Shoppers big on food in small packaging

Soya sauce is one of the items which consumers here are buying smaller portions of, along with other essentials such as rice and cooking oil. The smaller bottles of soya sauce (upper shelf) are proving more popular than the bigger bottles (lower shel
Soya sauce is one of the items which consumers here are buying smaller portions of, along with other essentials such as rice and cooking oil. The smaller bottles of soya sauce (upper shelf) are proving more popular than the bigger bottles (lower shelf) at this FairPrice outlet in Toa Payoh Lorong 6.ST PHOTO: RUDY WONG
Soya sauce is one of the items which consumers here are buying smaller portions of, along with other essentials such as rice and cooking oil. The smaller bottles of soya sauce (upper shelf) are proving more popular than the bigger bottles (lower shel
Soya sauce is one of the items which consumers here are buying smaller portions of, along with other essentials such as rice and cooking oil. The smaller bottles of soya sauce (upper shelf) are proving more popular than the bigger bottles (lower shelf) at this FairPrice outlet in Toa Payoh Lorong 6.ST PHOTO: RUDY WONG

Trend attributed to shrinking households, less cooking, health awareness

CONSUMERS here are big on condiments and food items in smaller packaging, with sales growing in the past two years, even though such items may cost more.

Retailers and suppliers said that individual customers are increasingly going for smaller portions of basic essentials such as rice, cooking oil, soya sauce, sugar, soup stock and milk.

They attributed this trend to shrinking households, less cooking done at home, heightened health awareness and a bigger inclination towards freshness.

"Consumption patterns have changed. When I was young, some people would even buy soya sauce in a carton of 12 big bottles," said Mr Thomas Pek, 54, managing director of Tai Hua Food Industries, a local food manufacturer and distributor.

"Now, one bottle can last a long time. People cook at home less often and they use just a few drops here and there in dishes."

Demand for his company's soya sauce in 320ml bottles has risen by nearly 20 per cent, said Mr Pek. The 640ml bottles are popular among commercial clients, such as hawkers, who still buy big bottles in bulk.

Said a spokesman for Tong Seng Produce, which distributes the SongHe brand of rice: "The older generation... believe in bigger pack sizes as they are more economical, but the new generation (of customers) buy smaller sizes because of smaller families."

Today, the biggest pack available for SongHe rice is 50kg, while the 100kg pack had been phased out.

Sales of 1kg and 2.5kg bags of SongHe rice have gone up by about 5 per cent over the past two years, the spokesman added.

People are also becoming more health conscious, said Mrs Mui-Kok Kah Wei, senior director of purchasing and merchandising for supermarket chain FairPrice.

"More consumers are purchasing cooking oil in smaller bottles of below one litre," she said.

She added that sales for packs of sugar weighing under 1kg and bags of rice below 5kg have risen by 5 per cent to 10 per cent.

Market research firm Euromonitor International said in a report earlier this year that the trend is likely to continue.

Campbell's Soup, for instance, has already introduced a 250ml pack for its Swanson Chicken Broth, in addition to the larger one-litre pack and 411g can.

Smaller portions often mean no leftovers and, hence, no issue of storage, said a spokesman.

F&N Magnolia, meanwhile, has stepped up promotions of its one-litre carton of milk.

Said Ms Jennifer See, general manager of beverages in Singapore for F&N Foods: "Our encouraging the purchase of the smaller one-litre pack over the two-litre pack was motivated by our desire for consumers to drink their milk as fresh as possible.

"Lifestyles have changed and people are constantly on the go. Opting for smaller packs and convenience are important factors in their choice."

Reduced packaging, however, does not come with a reduced price tag.

The same amount of condiment or food packaged in smaller sizes is usually around 10 per cent to 20 per cent more expensive than those in bigger packaging. This is because smaller portions cost more for manufacturers.

For example, two 320ml bottles of Tai Hua special light soya sauce cost $4.20 at a FairPrice store in Toa Payoh but a 640ml bottle is priced at $3.60.

Two bags of 2.5kg Golden Royal Dragon rice cost $10.30, while a 5kg bag of the same item costs $9.40.

Consumers, such as Mrs Joan Wu, 25, are not deterred by the higher prices, though.

Said Mrs Wu, a married civil servant with no children: "My husband and I cook about half of our meals at home, but we eat more pasta, so we very rarely buy a big pack of rice."

cherylw@sph.com.sg