Why is there So Much Air in My Bag of Chips?

We’ve mentioned slack-fill on the blog before, but to give you a refresher, think about the excessive air in a bag of chips. We’re talking about that empty space making a “family size” bag of potato chips enough for only you and your best friend (depending on their appetite).

More formally, slack-fill is the difference between the actual capacity of a container and the volume of product contained inside it. Nonfunctional slack-fill is the empty space in a package that isn’t filled to its capacity for reasons other than the six specific categories listed in our previous blog post. There are cases where nonfunctional slack-fill exists, but brands have made a good effort to accurately depict the product on the package. Ultimately, brands are doing a better job telling you, “what you see is what you get.”

While many brands are on the up and up, there are cases of marginal slack-fill where brands may have inadvertently used packaging (or print) to veil the difference in volume, resulting in a lawsuit. Yes, you read that correctly. Lawsuit. In case you haven’t heard, consumers have sued companies because they’re not getting enough bang for their buck.

We gathered up several standout lawsuits from some of the most well-known companies. Heroic attempts to get more crunchy goodness than empty space? Desperate attempts for attention and cash? Check the list out below, and let us know if you think they’re just full of hot air or legitimate cases to take to court.

  1. Strumlauf v. Starbucks Corp.: In January 2018, a California judge found that “a reasonable consumer would not be misled into believing that foam does not count toward some portion of the volume of their [Starbucks] Latte.”

  2. Wurtzburger v. Kentucky Fried Chicken: The plaintiff, a New York State resident, alleged that the defendant engaged in a national and local advertising campaign that misled consumers into believing the Defendant’s food packaging—buckets of chicken—are filled to the rim.

  3. Ebner v. Fresh, Inc: The complaint was that the screw function of the “Sugar” lip balm tube keeps the consumer from using the remaining balm, therefore, the quantity of products listed on the package is false because the last bit is unusable.

  4. Fermin v. Pfizer, Inc.: It was argued that Advil packaging misleads the consumer by the size of their bottle compared to the number of pills contained therein, but “the court rejected the plaintiffs’ claims, holding that, as a matter of law, it was not possible that Pfizer’s packaging could mislead a reasonable consumer when it clearly displayed the total pill-count on the label. In so holding, the court noted that ‘[i]t defies logic to accept that the reasonable consumer would not rely upon the stated pill count.’”

Have you seen a slack-fill lawsuit that caught your eye recently?

You can check out our online courses for more information on the slack-fill phenomenon!


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