Another shrunken container

July 19, 2010

Below is my recent dialogue with the Tropicana Orange Juice folks (a division of Pepsico).  At least they (unlike the folks at Hellman’s Mayonnaise/Unilever) favored me with a response.

I am very disappointed with your recent decision to decrease the size of the orange juice carton as a sneaky way to raise the price. The result of your using this no longer effective trick (at least with me), as opposed to merely raising the price of the present-sized container, is to lead me to distrust everything about your company. Will you now start diluting the juice with water and make an inconspicuous note of that on your container (perh aps with some MBA-inspired message about how you’ve lowered the calorie content of your product), hoping consumers won’t notice? I will now purchase products from your competitors for as long as they maintain their use of full-sized half-gallon containers. Unfortunately, given your market dominance, they probably will follow suit in due time. And the leaders of the business community wonder why consumer confidence is low. Shame on you.
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Thanks for your feedback about the changes in size to our 64 oz Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice. We appreciate the opportunity to address your concerns, and value your opinion.

Reducing our 64 ounce carton to a 59 ounce carton wasn’t a decision we took lightly. As you probably have heard, the Florida citrus industry has suffered the most devastating winter freeze and one of the smallest orange crops in 20 years. When the supply of oranges goes down the price goes up which impacts our costs. Instead of raising prices, we chose to slightly reduce the amount of juice and maintain the price. Our consumer research shows that most shoppers, when given a choice between a price increase or slightly less contents, prefer to hold the line on prices.

Although you may not agree with our decision, S____, we hope you can appreciate that it was made with consumers in mind. Please be assured that feedback from consumers, such as yourself, is valued and your comments have been shared with our marketing team as well as senior management. Again, thanks for your input and for being a loyal Tropicana Juice fan.

Tropicana Consumer Relations

Tropicana minimizes landfill waste by using virtually every part of the orange, as well as its by-products. The by-products become scent extracts and animal feed.

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Dear Margie:

   Thank you for your prompt response to my e-mail.  I do not want to belabor this matter, but I feel I must reply.
    I fully understand the need to raise prices when the cost of raw materials increases, and I do not take issue with that decision; rather, it is the way you chose to do it.  If consumers really prefer a smaller carton to an actual price increase, why then is your new smaller carton an exact replica (but for the fluid ounce statement) of the old carton?  If this is what consumers prefer, why not prominently state on the carton, “New Sized Container,” adding that “rather than raising our price, we listened to consumers who expressed a preference for slightly less contents”  I will tell you the folks I know who unwittingly bought your new smaller containers were not happy when I pointed out to them that they were being shorted. A price increase, on the other hand, would be noticed by consumers right away (and, if justified, probably accepted).  In short, I’m not buying your assertion that — absent some indication on the container that the contents had been reduced — reducing the contents of the container was a decision “made with consumers in mind.” 
   Thanks for letting me vent.  S______.