookies (less weight).

    There’s now a huge gap at the end of each row, as if they took another cookies from each. Instead of the usual 1 cookie gap at the end of each row, there’s now a 2 cookie gap.

    My husband was not pleased. Talked about boycotting them next time we bought cookies and getting chocolate chip ones instead. (Yeah, right, Oreos are his fav, he won’t give them up.)

  11. cactus jack says:

    Increased price, same stuff = Angry customers who refuse to buy it

    Same price, less stuff + fancy marketing = Angry Consumerist reader (who still buys it to complain about it), non-phased average customer who still buys it and enjoys it.

    Prices increase for many reasons over time. It’s not just some big ploy to bilk you out of your money. Costs go up, dollar goes down, and well, here we are. Ask your parents what things cost when they were young.

    Many of us are in the age category where we can vaguely remember buying candy bars for $.50 (now $.85), gasoline for $1-2/gallon ($4), and cigarettes for $2 a pack ($8+). If we don’t watch it we’ll be even more crotchety than they were.

    • Fargin_Bastages says:

      It’s not just a matter of price or value any more, but wasteful packaging as well. While products are shrinking some of the packging is actually growing (as in the OP’s example). That’s a huge waste of natural resources we really ought to be a bit more responsible about. Ecologially-minded shopping aside, I just don’t have the room in my pantry for all that wasted space. I’ve got boxes with airspace that contain bags with airspace that contain the actual product rattling around in the package (Nutri-Grain Bars are a perfect example) taking up valuable space on my shelves. Some packages have actually grown so much they no longer fit on the shelves, yet there’s far less product inside to show for it.

    • spartan says:

      My mom used to give me 40 cents to go to the gas station down the road and get her a pack of smokes from the machine.

      But if I was motivated i would ride down the block about half a mile to a supermarket and get the same cigarettes for 35 and clear a nickel.

      Of course, back then (the late 60s) a 10 year old wasn’t allowed to buy cigarettes unless you told them it was for your parents.

  12. BettyCrocker says:

    I picked up a box of Cheez-Its at the store, that were sitting in a box a few inches high. I was surprised that the box of Cheez-it’s was an inch or two shorter than it should have been. 7 oz box. WTF?

  13. BigHeadEd says:

    Maybe they should have said “now with fewer calories per serving” on the box. Now that would be some genius marketing.

  14. willieMac says:

    Saw this yesterday at our local grocery store. The price also went up fifty cents. I passed on them.

  15. Cocahina says:

    Reader Chuck states “I forgot to check the price, but I’m sure it didn’t decrease.” I’m not sure about Chuck’s area, of course, but I know that here, the price increased in addition to the product shrinkage! I was able to purchase the old size for $2.00 per box. When I bought the new, disappointing box, it was $2.25.

    While I like these granola bars, they may very well be left on the shelf from here on out, as opposed to going home with me. The previous size was perfect for me, as breakfast or as a snack, to satisfy hunger and keep me going until the next meal. Now, however, 1 bar is not enough; it takes 2. And, since the size was not cut in half, 2 of the new-sized bars contain many more calories, fat, sugar, etc. than did 1 of the previous size.

    I’ll be writing to Sunbelt about my dissatisfaction. Not that my one little measly opinion will make any difference to a large corporation but at least I’ll get to vent, and they’ll know that customers are dissatisfied with this change.

    Cheers!
    Cocahina