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100-Calorie Packs Pack It In

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The recession is taking a bite out of the once-hot 100-calorie pack business.

A report by market research firm Mintel last week outlined the reasons why: Concerns about taste, price, sustainability and efficacy are trumping 100-calorie packs’ raison d’etre.

Kraft started the whole mini munchie craze in 2004 with its introduction of Oreo Thin Crisps, Wheat Thin Minis and Nabisco Mixed Berry Fruit Snacks. Kellogg and General Mills launched their own 100-calorie entries a year later. Kraft’s line was an immediate hit, logging more than $75 million in sales in their first year, per IRI (which doesn’t measure Walmart sales.)

In contrast, for the 52 weeks ended April 19, sales of most 100-calorie pack items tracked by IRI are down. Dollar sales of Kraft's Nabisco 100-calorie Oreo Thin Crisps, for instance, fell 30.5 percent to $16.7 million. A company rep, however, maintains its 100-calorie packs are still holding strong. (The company added Oreo Mini Cakesters to its 100-calorie pack line in January.)

Tom Vierhile, director of product launch analytics for Datamonitor, said the segment has run out of steam. Vierhile’s research shows that there’s still a lot of products on the market making the 100-calorie claim—190 were introduced last year and 68 have come out so far this year, but they may be too late to market. “This has been a big trend the last couple of years, but has dropped off this year and at this point it looks like we’re going to come in below where we were last year,” he said.

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