Consumer Confidential: Pricey pennies, watery OJ, gifted miles

Here's your walking-on-sunshine Wednesday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--The Obama administration thinks pennies and nickels cost too darn much. So it's asked Congress for permission to change the mix of metal that goes into making the coins -- a recipe that's remained unchanged for more than 30 years. It currently costs 2.4 cents to make one penny and about 11.2 cents for each nickel. Given the number of coins that the U.S. Mint produces -- 4.3 billion pennies and 914 million nickels last year alone -- those costs add up quickly. But even though the Treasury has been studying new metals since 2010, it has yet to come up with a workable mix that would definitely be cheaper, and it has no details yet as to what metals should be used or how much it would save to do so. (CNN Money)

--Speaking of changing recipes, PepsiCo says it knows how to sell more Tropicana brand orange juice: Add water. Some consumers prefer orange juice that’s less thick. Others want juice with the "goodness" of oranges and fewer calories, the company says. It believes consumers will pay the same -- or more -- for such versions. PepsiCo’s Tropicana, the best-selling OJ in the U.S., is trying to regain space in refrigerators after a repackaging fiasco three years ago hurt the brand and allowed Coca-Cola to outflank it. The brand lost market share last year to Coke’s Minute Maid and Simply Orange brands. So now PepsiCo is focusing on products with less juice, more innovation and, therefore, higher profit margins. (Bloomberg)

--Who needs gift cards when you can have airline miles? United-Continental Airlines says that if you've got at least $25 in unused credit, you may be able to trade it in for frequent-flier miles. The carrier's frequent-flier members will be eligible for the MileagePlus Gift Card Exchange program if they've got a gift card from one of more than 60 major retailers on the airline's approved list, such as Starbucks, Target and Home Depot. United will determine how many miles the remaining dollars on the cards are worth. It'll then dole out some miles. No word on what United will then do with all those unused gift cards. (USA Today)




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