Would You Pay More To Eat Less?

Calorie-conscious consumers may not realize that 100-calorie snack packs slim both your waist and your wallet.

As a business concept, the idea is simple. Take an existing product, portion smaller amounts of it into single-serving bags, and sell several of the bags for about the same or more as a regular-size package.

Consumers do not seem to mind paying more even though they are getting fewer Goldfish.

“It’s the smaller bite sizes that resonate with people,” said Michelle Barry, a vice president of the Hartman Group, a food market research firm based in Bellevue, Wash. “I don’t think we see a lot of small sizes in this country. Everything tends to be supersized.”

“The irony,” said David Adelman, who follows the food industry for Morgan Stanley, “is if you take Wheat Thins or Goldfish, buy a large-size box, count out the items and put them in a Ziploc bag, you’d have essentially the same product.”

Instead of less junk food, try more fruit: it’s cheaper and healthier. Would you pay more for snack-size portions as a convenience food, or do you see them a waste of money? Tell us in the comments.

In Small Packages, Fewer Calories and More Profit [NYT]


Edit Your Comment

  1. balthisar says:

    There’s a lot to be said for paying for convenience. After all, we tend to buy cuts of meat rather than the whole cow (or even a side of beef).

    We buy big bags of snacks, but they’re only for use around the house where little portions aren’t meaningful anyway. We do pay the premium for so-called “baby carrots” and also for pre-cut broccoli florets that my wife gives me for lunch. That’s kind of the same thing, right? ;-)

  2. raybury says:

    I agree with Balthisar. I’ve tried counting out one “serving” of Goldfish. Then, after eating them, maybe another 20% of a serving. Then another 30%. Then a few handfuls. There is something to be said for having to open another pouch as a disincentive to eat more.

  3. I think its a good idea to count out 100 calorie snacks for your kids for their lunch bags or whatever, but adults need to avoid snack foods altogether, precisely because of what Raybury said.

  4. misfit says:

    If I buy an entire box of crackers like Wheat Thins, I have a very difficult time with only eating one serving. Buying the 100 calorie packs has helped me curb my overeating habits tremendously. They certainly don’t replace fruits and vegetables as staple snacks in my diet, but it is nice to be able to eat crackers once in awhile and not ruin my healthy eating plan.

  5. loudguitars says:

    Eating fruit more often is great in theory, but especially if you work very long hours, buying fruit is an exercise in futility because it rots before you can eat it.

    Trying to lose weight, you realize how much you eat is heavily tied into psychology. Almost everyone will feel perfectly full after a small plate of food, but if you have a larger plate and the same amount of food, you get tempted to finish the whole thing even if you’re already physically full because you don’t feel the same sense of accomplishment as you do when you clear the smaller plate.

    The psychological prodding these 100-cal packs give you is worth the money if you’re trying to make a serious change in your eating habits.

  6. timmus says:

    I just saw one of these 100-calorie packs last weekend at my parents’ house. The funny thing is when I saw how small the contents were, it made me realize how calorie-dense they were (not exactly an incentive to buy them). So I skipped them altogether and found something else to eat.

  7. Thrust says:

    The only things I buy individual sized like those fish are soft drinks and string cheese. I like pop in cans, not 2L bottles. It tastes better, doesn’t go flat. And I ain’t buying an entire brick of Mozza to peel off stringcheese strips, that’s just retarded.

    Not to say everything I get is bulk. I COULD buy my ramen as bulk noodles and giant tubs of Oxo, but I get the lil Mr.Noodles pouches instead. But not those cup o soups, why get half the soup for twice the price?

  8. katewrath says:

    I am generally against these kinds of pay-more-for-less scams, but I have to make an exception for 100 calorie packs of Doritos, which contain mini-Doritos. Their smaller size really reduces breaking, so they work much better than 100 calories worth of full-sized Doritos in a baggie.

    I keep a box of these in the trunk of my car, as a cheap emergency treat when I’m headed home from a long day at work — exactly the time I might otherwise roll into an In and Out Burger and do some real damage.

    I generally keep some kind of nuts around, but in the summer, they can go rancid pretty quickly, so I can’t keep a whole tin in the car. It’s nice to have something stable as a fallback.

  9. jorgebarnes says:

    Everyone here seems to feel the same way. Although you think the 100-calorie pre-packaged snacks are rip-offs, consider this:

    One of the best things my giant monolith of a corporation has done, is to create “Healty Snack Club” Several folks go out and buy these boxes of 100-calorie snack bags. Yes, it includes the 100-calorie oreo, cheetoes, and string cheese, but there are also granola bars, cereal bars, fruit cups, pudding cups, cans of V-8 – lots of different choices so you don’t get sick of the same thing. Then when you want something, you drop a quarter into a can…a couple things are 50 cents. But you know what? Even the 50-cent items are cheaper than anything in the vending machine, which average calorie count is over 250, sometimes 350, and runs at least 65 cents. The result is that nobody goes to the vending machines anymore, they haven’t refilled htem in months, and I heard this week they’re taking them away.

    Bottom-line is that most people are busy, don’t bring snacks to work, and when they get hungry they have 3 choices: they can hit the vending machine and get fat, they can starve themselves so their metabolism drops and they don’t lose weight even though their caloreis are down, or they can eat something small/healthy to keep their metabolism up. If people were concerned about value, the vending machines wouldn’t be leaving our premises.

  10. Juliekins says:

    I blogged about this awhile back. I used to eat the hell out of the 100 calorie packs, then I realized that 100 calories of crap? Is still crap. That doesn’t mean I don’t like crap–but I dislike intensely the idea of paying extra to eat little baggies of crap.

    If I want 100 calorie (or single portion) snacks on the go, I use my trusty food scale and snack size zip-top bags. At home, I use a ramekin, because smaller plates/bowls = you think you’re getting more to eat.

    Yes, my method requires a bit of an up front investment and some prior planning. But it saves me money and gives me many, many more options (healthy and less than healthy) than I would get if I limited myself to prefabbed 100-calorie packs.

  11. ancientsociety says:

    Not to mention it produces more packaging and hence more trash

  12. Welcome_to_Oakas says:

    How about putting calorie stickers on fruit? A medium apple or orange is about 50 calories. How could you pass up two of those for an airline sized pack of hydrogenation?

  13. Jesus On A Pogo Stick says:

    @ancientsociety: Either way you go produces more packaging and trash. If you go with the 100-calorie packs, you have the box and all of the little bags. If you buy the regular sized box, then put single portions in zip-lock bags, you’re still ending up with a box and a bunch of bags.

    On another note:

    I personally like the 100-calorie snacks. I’m lazy. I don’t want to spend time bagging up single portions when I could be studying. Plus, I’d probably be tempted to snack while I bag.

    But I also have a lot of fruit. Apples, oranges, and bananas are perfect for when I go to class. Or even carrots. Just wash them and go. Even the big ones. You can just break them into smaller pieces.

  14. Televiper says:

    @Jesus On A Pogo Stick:

    Well not really. For the mild inconvenience of carrying the empty container home you could just put them in a plastic container. You could also buy small paper bags which can often be reused and have a significantly smaller impact on the environment than the foil packaging the fish come in.

  15. AcidReign says:

    &nbsp &nbsp I buy small sizes ONLY when I’m trying something out. Otherwise, it’s five-pound mega-bags at Sam’s Club, if possible. Hint: two teenaged kids in this house. So what’s better, 8 oz. cans of soft-drink, or the 4 for $5 two liter bottle?

    &nbsp &nbsp Ditto on whole tenderloins and eyes of round. I WILL use it all up. Nothing goes to waste…

  16. synergy says:

    Waste of money. I was asked earlier this week if I make my own yogurt (with a bit of a sneer) because I bring yogurt in a small tupperware rather than having those 6oz (or is it 4oz now?) containers they sell at the store. Um. No. I buy the big container of yogurt and portion myself out some for my lunch. Cheaper than buying the zillion little containers and I’m not generating a pound of plastic trash.

  17. Thrust says:

    I don’t portion out much. I buy the big bags/boxes/tubs of everything and only consume what I need when I need it. Same mondo-size bag of doritos I have at work has lasted 2-3 weeks now, just roll it up and use the chip-clip when I’m done.

  18. Kaien says:

    This reminds me of the 6FL oz. soda cans. You pay more for less, but some people just want the perceived “limit” upon them.
    I have nothing against things like this, it is your choice if you wish to buy them or not. I guess it can be looked at in a positive note that sometimes these people get their “fix” without going psychotic when they get no fix at all.
    That’s the choice in the matter though, you’re free to eat unhealthy or not… or eat “less” healthy and fill on more healthy food.

  19. acambras says:


    I think a lot of people have trouble limiting themselves to just a little bit, especially when it’s something salty, crunchy, and yummy. My personal nemesis is Chex Mix.

    I’m not saying it’s not a sad thing that people have so little self-control, but I can understand it.

  20. dbeahn says:

    @Televiper: No kidding. What do people have against reusable plastic containers. It makes economic sense (you can get the use of 300 zip lock bags or more out of one small plastic container) and eco-sense, in that you aren’t generating 300+ bags worth of plastic trash.

    I mean, I’m no green-earthian (mainly because the movement does stupid shit like fly act after act of rock bands in on private jets, hauls huge truck loads of equiptment and runs 5000 limos all over the place to have “live earth”(??!?!?!) day to promote teaching people to NOT fly in private jets, not drive huge cars, etc etc…) convert, but I do believe we should minimize our impact when it’s not too inconvenient (don’t slam me for being honest – it won’t help your cause). But when something makes sense economically AND environmentally, that’s too much for me to pass up.

    Speaking of making environmental and economic sense, can I have some cheap, safe, nuclear electricity now please?

  21. Chicago7 says:


    No, but you can have this:

  22. sharonlives says:

    I think it’s best to just avoid anything sealed in plastic wrappers altogether. It’s not food – it’s chemicals!

  23. Jasmo says:

    If you have the discipline to count calories, you’d think that you’d have the discipline to avoid garbage like goldfish to begin with.

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

    It’s all in the little “unit price” stickers on the supermarket shelves. It’s no surprise that food manufacturers make a lot more money by selling less food at higher prices.

    There’s nothing wrong with that if it helps you with portion control…just expect to pay twice as much for the same amount if it’s prepackaged into portions.

  25. nardo218 says:

    What “would”? These have been out for years. I buy them for the convenience of having a healthful snack in a grab n go bag. I don’t, like, live on them, but they’re nice to have.

  26. Me. says:

    My mom is the Queen of the pre-portioned meal. She’s smart enough to realize that it is costing her more, but as a realtor, it is just more convenient to have a mindless snack (so she can spend more time on her business). Yea, it may be a lazy and mindless, but she’s paying a premium for convenience. And lets face it, don’t we all do that? The bus is cheaper than my car, biking is free and healthy, but the time I save driving is just worth it. :/

  27. Melov says:

    I laugh at people who always buy 24 packs of soda for $8 when you can get two 12 packs for $3.50 each.

  28. Andrewcool says:

    fruits cost more…

    Eating healthy actually can cost you more than eating non healthy.

  29. Thrust says:

    @Andrewcool: Eating healthy costs a fortune. Pop is cheaper than juice, water, milk, and coffee. Fruit costs more than candy, and candy doesn’t expire nearly as quick. Meat is a fortune, McRonny’s is bout $1.39 and not really meat. Don’t even think about the price of real chicken.

  30. hoosierdaddy812 says:

    Some people are talking about the psychological limit these smaller packs seem to have, but I would have to say from being an overweight individual and having overcome it, that is not the case. When I used to buy the smaller packs of anything I would end up eating more because the small portion doesn’t fill you up. I would eat a 100 calorie bag and not feel satisfied so I would tell myself that another 100 calories wouldn’t hurt and that cycle goes on for quite a while.

    For someone actually trying to lost weight I would not recommend these packages not to mention the waste it creates from all the individual packages. Rather, go the route others have specified by eating more fruit and avoiding the crap. Even if it is in a 100 calorie pack that doesn’t make it a healthy snack choice. Eat a fairly sized apple and you will feel just as full. These smaller portions make people believe they can eat a few more of the snacks they love but are you really going to feel that much more satisfied knowing the damage you are doing with your all the trash you generate?

  31. spanky says:


    MAN. Your coworker is a butthead. I do make my own yogurt. It’s ridiculously easy, and when you make it yourself, you can modify it however you like. You can make it high-fat, low-fat, you can tweak the consistency and flavor it any way you like, and could even reuse those specialty cultures like that Activia stuff. Sad that there are actual grownups who think such simple little things are somehow distasteful.

    Seriously, what kind of person sneers at someone for things like that? Is it just some irrational hippy association or something?

  32. etinterrapax says:

    The only 100-calorie thing I buy is microwave popcorn, and that’s mostly because it’s a surprising lot of popcorn for the calories. I can easily eat a whole regular bag–of lite or natural, it’s true, but it’s still 500 calories–by myself, so being able to make a smaller portion is great. Other than that, though. why bother. It’s easier to eat no Goldfish than 100 calories worth. Sad but true. I’m better off if I never have the taste in my mouth. I got very fat once eating those. If I have to have something to eat mindlessly, it’d better be vegetables.

  33. maevro says:

    I buy the 100 calorie stuff at BJ’s/Price Club. We actually figured it out and buying it there comes out to be cheaper then going to a normal grocery store and buying the regular size container for each type of product in the BJ/price club size package.

    Think about it….If I buy a large bag of chips for my girlfriend & she uses plastic zip lock baggies to take portions with her to work, you actually create more garbage. Baggies are larger then the 100 calorie packs packaging.

  34. spanky says:


    The point is that you can reuse the baggies.

    The idea of throwing away that volume of packaging for every teeny little 100-calorie serving of junk food is just obscene. All it takes is a tiny bit of willpower and effort to avoid a whole lot of waste.

  35. balthisar says:

    @Thrust: What? That’s wrong on so many counts. Water’s virtually free unless you live in a desert. Fruit’s much, much cheaper than candy. If you make your own hamburgers that are comparable to McD’s, you’ll find that you save a fortune there, too.

    Eating fresh and healthy is by far cheaper than eating junk and convenience.

  36. Allura says:

    One thing to watch out for (if it’s a concern of yours) is that the sweet 100 calorie pack items often have artificial sweetners in them. I picked up a 100cal pack of Hostess cupcakes (3 mini ones) for those times whe I “have” to have chocolate; the full size packs are just too large. I didn’t realize till I got it home that buried in the ingredient list was malitol, one of the sugar alcohols that I choose to avoid. So some of the items are re-formulated, not just re-sized (and, the sugar alcohols let them get away with claiming lower carb counts).

  37. Secularsage says:

    I laughed when I first saw the 100 calorie packs a few years back (St Louis was a test market, apparently), because I realized that they were a clever marketing gimmick to:

    1) Reduce costs (less product for the same price)
    2) Play on the health care craze
    3) Revitalize stagnant products

    With that said… I love the idea, because I think they’re necessary in a consumer culture for people to actually start reducing portions. If you can convince people they’re just as full if they eat a small portion as they are if they eat a big portion solely on the fact that they’ve consumed “one serving size,” you’re doing the culture a favor.

    As for the prices — they’re actually not too expensive, as individually wrapped items go, if you can find them on sale (3 for $5 is about the best I’ve found). The only reason bags of chips and cookies are cheaper is because the stores sell more of them; if the 100 calorie packs catch on, they’ll probably become the replacement items.

    Incidentally… Hostess has a GREAT 100 calorie pack of tiny cupcakes that are actually a nice dessert if you’re watching what you eat!

  38. no.no.notorious says:

    it’s economics

    the demand for healthy food is up, therefore the supply and price increase as well, regardless of the size/amount thats given.

  39. Orchid64 says:

    The main problem with large portions meant to be divided among several people or meals is that, through time, people lose perspective on what a portion is. This is actually a huge problem in the U.S. from bulk bags of chips to restaurant portions. In Japan, it is very rare to see huge portions of anything and many snacks are all individually-wrapped (like cookies). The experience of ripping open another package really hammers home that you’re eating more and more. Small packages discourage you from overeating though they do create more waste.

  40. dbeahn says:

    @Chicago7: Yeah, and that’s the problem. Wind power won’t ever produce more than a fraction of the energy we need, and it’s expensive to maintain.

    Nuclear is safer, cheaper and makes a lot more sense.

  41. kimsama says:

    @dbeahn: Couldn’t agree more. My father supervised a research reactor, so maybe I’m biased, but I also know something about nuclear energy (unlike a billionty million Americans who just go “Chernobyl OMG WTF” every time the topic is brought up), and I would much rather live in a world with more nuclear power and less petroleum- and coal-based power.

    Also, it’s nice that nuclear power could make scientists rich, not violent theocracies who just happen to be on top of an oil field.

  42. ougrad75 says:

    Portions have nothing to do with logic.

    Everyone’s comments approaches the issue as if we all of intellectually decide what and how much to eat. We don’t. We listen more to external & internal cues than our reasoning. Otherwise, there would be no obesity in the world.

    Anything that decreases portions is good. Better would be smaller portions of restaurant food. Remember, Ray Kroc when presented with the supersize idea, said, customers could just order two orders of fries. But his marketing folks said, that just the point, they won’t order two orders. But they will order one giant portion. (There’s no logic between the choices.)

    Unless you want to outlaw “bad” food, smaller portions is better than large.

  43. smallestmills says:

    My boyfriend and I are both thin and try to eat healthy, so therefore only try to shop the “outside” of the supermarket, meaning we don’t buy a lot of packaged food and chips, heat-and-eat foods, etc. It took some getting used to, and when we want some Doritos, we now have to walk to the corner store and buy the 99 Cent bag. There’s a lot more fruit and vegetable eating around the house, and in our lunches. Buying things in smaller packages isn’t about saving money for us, it’s that we will never eat a large bag of Doritos before it will go stale, or use up a 2 Liter of soda before it’s flat.