JAN - MARCH 2005

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Featured Stories

The Tastes that Bind
Cecile C.A. Balgos

The Big Picture
Vinia M. Datinguinoo

Mini-Size Me
Avigail Olarte and Yvonne T. Chua

Where's the Beef?
Luz Rimban

Green Dining
Alecks P. Pabico

Mutants on Your Plate
Alan C. Robles

Movable Feast
Ed Santiago

Why are Filipinos Hungry?
Ernesto M. Ordoñez

At the Kitchen of Divine Mercy
Sheila S. Coronel

Republic of Pancit
Nancy Reyes Lumen

Mama Can't Eat
Vinia M. Datinguinoo

Eating Without Fear
Ipat Luna

 F E A S T    A N D    F A M I N E  —  M I N I - S I Z E   M E

THE DOWNSIZING phenomenon, which Unilever's Macapagal says started largely in the Philippines, has caught fire in other countries in the region, particularly in India and Indonesia. These countries, he says, have a high ratio of low-income earners with minimal disposable income. Manufacturers in India have had to shift to smaller pack sizes with the growing demand for lower-priced goods in towns and villages.

Next year’s election will have many more young and urban voters than in the past. [Photo courtesy of Malaya]

Sari-sari store buyer

But there would be no such mass mini-sizing without a more complex technology of packaging, which has enabled manufacturers to produce metallized, multi-layer sachets called flexible composites. The result is light but very strong packaging. A shampoo sachet, for example, would have thick plastic as its first layer. The second layer is aluminum that protects the product from the sun, thus preventing chemical reactions that might cause the contents to deteriorate; it also serves as a barrier to contain the fragrance of the product. The next layer would be for printing that is then coated with another type of plastic to protect the ink engraved on the surface.

"Packaging serves as our window to the consumer," says Christophe Joyeux, development manager for Unilever Philippines. "It's what the consumer sees. From the marketing point of view, the function of the packaging is to be able to say this is the product, its content."

Packaging's second function is to protect the product from the sun, especially when placed in a sari-sari store. Joyeux stresses that the wrong type of packaging could result in, say, bacteriological contamination of shampoo. A home cleaner or a shampoo should be able to last for two years in a sari-sari store although its average lifetime would be three months, he says.

Macapagal points out that it was flexible packaging that made sacheting for food possible and started brainstorms among food manufacturers who began asking themselves, "What is realistically worth consuming in such a size?" Snacks was one of the answers. Macapagal notes that while Unilever used to offer soups only in a family pack for four to five people, it now has a 15-gram, single-serve soup a busy office worker can enjoy even without leaving the workplace. "If you're hungry…just pour water and you have your soup ready," he says.

Yet while convenience has certainly been one of the come-ons of buying in sachets, consumers cite price as their number-one reason for purchasing downsized items. And it's not only because they just a few pesos to spare. Filipinos actually end up saving when they buy items in sachets versus goods in plastic or glass bottles. It's the exact opposite of what is happening in the United States, where the consumer market has grown bulk-obsessed and gone for super-sized products in part because they believe they save money in doing so.

Production-wise, sachets are 10 to 20 percent cheaper than other types of packaging because they consume less packaging material, explains Joyeux. The selling price correspondingly goes down. At Unilever, for example, the suggested retail price of a 100-ml bottle of shampoo is P48. A 10-ml sachet of shampoo costs P3.15, which means 10 sachets, equivalent to 100 ml, will total only P31.50.

"When you buy a sachet, you pay less packaging material than when you buy a bottle. Consumers pay for the product, not the packaging. And that's what makes it (sacheting) a success; it's low cash outlay," Joyeux says.

The same holds true for some food items, although the savings aren't as much as in nonfood goods in sachets. For instance, a consumer would pay just P1.75 more when he buys a 385-ml bottle of Silver Swan Soy Sauce instead of purchasing several smaller plastic pouches equivalent to the same amount of toyo. And in some cases, it's cheaper to buy food in bigger cans and boxes than in sachets. Buying a 500-gram tin of Milo chocolate powder, for example, would result in savings of P10 compared to buying the same amount in 80-gram sachets.

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