Companies Fill Bags with Air, Not Snacks
By Junhyung Han
On September 28, 2014, two college students successfully crossed the Han River on a raft they made with 160 unopened potato chip bags. “As we mentioned before, we hope snack companies will think more about consumers,” said Mr. Jang, one of the students. As their stunt demonstrated, Korean snacks are excessively packaged: on average, the packaging is 2.5 times bigger than the amount of snack in it. Since this excessive packaging is unethical and harms the domestic snack industry, snack makers should stop deceiving consumers.
To demonstrate the excessive packaging used by these companies, in March 2014, SBS conducted its own experiment. They bought seven boxes of snacks totaling 25,0o0 won ($22), removed all the packaging including boxes and plastics, rearranged the snacks, and successfully put most of the snacks into a single box. In other words, the boxes were five to six times bigger than the contents.
Despite such revelations, Korean snack enterprises remain impudent. A company released the statement saying that it package snacks excessively solely to protect snacks from being harmed. So an SBS reporter removed the original packages of several snacks, put the snacks into 40-60% smaller, redesigned packages, and dropped both the original ones and the redesigned ones from a height of 1.2 meters. The result: two damaged snacks in the original packaging, and three in the redesigned ones. The experiment demonstrated that the company lied.
Since 2012, Korean snack enterprises have lost their credibility. According to a survey done by Trend Monitor, a group which surveys and analyzes domestic consumption trends, 71.7% answered that they do not trust domestic snack companies. Additionally, 88.6% agreed that domestic snacks are excessively packaged, and 85.3% said that domestic snacks are expensive. Who would trust the companies that provide small amounts at expensive prices?
Consequently, many of these disappointed consumers started to buy imported snacks instead and sales of domestic snacks have declined. Trend Monitor surveyed one thousand customers in August 2014, and 62.7% answered that they are buying imported snacks more than before. These cheap and unique snacks attract many consumers, especially young people. According to Lotte Mart, from 2009 to 2014, the market share of imported snacks increased from 7.5% to 25%. On the contrary, the market share of domestic snacks had declined for the five last years. In addition, the number of imported snack retail shops has increased and contributed to domestic snack industry’s recession.
Yet consumers do not entirely trust imported snacks–54.5% were dubious about imported snacks’ authenticity, and 44.9% were worried since the information of the product is not written in Korean. Also, 38.1% thought that there might be some expired snacks. Through this data, it is evident that consumers do not perfectly trust imported snacks. However, the fact that they are buying more imported snacks despite such anxiety reflects their severe disappointment in domestic snacks.
With all of this in mind, there is a way to resuscitate the domestic industry. Domestic snacks have one inherent strength: unlike imported snacks, all the product information is written in Korean so that consumers are less suspicious. But snacks have high elasticity: there are tons of alternatives for consumers to buy alternatives whenever they want. Thus, the task left to the domestic companies is to stop excessive, obnoxious packaging and to lower prices. Domestic snack makers have not yet crossed the Rubicon. They can reestablish their crushed credibility by ceasing their deceptive practices. They should be honest, before it’s too late.
The writer is a junior in high school.