Ethical Dilemma – Potato Chip Packaging

The Incredible Shrinking Potato Chip Package

A regional potato chip company, Salty Snacks, is competing with large, national snack food companies. Salty Snacks faces a dilemma about pricing vs. quantity. A drought caused a minimized potato crop compared to the previous year, which will cause the 7.5 oz package of chips to increase in price from $1.59 to $1.83. The company is concerned that customers will not be receptive to the price increase, and will switch to the national brands, who can afford to maintain the lesser price. Historically, other companies facing the same problem maintained the pricing and the packaging size, and reduced the volume (net weight) of product instead. Known as “downsizing”, this strategy appears to go unnoticed by customers. There are no FDA regulations restricting downsizing, and companies are required to disclose net weight, serving size, price, and quantity on the package. The manager of the company is struggling with the decision to downsize their product, because she views it as a deceptive practice.

Ethical Questions:

1. Should Salty Snacks advertise/notify their consumers that they have reduced their product’s net weight?

2. Based on Environmental practices, would it be more ethical if Salty Snacks were to also reduce packaging size along with net weight? Thus, reducing environmental impact?

3. Based on Socially Responsible practices, can reducing the amount of chips sold be looked upon as aiding the fight against obesity?

*Story is modified from original source:


14 Responses to Ethical Dilemma – Potato Chip Packaging

  1. Many companies are reducing packaging sizes due to increased packaging and material costs. This has happened with regularity over the years to many products. It’s just more evident now that grocery prices are rising rapidly.

    Companies feel that keeping the price the same is more important than telling the consumer about less product. In many cases the unsuspecting consumer never notices the differnece. There have been a series of articles written about “package shrink.”

    If I were a smart marketer I’d offer more value for the same size not less.

  2. I have been noticing reduced packaging at the same price over the past year. I find it especially noticeable with cereal.

    Cereal is overpriced as it is and to spend the same amount of money for less when I feed a family of 10 is unjustifiable in my eyes.

    I would rather spend a few cents more for the same amount than to get less for my money.

    The other thing that just kills me is when you open a bag of chips, the ratio of chips vs air…there’s got to be a better way to package them!

  3. Felice says:

    Salty Snacks has an opportunity to educate and involve its customers by explaining the reason for the price increase and promising to inform customers every time market conditions require the company to change price or volume, up or down.

    If the company has a large supply of packaging on hand, it should keep the same packaging. If the company anticipates that this year’s bad crop is an aberration, again, using the same packaging would be more efficient over time. No new design would be required nor would the package template need to be retooled.

    The company could save time and money by not developing advertising to educate and inform customers. Customers could be notified by a label affixed to the chip package.

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