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ridged potato chips
July 02, 2008

Controlling portion size is one of the corner stones in the efforts to reduce Obesity. In an effort to help consumers control portion size, snack manufacturers are increasingly offering these small packages.

That is a step in the right direction. Right?

Maybe not.

Research just published in the Journal of Consumer Science based on a dissertation of Rita Coelho do Vale at the University of Tilburg suggests smaller packages can lead consumers to eat more, by blunting their wariness about how much they consume. The small packages seem to "fly under the radar" of self control mechanisms, as the researchers describe it.

A total of 104 students were offered potato chips while watching television. Half of the students had first participated in a supposedly unrelated study that made them aware of their body shape (weight-conscious students).  


  Weight conscious studentsControl
Likelihood of opening 45 g bags of chips 58%74%
Likelihood of opening 200 g bags of chips 29%56%


  Weight conscious studentsControl
Potato Chips consumed from 45 g bags 46.1 g50.9 g
Potato Chips consumed from 200 g bags 23.5 g59.0 g

Small bags are opened more readily, in both groups. And although the control group ate an about equal amount of product from each type of bags, the weight conscious group consumed about twice as much from the small bags.

I guess the most sensible decision from a company point of view to avoid any issues is to offer both packaging formats, maybe with an extra large format for dieters???

And if you need another excuse to rip open a LARGE bag of potato chips, this same thesis suggests that it may actually be beneficial to (preplan to!) "sin" and indulge now and then, because it keeps up the motivation.

If you were just trying to lose weight, maybe these are things you would rather NOT know, but just in case you want all the details:

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