Recently my 9-year-old son opened a new cereal box and was shocked to find a third of the box to be empty space. “No wonder my favourite cereal does not last long!!”, he exclaimed disappointingly. I guess us adults got used to it and accepted this fact!
We all know the reasons why slack fill in packaging exists. Some reasons are functional (product settling, manufacturing process, product protection), but we also know about the human psychology reasons – for products to look bigger and therefore more worth the price. With such tough product competition in supermarkets, every trick counts.
However, I wonder if this is starting to backfire for manufacturers. Not only we get disappointed by the small amount of the product. We have become so much more environmentally conscious, that anything considered as waste angers us. We are seeing more and more #greenshaming on social media. This happened to me yesterday morning. I just thought that if the cereal box were 25% smaller, that means that in theory you need 25% less plastic bag and 25% fewer cereal lorries and ships going around the world. That is a significant!
Also, I would argue that as more consumers are buying online, the psychology of having a larger product is less relevant. When shipping online you don’t look at the size but rather the weight and price per unit.
I do believe that we have the technology available to reduce functional slack fill. We just need a change in culture and for supermarkets to encourage manufacturers to reduce waste. In the end, even a 9-year-old was able to spot the unfair waste.