Product Recoil: Packaging

see copyright notice. Page created 31-Jan-2023. Use the button groups above to navigate quickly around the site.

Note: This page reflects my general experience, illustrated by example items from retailers that happen to be local to me. I've tried not to identify them explicitly, as I believe the highlighted issues are widespread across the retail sector.

Watch your weight

[Chocolate Assortment packaging]

Easter eggs are renowned for being over-packaged, but there are many other culprits on the confectionery shelves. I was particularly annoyed when I opened a posh-looking "Dark Chocolate Edition" assortment, whose size and weight I'd judged to be reasonable in the store. I hadn't noticed the little note at the end of all the verbiage on the sleeve, stating the net weight!

A mere 130g of tiny chocolates were contained within this elaborate box, insert, cover and sleeve, which had a volume not far short of a litre, and weighed 148g - comfortably more than the contents. What's more, there were two metal discs invisibly sealed into the front of the box, with two corresponding magnets in the lid flap, to make it snap shut - relieving the poor consumer of the irksome drudgery of tucking a flap into a slot. Not good for recycling, methinks.

Since that disappointing purchase, I've made a point of checking net weights, to avoid again shelling out 4 times the price, weight for weight, of a comparable chocolate bar. However, I was recently fooled again when buying a pack of two cheesecake desserts. It felt like I was getting two substantial portions, until I opened the (windowless) box and found they were packed in heavy glass ramekins!

Talking of glass, there's a huge variation in the amount of it that goes into making a wine bottle. I'm not talking about sparkling wines, which need a thick container to withstand the pressure, but just an ordinary, still red or white. So far the lightest 750ml bottle I've found was around 350g, while the heaviest weighed in at 650g. That's not far off equalling the weight of the wine within - and sadly the monster contained a nice organic red. Its producer might want me to think heavy weight implies a better product, but actually I shan't be buying it again, solely on account of the excessive energy used to pack and transport it. Know your market!

Nothing (to hide)

[Muesli with oversized box]

We're all familiar with the phrase Contents may settle - often meaning This packet is only half full. Said packet is usually a cardboard box with a window or cutout in the side, and it amazes me how accurately the top of the window tends to be placed just below the top of the "settled" contents. The muesli pictured here struck me as an extreme case (the outline of a figure jumping for joy - or maybe with rage - was the transparent window). In response to my complaint, the producer stated that they used a standard box size for all their cereals, and that this product was a particularly dense one!

[Pate in two pieces with gap hidden]

Another crafty way of selling you less than you thought is illustrated by these slabs of bean pâté. Who'd have thought, seeing the pack on the shelf with the division in the tray obscured by the sleeve, that the contents weren't a single slab?

[Slices of ham with thin edge concealed]

Sleeves and labels can also be used creatively to beautify less-than-perfect meat products. These lovely thick slices of ham, for example, all tapered off into pathetic slivers at the top edge, the uppermost one being neatly hidden under the sleeve.

[Steak with large piece of hidden fat]

And when I peeled back the label from the right-hand side of this pack of organic sirloin steak, I discovered a lump of pure fat that I calculated had cost me nearly 50p! On that occasion the store did at least take the matter up with its supplier, and sent me a voucher to compensate.

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