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I always pride myself on being somewhat of a watchdog on noticing when companies seem to be giving you more for less.  I've written about how packaging changes can lead to higher prices for baby formula or even how changing the suggested usage in products like baking soda could trigger more sales, but the latest one I've seen is a new one, and probably something you may have already come across.

I'm talking about salad dressing.  With the latest change, they didn't change the size of the bottle or anything else.  No, they're being a bit more “Kraft”-y, if you will.

We aren't loyal to any one brand of dressing, but it seems that Kraft has a good portion of our sales.  I'm pretty much of the opinion that you need one type of salad dressing: Ranch.  My wife has five or six other ones, but if it were up to me, ranch would be the only salad dressing in the fridge.

So, I tend to notice when something changes, and with the latest bottle we opened, I noticed a big change.

Ranch, as I'm sure you all know, is a thicker dressing, so typically when you turn the bottle it doesn't just come out, but once it does, it can exit the bottle quickly.  For years, Kraft and other providers of ranch dressing have been kind enough to make the hole smaller on the bottle.  Instead of allowing the entire surface area of the top of the bottle to be open, they would have a small piece of plastic there with a smaller opening.

Until recently.

In the course of a meal, we were running out of one bottle of ranch, so I finished up what was left, then opened a new bottle.  Old bottle: Smaller opening.  New bottle: It was gone. Left with a bigger opening.

Not thinking, probably because I never really had to before, I tipped the bottle upside down and squeezed.

And, predictably, about a quarter of the bottle of ranch came out.  Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration, but the point is, I got much more than I needed or wanted.

Every time afterward that I used the bottle, I found myself typically getting more than I wanted, until after a few tries when I began thinking about and adjusting the way that tipped the bottle, watched for the ranch, and tried to limit what came out.

See, I think Kraft had made this change as a two fold strategy:

  1. Lower costs – By removing that small piece of plastic, they likely save a little bit of money.  It's probably less than a penny per bottle, but when you add up that they sell hundreds of thousands of bottles of salad dressing a day, it likely provides a small cost saving.
  2. Higher usage – Even though I have ‘figured out' how to cut back the amount of ranch I use, it took me a few tries to get there, and even since figuring it out, I've forgotten all about it.  This has left more than one occasion where I end up with more ranch than I need.  Since nobody ever take the ranch from a salad and puts it back in the bottle, this means that it gets rinsed off.  Meaning, you're rinsing money down the drain….and you're going through your bottle faster than you otherwise would.

If the average family goes through three bottles of ranch in a year, but now is wasting 10-20% of their dressing, this means they could average half a bottle of ranch per year per family.

That adds up pretty quickly.

I think it's a pretty dirty trick if you ask me.  I have no problem with Kraft making money.  They're a company that provides a product and they have a responsibility to any shareholder of Kraft stock to deliver maximum profits.  But to do it by creating waste is something I can't get on board with.

Our proposed solution

In order to combat this, our plan is to buy some small plastic squeeze bottles and put our ranch in there.  By design, these have a smaller opening and will control the amount of salad dressing that comes out.  This will allow us to reduce the waste that Kraft has introduced, and the squeeze bottles will pay for themselves after less than a year if my calculations are correct.  These squeeze bottles can be cleaned out and re-used for many, many bottles of salad dressing.

What do you think?  Is creating sales by creating waste an approach that companies should take and get away with?  Have you noticed this change?