Mini Meals: Paying a Premium for Less Product

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Mark Lennihan / AP

Chains like Dairy Queen and Starbucks have come up with new treats that appeal to health-conscious customers because they have fewer calories. Actually, “new” isn’t the right word—because these items already exist on the menu, only now they’re available in smaller portions.

The amazing new trick for reducing calories in, say, a Dairy Queen Blizzard, is to put less ice cream and candy in the Blizzard. How innovative!

Bloomberg recently covered the mini treat trend, which includes new—or rather, newly shrunken—menu items from Dairy Queen, Starbucks, and McDonald’s, which follows on the heels of the trend for tiny 100-calorie snacks featuring the likes of Doritos and Chips Ahoy.

The anti-supersizing movement is appealing to restaurants and food manufacturers because a) it helps attract calorie-conscious customers; and b) selling a miniscule amount of product for a relatively high price is good for the bottom line. A Dairy Queen executive said as much to Bloomberg:

“Consumers are willing to pay a little bit of a premium for the mini Blizzard,” [chief brand officer Michael] Keller said. “That has helped our operators protect their margins.”

Bloomberg reports that the 7 oz. mini Blizzard contains about half as many calories as the 12 oz. small Blizzard. That doesn’t really add up. According to Dairy Queen’s Treat Nutrition Brochure, mini Blizzards typically have more than half the calories of the small size. The mini Cookie Dough Blizzard, for instance, has 420 calories, compared to 710 calories in the small (a large has 1,300 calories, fyi).

In terms of getting the most bang—or rather, Blizzard—for the money, the mini size offers mini value. Prices vary from DQ to DQ, but a mini typically runs $2.50 or $3. A few dimes more generally pays for a small.

There’s an obvious solution for customers who want a Blizzard, but don’t want to go overboard on the calories and don’t want to pay a premium for it to come in a smaller portion: Order a larger size, ask for two spoons, and share with a friend.

All New Packaging! Less Food! Same Price! What a Deal!