How Food Packaging Illusions Cost You Money

Posted on Posted in Supermarket Pricing Tricks

I’m always amazed at how food companies alter the packaging and appearance of their products to entice us to make a purchase.

A recent example of this occurred with my regular orange juice purchase. A few months ago while browsing my local grocery store I came across a special promotional case featuring a new variety of Tropicana orange juice called Trop50. Trop50 offers 50% less sugar and 50% fewer calories than regular Tropicana orange juice. It sounded like a healthier alternative.


Since the Trop50 was on sale, I placed a few cartons into my shopping cart. It was not until I reached the regular orange juice section that I noticed the Trop50 cartons are taller and slightly more narrow than the regular cartons of orange juice.

I didn’t think too much of  it because the taller Trop50 carton makes it appear that you’re getting the same amount of juice as you would have if you purchased the regular Tropicana orange juice.

No big deal until you take a closer look and see, as indicated on the side of the carton,  that the taller, slightly skinnier carton of Trop50 orange juice actually contains only 59 ounces of juice compared to the 64 ounces of juice found in the regular Tropicana orange juice cartons. Worse yet, the non-sale price of the Trop50 was 20 cents higher than the price of the regular Tropicana orange juice.

So lets get this straight: for the Trop50 orange juice with 50% less calories and 50% less sugar,  you pay 20 cents more and get 5 ounces less juice than the regular Tropicana orange juice!

Yet it seems that I’m not the only one that’s picked up on this food packaging slight of hand. A recent Consumer Reports publication has commented on the new Trop50 orange juice as well. They too noted the fact that the Trop50 carton contains 5 less ounces than the regular varieties of  Tropicana orange juice (although in their case the Trop50 and regular orange juice were priced the same.)

Consumer Reports goes on to report something that I failed to notice at first. The Trop50 is listed as a orange juice beverage containing only 41% orange juice, while the regular Tropicana orange juice is made from 100% juice.

I believe Consumer Reports sums it up best when they say

Instead of spending extra for a lower-cal juice beverage, cut those calories by mixing regular orange juice with water or seltzer.

Key Lesson: Be careful with product packaging. New sizes and shapes can be misleading. That’s why its more important than ever to read the product information carefully to see how much food you’re actually getting.

Have you had an interesting experience with product packaging, presentation, or labeling?