Korean Consumers Fooled By Deceptively Packaged Snacks

Article from SBS:

Jump in Snack Prices…Fooled When You Open Larger Sized Snack Packages


At the end of last year, the price of snacks went up, some by as much as 20%. While the size of the snack box increased as well, the contents did not. Consumers were fooled by the larger packaging. Let’s see to what extent this occurred.

Reporter Kim Jong Won has the story.


Recently, we went to the market and bought some snacks that had increased in price.

The prices were pretty hefty.

For 7 packages of snacks, 25,010 Won. ($25.01)

I thought I’d be getting more in the bigger boxes, but when we opened them, this was not the case.

When we took the snacks out of their wrapping, and placed them back into the box, the volume had decreased such that the snacks from 7 different packages were all able to fit into one box.

The packaging is 4-5 times larger than the size of the product itself.

One could claim that the packaging helps prevent the products from being crushed.

Product Representative: Every product has a tray(the plastic packaging for plates). Would it be okay if it did end up breaking? If we simply test the excessive packaging, we would discover that this isn’t the reason for its development.

Our team of reporters brought back some snacks from the grocery store.

When we glimpse into one of the boxes, we see that there is a considerable amount of packaging.

To find out if the excessive packaging helped protect the contents of the package, and if so to what extent, we tested the products with an expert both without packaging, and with the excessive packaging.

We selected three kinds of snacks, and after redesigning the box, we repackaged the products.

We decreased the wrapping on a package of four brownies by 60%. Because of a plastic stand, the size of the large snacks also decreased by 40%.

We dropped both the smaller size package and the original package from a height of 1 meter and 20 centimeters.

For bread, no matter how small the package, the contents were fine. For cookies, in the original packaging, two cookies broke, and in the repackaged box, three cookies broke.

Thus, there doesn’t seem to be a positive correlation between the size of the packaging and the preservation of the contents.

Park Su Il, Associate Professor of Packaging at Yonsei University: One side doesn’t have it, if you only pad this side, it’s hard to see the effects of padding it. Just think of it as a marketing strategy.

The university students had a relatively different response to the relation between size of packaging and price.

Let’s say the price of a big box and small box are 3,000 won. Anyone who thinks this is the right price point, raise your hand.

When comparing the original packaging with a similarly sized box, most people answered that the price was reasonable. However, when comparing the size of the smaller, repackaged product, many students felt that the price was too high.

The students were later shocked to discover that the contents of the packages were exactly the same.

Jeong Ji Won, student from Incheon University: Would you buy this smaller package for 3,000 won? No.

It seems that consumers are fooled by the larger packaging.

Lee Young Ae, Professor of Consumer Studies at Incheon University: Some people think that the price is reasonable for packaging that is larger and looks nicer. You can say that it’s a way to fool the consumer.

Domestic companies are neglecting to improve the dissatisfaction rate over excessive packaging while continuing to increase prices. Consumers are shifting towards imported snacks, and in the last month alone, the sales of imported snacks jumped by 30%.

Comments from Naver:


So imported snacks can be packaged [minimally] like that because they are sturdy… [sarcasm]

wred****[Responding to above]

If you bite into those snacks, it seems your teeth will be broken.


Eat imported snacks. They’re cheaper and tastier.

wjdt****[Responding to above]

Please recommend some imported snacks.


When I was young, Pringles were expensive, but now they’re actually cheaper. It’s an inconvenient truth.


The nitrogen I bought came with snacks?

mink****[Responding to above]

I’m sick of hearing these obvious things


Foreign snacks are not packaged excessively, but make it all the way to Korea in one piece, which is why they manage to sell a lot. haha Snack companies should stop tricking people and learn to reduce excessive packaging while keeping the product in one piece. Of course I’m not sure if you will do it! keke Because they want to save the materials for these snacks.


Buy the Chocolate Tintin. I tore off the packaging, and it was the first time I ever thought about killing someone.

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  • Bryan Cheron

    Compared to the Chuseok gift boxes (Spam and a few pieces of fruit for 100,000 won), this is nothing.

    • bigmamat

      I can send you Spam all day long if you pay the shipping. You won’t find all the crazy flavors, maybe barbeque or hickory smoked, any of it is about 3 to 4 dollars a can. Granted they’re heavy and would likely cost a bit to ship but you wouldn’t have to worry about it getting crushed. What is a 100,000 won about a 100 dollars. Depending on the shipping that could be a lot of Spam for 100 bucks. I don’t think I’ve touched the stuff since I was a kid growing up. I wouldn’t eat it then unless you put it in a frying pan and browned it up a bit.

      • chucky3176

        Actually the salty flavor of spam complements well together with cooked rice in hot water and kimchi as side dish.

        That’s my go-to food whenever I don’t have anything in the fridge or don’t want to cook. I’m sure many Koreans have eaten spam like this.

        • bigmamat

          When I get down to the last of my groceries I eat hot dogs and rice. I’m sure it’s pretty much the same taste. I also make smoked sausage called kielbasa or hot dogs with fresh cabbage. Honey, I’m from smoked meat country. I’m from Virginia, our hams are famous whether it’s smoked or salt cured. That’s really all Spam is, ground up ham. You’d love a good Virginia ham. You’d never want to eat spam again. My go to canned meat is tuna. Americans eat a lot of canned tuna.

          Now that I think about it. Koreans would probably like tuna salad. Koreans like fish, they like mayonnaise, you like pickles and eggs. Do you eat celery? We can leave that out. You’ve got tuna salad.

      • Guest

        Have you ever try frying up spam with slices of pineapples? It’s delicious, pour some of the juice from the can in and let the spam simmer in it.

        • bigmamat

          No it’s been so long since I’ve had Spam, but ham and pineapple are standard on what we call a Hawaiian pizza. Years ago one of my favorite little downtown bars had a pineapple cheeseburger that was delicious. When I was a kid my grandma used to stick pineapple rings and whole cloves to the ham when she baked it. Whole cloves became too expensive so I glaze my ham with a mixture of mustard and brown sugar now. You guys almost have me convinced to try a can. I’m also thinking I haven’t eaten canned corned beef in years either. Now that’s really bad for you. It’s loaded with fat.

        • Warren Lauzon

          Sorry, but there is nothing in the world that can make Spam taste good.

          • Guest

            Spam is salty, fatty , and yet kinda ‘harsh’ & dry on the tongue (in spite of the fat).

            Canned pineapple balance the salt with sweetness, balance the fat with tartness, and the juices moisten against the weird dryness of meat that’s been pulled apart and mashed up… It comes out great if you simmer it, no overcooking!

  • tokio

    Pringles are cheap over there? Need my plane ticket. ASAP.

    • It’s something like $2 for a tiny can. Not cheap at all IMO, the comments are just saying they are getting cheaper compared to Korean snacks

      • bigmamat

        A full size can of Pringle’s here can be had for about $1.50 a can. It’s gone up about 50 cents in the past few years. My kid can crush a can of Pringles. My daughter likes pizza flavor.

  • Snack pack stories…is a major concern in Korea now….lets forget about the woman that was driving the ferry……lets just move on now

    • i’m a firm believer of the ability to follow more than one story

    • Warren Lauzon

      Some of us can follow more than one news story at a time.

  • Pretty sure soju and cigarettes are the real snacks of Korea

    • John I.B.C. Madison

      Soju, cigarettes, and those shrimp-flavored chips that cost next to nothing considering how much you get.

      • Arendelle

        Excuse me, how did you get that picture on your profile?

        • Doge Wallace

          Go to disqus.com, click on your blank avatar on the top right, click on settings, then click on “Avatar” and you’ll see several options.

          In return for helping you with this request – I ask that you use this picture as your avatar for one week. Thanks.

          • Wow, such request

          • Arendelle

            Of course I know the method… lol though I’m quite new here. What I’m asking him is where he found the picture. That doll in the image has a significant meaning in Korean Internet. I’m wondering if he knows that meaning or not…

      • yea wtf your pic is too kawaii

  • commander

    The snack market in Korea is an oligopoly, meaning when one confectionery firm adopts an alleged marketing strategy of sprucing up packaging without increasing content inside, other market competitors follow the tactic for boosted profit.

    It’s a loosely associated cartel, which maximizes corporate profit at the cost of consumer welfare.

    But it’s hard for fair market watchdog to make an intervention in price setting as it’s not easy to capture price collusion between market players especially when a higher price agreement may be made tacitly.

    This problem underlying in market structure means disclosing a deceptive marketing strategy about packaging will not help improve consumer satisfaction with snacks compared to prices they pay for them.

  • bigmamat

    “Contents sold by weight not volume”, is the disclaimer bags of chips used to have and some cereal boxes. The contents will settle during shipment and make the bags half full. I couldn’t check if chips still had the disclaimer. We didn’t have any in the house today. I checked the cereal box we have and didn’t see it. Many types of cookies here will come in a tray and then a plastic sleeve sometimes with a peel and reseal opening. Old fashioned cookies like ginger snaps and animal crackers often just come in bags. They are hard and don’t break easily anyway. All snacks are sold by weight regardless of the packaging. All packaged food in the U.S. must have nutritional facts and lists of ingredients. Nutritional facts include servings per container, calories per serving, fat, sugar and other types of information. Then there is the ingredient list with it’s unpronounceable myriad of preservatives and additives. Does Korean packaged food not have these things? Maybe not but certainly there is at least a weight given for the contents?

    • Yaminah Jamison

      Yeah that’s why when I shop for certain things I compare weight of the items and see if it’s worth buying. But I don’t by snack like stuff anyway and if i do they’re on sale lol. But nowadays things are being sold for the same price (or a bit more) and you’re getting less of it. My mom bought spaghetti and the box was the same but felt the contents were lighter. Sure enough it went from 16oz to 13oz. But still the same price as it was before.

      • bigmamat

        Are all the packages 13 oz now? There are some items that come in slightly smaller package sizes. Bacon is one. You can by a 16 oz pack or a 12 oz pack. I think some whole wheat pastas come in a pack that is less than 16 oz. I don’t buy whole wheat because the benefit is minimal and the calories are actually higher.

        • Yaminah Jamison

          I don’t know in particular. My mom buys whole wheat at times and this was a walmart brand. But it just makes me wanna check in general to see if the weight change on certain items that I buy.

          • bigmamat

            You should always check the package weight especially if you think something is up. I understand the inclination to see a bigger package and think more. Even if you are bulk buying like in Sam’s Club or Costco it’s important to know the price of a single in the regular grocery store. You might not really be saving much at all. Especially when you consider buying a dozen of something that might take you many months to consume against storing those items all that time. I don’t buy in bulk anymore because the fact that I overspend when I go there usually outweighs whatever benefit I gained from buying some things in bulk.

          • Yaminah Jamison

            Yeah I usually do now anyway. Especially meats and fruits. Bulks…. eh I’m only one person so I don’t need much lol.

    • chucky3176

      I’ve never seen disclaimers on Korean packages. Nutritional facts and ingredients are always printed on packages, as well as the weights.
      You’d have to be pretty stupid consumer to buy based on package size.

      • bigmamat

        I agree. A lot of people aren’t very smart shoppers anyway. You’d think Koreans would be considering how legendarily frugal they are about other things like heat and air conditioning. I understand a lot of fresh fruits and such can be pretty expensive there as well. I’m a bit of a master grocery shopper anyway. I can load up two weeks worth of groceries in a basket and tell you within a couple of dollars how much is in it by the time I get to the check out. I’m also pretty good a the flea market haggle. I’m sure I couldn’t do in Korean but I’m not too bad at haggling with the Mexicans even with my limited Spanish and their limited English. lol

  • guest

    This happens all over the world, especially for gift boxed sweets. This is very annoying because the excess packaging is bad for the environment, boycott them, write and say why!

  • John I.B.C. Madison

    And as a result, sales have been decreasing.
    Good riddance…….

    Why would anyone pay 4000KRW for sub-standard chocolate wafers, when you can buy German or Swiss originals of the same quantity made using high-quality chocolate for 2000KRW?

    • Chucky3176

      Many Koreans don’t like the overly rich, super sweet, snacks, like the Western people love.

      Unless taste buds are changing, majority of Koreans prefer mildly sweet snacks, with not as much calories in them.

      • bigmamat

        European cookies and snacks are usually much less sweet than in the U.S. If we’re talking about snacks in Korea are we talking mostly sweet snacks like cookies or snack cakes? If you’re talking snacks in the US you usually mean something salty like potato chips or of course Doritos….snack chips and crackers. Do Korean’s eat those? I know they don’t like sweet but I understand they don’t have the same problem with consuming a lot of salt.

        • Chucky3176

          Korean Doritos are made under license by Lotte. I hear that the taste is modified to suite Korean tastes. I wouldn’t know because I don’t touch that kind of junk food stuff. But you can also get original American Doritos at big retailers like Costco or Homeplus.

          • bigmamat

            I don’t eat them because I’m grossed out by the powdery salty stuff dusted all over them. I used to eat them but now I can’t. If I eat chips or crackers they are plain. I understand for westerners good cheese is the hardest thing to find in Korea. It’s also expensive. Maybe that isn’t such a bad thing in the U.S. cheese is no longer consumed like a source of protein. it’s used like a condiment. It’s almost on everything. Then there’s Ranch Dressing. The stuff is insidious.

  • elizabeth

    Now that is an incentive for me to cut down on unhealthy snacks, lose some weight and save more money in the process…

  • Guy Forget

    Korean snacks used to cost so cheap. Some still are, like those ice cream bars that are only 200 won (20 cents) which would probably fool americans if u sold them there for $1 they’d still buy em. But the prices have gone up for sure. The best stores are those old fashioned candy stores that still sell 10 cent candies (baek won). Once Koreans learn how to deceive the people to make gross profits like the way Americans have done to the american people for years, you’ll soon seen no candies and chips sold for under $1. The good thing was that Koreans were pretty honest and innocent and sold candies at very FAIR prices, but now that they are discovering that they can raise prices by 500% and still sell, why would they ever go back to selling an ice cream bar for a fair 500 won or 200 won when they can jack it up to 1000 won or 1500 won and it wud still sell. Damn. The good ol days are going…..

  • CoCo

    Imported snacks are the same. In the states, when you buy a big bag of chips, half of it is air. Purchase a box of cookies and you’ll notice the plastic tray and the divider is bulky and unnecessary. Personally I like the taste of some Korean snacks, so I don’t think the prices will deter me from buying them.

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