Friday, February 1, 2013

Facts I Challenge You To Explain

In the USA, the portion sizes of nearly every food item are significantly larger than in the rest of the world.

Except for sugar packets.

For some reason, those need to be half the size of everywhere else.


  1. US cane sugar tariffs are substantially higher than anywhere else. This is why most foods have switched to corn syrup as a sweetener and why "Mexican Coke" (coca-cola with cane sugar) is so highly prized. These tariffs protect American corn and beet growers, as well as the very few sugar cane growers, at the expense of Caribbean sugar cane farmers.

  2. Huh! I knew about sugar tariffs, but hadn't made the connection. That is indeed the best explanation I've heard so far. The question, though, is whether it's big enough to explain it. Here, I'm not so sure.

    WalMart will sell you sugar packets at a unit cost of 2.9 cents per packet. A couple of estimates I've seen put the direct Cost of Goods Sold for espresso coffee drinks at around 55 to 70 cents, which is then sold for maybe $3-$4. If I doubled the amount I'm spending on sugar, by making the packets twice as big, it's a cost, but not a very big one (especially since not everyone uses it).

    More importantly, for a lot of the multipacket guys like me, if you made the packets twice as big, I wouldn't double my consumption. I'd just use one big packet instead of two small packets. So even then the total increase in costs is going to be less.

    That doesn't mean people won't still pick the small packets to save money, of course. But put it this way - if it were a cost-based choice, it's hard to reconcile with the same restaurant also implementing a policy like endless free soft drink refills (which cost maybe 13 cents per glass).

    Still, yours is now my provisional answer until I find something better. The other competing alternative being something to do with consumer self-control and the fact that adding extra sweetener feels gluttonous compared with the same amount being added for you as part of the beverage).