The ice cream scams

June 5, 2022 • 9:15 am

When I was younger—actually, it doesn’t seem that long ago—when one bought a big tub of ice cream, it was a full half gallon. Then the companies started shrinking the sizes of the containers from 64 ounces to 56 ounces, and now the big container of most name brands, like Breyers (the go-to “quality brand” of my youth), are a paltry 48 ounces. That’s a quart and a half, or a full 25% reduction in size from the original.

Why do you think they did that? We’re not stupid: they shrunk the containers but did not commensurately shrink the price, so a given amount of ice cream cost more.  It’s capitalism, Jake! Now you could figure this out if you look at the unit price (price per ounce) required to be posted in the grocery stores, but who ever does that? In the end, it was pure duplicity whose effectiveness counted on consumers not paying attention to per-unit prices—or even noticing the size change.

Another trick is that what looks like “ice cream” is, if you scrutinize the label, often described really a “frozen dairy dessert” (this is particularly true of exotic flavors). They are not the same thing. Breyer’s also did this downgrade, as described in the New York Times in 2013 (see picture below):

First, as part of typical trompe l’oeil packaging, the cartons now hold 48 ounces, not the half-gallon’s 64. (The good news is that your hands haven’t become freakishly large; the bad news is that you’re not suddenly much stronger.)

Second, that age-old Breyers boast of “All Natural” has been replaced with “Quality,” which is one of those impressive words that loses impact the more you think about it.

Lastly, not all Breyers is what we once understood the name to mean. A Breyers carton in the store’s freezer might be ice cream, but the Breyers carton right beside it, identical in nearly every way, might be something called “frozen dairy dessert” — which, when translated from the original Orwell, means: not ice cream.

One example from a 2013 article in the New York Times (circle is mine):

More from the NYT:

Remember the old schoolyard song?

I scream,

You scream,

We all scream for frozen dairy dessert …

You might ask what the difference is between ice cream and a frozen dairy dessert, and I might answer that it is the same as the difference between a slice of American cheese and a slice of Kraft Singles American Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product. Since this is not helpful, we turn to a spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration, the guardian of “standards of identity,” who explained the distinction in a written response: “Ice cream requires specific levels of milk fat content, nonfat milk solids content, total solids in each gallon of ice cream, and total weight in each gallon of ice cream, while frozen dairy products do not.”In general, ice cream has at least 10 percent dairy fat, and a frozen dairy dessert does not. In my freezer, the Breyers vanilla fudge twirl frozen dairy dessert has the ubiquitous corn syrup, and the Breyers vanilla ice cream does not.

Clearly the change in wording is another bit of duplicity to reduce manufacturing costs. I discovered this when I finally started inspecting the cartons, only to find that what I thought was ice cream was in fact a “frozen dairy dessert.” I was not happy.  Here’s how the NYT described the ingredients for Breyers vanilla ice cream vs. vanilla “frozen dairy dessert”.

Breyers natural vanilla ice cream: milk, cream, sugar, tara gum, natural flavor. Period.

Breyers extra-creamy vanilla frozen dairy dessert: milk, sugar, corn syrup, cream, whey, mono and diglycerides, carob bean gum, guar gum, carrageenan, natural flavor, annatto (for color), vitamin A palmitate, tara gum.

Years ago I wrote to Breyer’s about the size change (as a curmudgeon, I did that from time to time), and the company wrote back bloviating about how “it’s what the consumers wanted”.  Of course that’s bullpucky. It’s capitalism, Jake! I want a full half gallon!

Last night I discovered what might be another trick, though I’m not sure. I had a pint of super-premium ice cream in my freezer, and decided to dip into it. When I looked at the calories, it said in big letters “320”.  But I didn’t look close enough, for that was the first nutritional ice cream on the label. But when I looked again, it was “320 calories PER SERVING”.  Closer inspection showed that there were supposed to be THREE servings per pint, so the total calories in the small carton was 960—a substantial number of calories. But that information appeared after the “per serving” information.

(In fact, all containers seem to specify a number of servings greater than those consumed by a normal person. Who decides what a “serving” is?)

Now I may be wrong, but shouldn’t the total calories per container appear first on the label? Do they put the “per serving” calories first so you think you’re eating healthier? Because NOBODY I KNOW GETS THREE SERVINGS OUT OF A PINT OF PREMIUM ICE CREAM!  I usually get two, but many of us, particularly when we need comfort, eat the whole damn pint.

Could it be that what I thought was a favor to the consumer (it isn’t; this is mandated by law) was really a way to make you think what you’re eating is less calorie-laden than it is? And that could result in your buying the ice cream when you wouldn’t if you really knew how many calories it had.

That is for Solomon to decide, but one thing’s for sure: the size reduction (not limited to ice cream, as the NYT mentions) is the result of pure greed. And it’s even more nefarious because it is hidden. You’ll never see on the label: “NEW SMALLER SIZE”.

So we have three potential tricks involving carton size, ingredients, and unrealistic serving sizes.

Oh, and I just remembered Steve Gould’s old Natural History article, “Phyletic size decrease in Hershey bars,” one of his funnier essays (still online), in which he describes the shrinkage in Hershey bars over time, always ultimately accompanied by an increase in the price per ounce. Here’s the graph Gould showed, putting it in an evolutionary context. Note that the article describes how Hershey’s tried to bribe Gould by offering him a free ten pounds of chocolate (they didn’t come through after his piece appeared!).

I haven’t bought a Hershey Bar in years, but I bet it’s a lot more than 25¢ now. And here’s one of his conclusions—classic Gould:

So, your lessons are these:

  1. If you’re counting calories, always look at the “per portion” count as well to see if the portion size is realistic. Will you really consume only one potion?
  2. If you’re out to buy ice cream, look at the carton to see if you’re getting “frozen dairy dessert” instead. Maybe you want this ersatz ice cream, but I don’t.

And get off my lawn!

98 thoughts on “The ice cream scams

  1. One more ice cream scam: they are whipping more air into the product. This is why many chefs now weigh all of their food rather than measuring the volume of scoops. I would love to see how the weight of a tub of ice cream has changed over the years; no one should be measuring it in quarts or liters: either kilograms or ounces!

    1. Yes, this really pisses me off. We not only need to look at the volume, the ingredients, but the weight as well. And this last thing is not something we can read on the label. Now people in the freezer section must judge each product’s heft as well.

    2. Similar to how they’ve figured out how to wind a roll of toilet paper so that it looks to be the same size as always but only lasts half as long.

    3. Yes! I recently bought Breyer’s Coffee “frozen dairy dessert”. I hadn’t noticed that it’s no longer ice cream. I did notice the increased amount of air whipped into it. I won’t be buying Breyer’s again!

      1. I notice it too. Brought 2 containers of coffee dessert, not ice cream & notice the color is lighter &has more air in it. So I’m returning the unopened container to get my money back. Breyers use to be good ice cream, not anymore.

    4. We all should, then, make our own icecream. It’s easy, and it’s guaranteed to be exactly what we want it to be.

    5. Years ago I fell in love with Dairy Queen blizzards, and decided I could make my own a lot cheaper. I liked the tropical flavors, so I’d let a carton of vanilla melt enough to stir in the coconut, mashed banana, and pecans. Then back in the carton to refreeze. Usually I’d have enough to fill the carton and have a bowl to enjoy. This time, when using Breyers, there wasn’t enough to refill the carton! Like you say, it’s AIR! I haven’t bought Breyers since and never will again. Consumers need to know this.

      1. Let’s be honest, we’re paying more and getting less for EVERYTHING. Look at a bar of soap lately? In my recollection, it started with tampons, used to get 32 per box, then it dropped to 28. And on and on and on. If you want a true half gallon of ice cream, go to your local, independent ice cream shoppe.

    6. Lots of companies are down sizing their products.. I figured it out last year when I went to the store for my favorite orange juice. Holy Smokes! Not just ice cream but juice bars, coffee, cereal, cookies, gram crackers etc! The prices have even gone up! Don’t believe it’s because of distributors raised prices! Then raise prices but keep the content as it was right!? I started to buy off brands . Or I go to Cash and Carry stores! Frustrating!

    7. Tillamook Dairy in Oregon love to show you weighing their tub of ice cream against other vendors of ice cream…

  2. One of the ingredients in the cheaper ice creams is Carrageenan which is algae. It is an extract from a red seaweed commonly known as Irish Moss. This edible seaweed is native to the British Isles, where it’s been used in traditional cooking for hundreds of years. It’s also widely used in the food industry, mostly as a thickener and gelling agent.

    1. The powers that be stopped carragenen in almond milk. But other products still have carragenen in it. The deception is numbing people.

  3. Holy cow! At least, until they change “frozen dairy dessert” into just “frozen dessert”. Then the cow will be out of the picture altogether.

    1. I think we all just have to use arbitrage to maximize our utility. Assume that the more jazzed-up the food is, or Orwellian the labels are, the higher the profit margin. Therefore the best deal for value, even if higher price, is the real McCoy: ice cream. Let the fools who don’t read labels contribute extra to the company’s bottom line for “frozen desserts” made with beef tallow. And don’t buy anything called, “whipped dessert”. Whipped means air, as Linguist says. Hopefully harder to do with real ice cream but I’d be suspicious.

      Similarly, steak is usually too expensive now to buy in grocery stores. But it’s the best deal in restaurants. Why? Because the fixed costs of a restaurant swamp the cost of food. The marginal menu cost of steak over chicken is therefore small. Buying a vegetarian meal in a restaurant is foolish. That’s not the restaurant’s fault, it’s just the economics of a restaurant.

      1. Are you in the restaurant business?

        I am, and I dispute your financial analysis. The fixed costs of at least our restaurant, do NOT swamp the cost of the food, especially not lately. Buying a vegetarian meal in our restaurant is NOT foolish. We make many of our dishes in such a way that customers have a choice; they can have a vegetarian version of something, or we can add meat. In a small town such as ours, it behooves us to accommodate as many people as possible.


        1. Just going by the menu prices in a Canadian high-rent high-wage high-tax environment. Small-town restaurants are a precious resource. Wish you best in yours.

          1. I love the gravy that comes with the chicken. Do you know what is in it?

        2. Maybe “swamped” is the wrong word, but if I compare the cost of buying steak in a supermarket to buying it in a typical restaurant (I’m in the UK), even taking into account vegetables and sauces etc, the mark up is well over 100% and that’s paying retail. I imagine restaurant buyers get it cheaper.

          This is not a criticism, it’s just a fact. When I go to a restaurant, I fully understand that I’m not paying just for the food, but also somebody else to cook it and serve it and to clean up after I’ve finished and I’m also paying for somewhere to prepare the food and eat it that isn’t my own home. Of course the cost of the raw ingredients is only a small part of that.

          On the other hand I don’t know anybody who eats vegetarian food in restaurants because it’s cheaper than eating meat. And it’s certainly not foolish to buy the vegetarian option if you are a vegetarian, or even if it looks like it might be quite tasty.

  4. Since rum and raisin has gone out of fashion it has become hard to find. So last summer I bought the ice cream attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer, and started making my own. It’s easy and so much nicer than “frozen dessert reminiscent of dairy”.

      1. I am fortunate enough to live elsewhere, but you can’t find R&R for love or money round here, and the cartel of Scotsburn and Framers that makes 95% of all ice cream in NS don’t make it any more saying there is no demand.

  5. Apparently the standard price of a candy bar, such as a Hershey Bar, is now up to $1.25 from vending machines. At least that’s the going price in the vending machines in the cafeteria in the Courthouse where I work.

  6. All the junk in process foods often makes me sick because of a health condition so I can’t eat most ice cream made with those fancy flavours.

  7. Caveat emptor more than ever.

    I have noticed all of these things over the years, the smaller ice cream container, the calories per serving, the “pasteurized food product,” the frozen dessert, the $2.00 Hershey bar. Not to mention the “cholesterol free” spinach and “gluten free” corn flakes. It’s a perfect Andy Rooney skit! But, I read labels carefully and I have no choice but to live with it. My friends roll their eyes when I talk about this stuff, and I rolled my eyes a bit when I read your post. 🙂 Where is Andy Rooney when you need him?

  8. When I was growing up my father would regularly complain about the size of Hershey bars. I never understand his preoccupation with the matter but now I get it: He was a Biology prof and he read everything by Gould. Mystery solved after forty years!

  9. On your twitter stream, I get this warning before being allowed to see the tub of Bryers: The following media includes potentially sensitive content.

  10. Likewise with coffee: a pound became 12oz, a 25% lessening without decrease in price. We’ve become so used to this that an actual pound of coffee is rare and, gosh, kinda heavy to lift. And then there’s the misleading ‘buy one, get one at half off.’ I suspect many shoppers think of this as a 50% price reduction. As Firesign Theatre says, ‘It’s free, only a dollar.’

    1. A couple of decades ago (or earlier?) I noticed that the net wt. of a can of tuna went from 6 1/2 to 6 1/4 to 6 1/8 oz. over several years. I haven’t looked in several years. Looking just now, I see the net wt. is 4 1/2.

        1. Even the “per oz” price at the store is tricky. I just bought sausage and the big pack was labeled per oz while the smaller pack was labeled per pound so they can’t be easily compared. I’ve also found several products were the bigger “family size” product costs more per oz than the smaller size package, people assume it’s cheaper to buy the larger size.

      1. Also the fact that they leave all kind of fat and other stuff on chickens and meat to add weight oh yes and more water then they hide the fat on the underside of the package and make it look good on top

    2. Hey, a 2×4 is not a 2×4, and lumber companies have been selling them under false pretenses for years, with no complaints from builders..How do you draw up a blueprint for a project, using 2×4, 2×6, 2×10, and have the structure you’ve planned, come out right..🤣🤣🤣

  11. “…if you look at the unit price (price per ounce) required to be posted in the grocery stores, but who ever does that?”

    Me. I made it to my habit in recent years, exactly because size tricks are so common.

    1. Under the guise of an error, it is also used to manipulate buyers. Not that long ago I was looking at pistachios at a store. The common brand had a price per ounce and the store brand had a lower price per ounce. Yet something was odd. Whipped up my phone and yes, the store brand was more expensive per ounce. I will not be convinced it was an accident, it was on purpose with plausible deniability. No way something so convenient will be left alone. Mental math is a valuable ability.

    2. I check unit prices as well, but often, when one brand of an item is posted in ounces, another brand of the same will be posted in pounds. I then spend half my time doing math equations to come up with a comparable price.

      Are stores or the manufacturers responsible for this? Do corporations give kickbacks to the huge grocery store conglomerates so their item appears to be less expensive? I suspect that eventually, I’ll learn that somebody has secretly changed the number of ounces in a pound.

  12. Same attempted tricks across the pond, but somewhat twarted by comsumer protection.

    The differences are: Calories are generally standardised to 100g of the substance. That makes it easy to compare. Companies usually don’t print the calories total on the package, but ocassionally try the bullshittery with the “servings” too, but I know nobody who pays attention to it. Stores generally print prices per 100g or 1kg next to the per-item price, and I think that was introduced in response to a wave of “family pack” sizes that pretended to be cheaper, but were more expensive.

    The food industry fights tooth-and-nail against better consumer-friendly information, with total BS reasons. For a long time, it was attempted to introduce a color system, Traffic light rating system that tells you easily if the food has excessive salt, sugar or fats. Even though it is a complete no-brainer, and supported by a majority of consumers, its introduction is constantly postponed and prevented for a decade by now. This tells you who’s really in charge. You’d think greenlighting this would an easy score for any politician?

    1. If you are willing to pay for labels that tell you what to eat, more power to you. Me, I’m happy to know a list of ingredients and calories per 100 g but I would regard traffic light labels as patronizing, “excessive” evidence that the nanny state has gone too far. Compliance would be difficult and expensive as what is considered excessive would change at the whim of the government in power and the manufacturer would have to make up millions of new labels for an unchanged product.. With existing labels, the manufacturer needs to change his labels only when he changes the product. Besides, almost everything poor fat people eat would be red-lighted anyway.

      I can understand perfectly why the industry lobbies against this pecksniffing.

      1. Corporations do label their food, but they do it deceptively, setting tiny portions. The quantities are known to them anyway, and they only have to print them. They pretend that a “bowl of cereals” is really just 3 spoons, explained in finest print, and that a “meal” is thus “only” 16% of the daily salt budget printed big (as determined by the nutritions and medical experts). You’re good then, you’d think. In reality, an actual bowl of cereals might already contain most of the suggested salt budget, leading to some of the leading causes of death (such as high blood pressure). Your attitude is common in the US, and it shows in high obesity rates, and lower life expectancy.

        Meanwhile Nestlé and Co run advertisement all day, where they show athetes eating the “fitness” cereals. It’s not required to print the amounts of ingredients, so you can only guess that this is really a salt and sugar bomb by looking at the order of ingredients. You still don’t really know, and reading tiny fine prints and calculate the dosages is practically impossible. They know exactly why they don’t want clear information, and it’s not because of extra costs.

        Usually, the US Libertarian pitch goes like this: “Let the market sort it out! Consumers will make their own decisions”. What happened to that one? Did the mask slip? Those who don’t care, are free to ignore such labels. Those who wish to identify hidden sugar-salt-laced foods that are marketed for a healthy fitness lifestyle can make better decisions, and buy the Non-Nestlé competitor without the omnipresent advertisement. Actual market forces would sort it out a little. And that’s the actual problem to Nestlé and Co. It’s not costs. Red labels would give away their deceptive marketing, especially with cereals and suchlike.

        Consumers aren’t stupid: they know that chips are going to be salty, and sweets will have sugar. Studies found that they (see link above) still buy such foods, and they know what they get. The real problem are foods that are hidden salt-bombs, where people have no idea just how over-the-top they are. I think your take is the authoritarian one, as you deny consumers to make informed decisions for theselves: you want to withold that from them.

  13. My dear old dad loved ice cream after supper each night, but announced in the early 2000s that he had stopped buying it. When queried as to why, he said it was because they had started putting only 3 servings in each “half gallon”….. a commentary both on the shrinking size of the container and of the generous helpings he enjoyed.

    Loved the excerpt from Gould. lol… (Raising my hand as one who can remember 5 cent Hershey bars.)

    1. Just last week I was at the grocery store check-out line, and an elderly lady grabbed a $1 Hershey bar and showed her husband, saying: “Remember when these were a nickel?” I actually laughed (I don’t know why I found it funny…maybe the way she said it). But not until reading Gould’s analysis did I realize those 5 cent bars had more chocolate to boot!

  14. I have Gould’s book Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes, in which that essay was reprinted, in 1983. The following essay in the book was about the mass extinction event that marked the end of the Cretaceous period. He discussed the then newly predominant idea that the extinction was caused by an asteroid as based on evidence from surprising finds in the levels of enhanced iridium in what is now referred to as the K-Pg line (Cretaceous-Paleogene). It would be several more years before evidence of the asteroid impact at the Yucatan Peninsula was discovered and its significance realized circa 1990. I would have gotten and read that collection in the late ’80s and just a few minutes ago re-read that particular essay. Gould wrote about the evidence known at the time and the general consensus and arguments for and against particular scenarios as to causes of the mass extinction. I find it rather fascinating how science itself evolves as based on new evidence is discovered, leading to new ideas to incorporate all the known data. No one book could ever provide all the information need to understand our world, despite creationist claims that everything they need to know is contained in their particular version of the bible, which is more a source of misunderstanding the world.

  15. I accidentally bought some of the Breyers not-really-ice cream last year. Immediately noticed something wrong with the mouth feel, and checked the box. Realizing my mistake, I saw no need to finish it and left the bowl on the counter overnight. Oddly enough, there it was the next morning, somewhat slumped but basically still structurally intact.
    Never. Again.

  16. In Haagen I Trust. Fan since encountering the dip store on Christopher Street just south of Bleeker in New York in 1972. Quality has not suffered one iota, even though ownership has been passed around corporate America. Including Dryers, whose mainline product has definitely participated in the scams listed here.

    Pure ingredients. Dense texture. Splendid.

    1. As a Haagan Dasz fanatic and regular buyer of its coffee ice cream, I regret to inform you that they have reduce the coffee flavor in their ice cream and it now tastes diluted, at least the ones for sale in supermarkets.Maybe ice cream shops have a different formula. I say this as someone who has eaten HD coffee ice cream since they appeared on the market, and I know my stuff.This defrauding of the public is now widespread; producers are diluting their product as well as reducing the size; everyone is out to maximize their own profit; work is outsourced to idiots who know nothing; blame is placed on the post office or others; people speeding 80 mph in a 30 mph zone, crossing double lines, etc.My mutual fund where I have had money for decades bounced valid checks on a valid account and blocked my account WITHOUT NOTIFYING ME! (two days of frustration talking to five different people who read from a script and just punch SEND, and know nothing about the case)….etc, etc.
      It is a society that has lost any sense of social responsibility or honesty or integrity. And the ordinary person is helpless to do anything about it. No wonder crazies go around shooting people randomly.

      1. I didn’t know about the coffee flavor thing … I only buy vanilla. Your full rant acknowledged for agreement in general. I do think the shootings have a deep and widespread origin in our culture’s degredation.

    2. I grew up in Vermont and, of course, became a Ben & Jerry’s lover. In 1984, shortly after HD was purchased by Pillsbury, a certain distributor informed Ben & Jerry’s they could no longer stock their brand. This was because Pillsbury had committed restraint of trade by telling the distributor that if he continued to stock BJ, he would not be allowed to stock HD. Their lawyers had told them they would never win against a $4B company. Instead they began a marketing campaign ‘What’s the Doughboy Afraid Of?’. Nearly 40 years later, if you want super premium ice cream, either of these is your go-to choice. But I won’t buy HD because they used illegal tactics back then. And besides, BJ is tastier, better quality, with better flavors.
      Note that I cannot speak to their coffee flavor as I am that weirdo that hates the taste of coffee.
      Best flavor ever was Ben & Jerry’s That’s Life Apple Pie. Unfortunately it was a limited edition that I could only ever and rarely find in Ben & Jerry parlors. Really tasted like very good apple pie ala mode.

      1. I would respond, Dragon, but my momma told me to shut up if I have nothing good to say … about Ben and Jerry’s. Meanwhile, the only good thing to say about the Pillsbury era of Haagan-Dazs is: they did not ruin the actual ice cream.

      2. Hi Dragon,
        Just want you to know that you are not alone, I’m 64 years old and I don’t like the taste of coffee either! Never have. Most likely never will. I don’t even like the smell. Thank any and all deities for good tea!!

  17. I have said this here before. Anybody who has a Costco membership should try their store brand premium ice cream. It comes in full half gallons, and it’s WONDERFUL. It only comes in vanilla, but you can add fruit, or chocolate chips, or coconut, or anything else you like in/on your ice cream if you don’t want plain vanilla.

    Take your business where the business is still doing it right.


      1. Yes! I love all their products – and visiting the factory & buying the discount ‘ends and pieces’ cheese.

      2. I’m sold on Tillamook. Their plain vanilla is my go-to also. I also love their chocolate chip, strawberry and peaches and cream.
        The cartoons have gotten smaller though.

        When a package of many foods tells you how many servings it has, I double it.
        I have a pound of dry spaghetti here that says 8 servings. That to me is like a noodle a person. The servings are too small.

        1. Yes, the other Tillamook flavors are good also. I hadn’t noticed the change in package size but I’m not surprised. It’s not an unreasonable response to inflation but there should be a law that says if a company is going to reduce their product size, it should be forced to carry a label saying so for some period of time.

          Serving sizes are ridiculous. My guess is that these aren’t regulated but I don’t know. It would be hard for the government to regulate a standard serving size for anything but the most basic foodstuffs. Of course, an argument could be made that spaghetti is about as basic as it gets. The government does require them to state what comprises a single serving. Most supermarkets do have price per unit on their price placards. I find that quite useful.

          1. Would you like to hear a very shameful story about the time I emailed Tillamook Dairy? Back in days of yore – their sliced medium cheddar came in packaging that fit perfectly in the work-fridge cheese drawer. Then they changed it, and it did not fit. It was also very noisy. I don’t know why I was so fired up about it, but I emailed to complain. They sent me back a very nice email explaining the new packaging and how much better it was for the environment, and extended their condolences about it not fitting in the work-fridge.

        2. I love Dave Barry’s rant about portion sizes. His best example is “three-quarters of a pickle spear”.

          Actually, portion sizes are given by the manufacturer, and have no basis in anything.


        3. Tillamook is absolutely the best. Carton size may have changed iver the years but is REAL ice cream…..high butterfat. Old Fashioned Vanilla!!! Try their Medium Cheddar Cheese too.

      1. You have said you like their apple pie.

        Try putting a scoop or two of their ice cream on it.


  18. I like kielbasa as hiking food, proteinaceous and salty. A kielbasa used to be a pound, but now it’s 12 ounces for the same price. An easy 25% profit to the Oligarchy.
    And those Girl Scout thin mint cookies? I’m not much of a cookie eater, but every year those damned Girl Scouts appear and trip some dopamine circuit in me Tiny Brain whereby I am forced to buy all their accursed Thin Mints (two sleeves of cookies in a box) and when no one is looking, devour them.
    Serving size listed on Thin Mints? FOUR COOKIES! Just try eating only four of those things.

  19. Surprising that Breyer doesn’t mount an advertising campaign based on the
    carrageenan component of its frozen desert. I can see it now: the charms of
    Irish moss, replete with leprechauns, rainbows, and pots o’ gold, all to the haunting sound of the uilleann pipes.

  20. The scam has a name: shrinkflation. I notice it most in the number of chocolate of bars I now have to eat before I realise I’ve had too many. It’s hard work, but worth it.

    1. Yup, I was going to make a similar comment. “Shrinkflation” has been around for a while, at least in the UK. Although given the level of inflation we currently have I suspect that the attempt to reduce the product size won’t go unnoticed.

  21. A favorite topic of mine….shrinking boxes!

    My baseline are Triscuit boxes. I have observed through the years. And has anyone noticed how the one now considered “family size” is starting to approximate what the regular size of years ago was? And how the normal sized one seems to be going Lilliputian?

    And chips…..have you noticed how there is more air space?

    When figuring out inflation, Does the government factor in portion/content size?

    BTW, I am embarrassed to admit that I do go down grocery aisles and will often calculate per ounce pricing…..and yes, there have been times when people have asked me surreptitiously which size is more cost effective and I’ve calculated in my head….comparing sale size package to normal price.

    1. I find the box sizes particularly annoying when I’m doing a recipe. I make our chocolate chip cheesecake crust from a combination of Oreos and graham crackers. I used to be able to use a specific number of rows or packages. One day i opened a box of graham crackers, and although the box was the same size as before, the individual packages inside had shrunk considerably. I had to look on the front of the box to get the total weight of the crackers, and then calculate how many I needed for the recipe. It is constantly changing/shrinking now.

      Another example is yogurt. Yogurt used to come in 8 oz. cups. It’s now 5,3, or approximately two cups of yogurt for three packages. So I’m now using three packages where I used to be able to use two.

      Makes me want to scream.


      1. A lot of my mom’s recipes use containers in lieu of a measurement for ingredients. A ‘box’ of this or a ‘can’ of that. That said, I don’t cook using a lot of prepared items (canned tomatoes might be the exception for when I make red sauce) so I don’t imagine I’ll be hurting too bad. Many of those recipes (though tasty) aren’t exactly the height of health (hello, chicken devine!!).

      2. Me too! Even a bag of sugar has shrunk. Used to be sold as a 5lb bag, now they are 4lbs. When I am making jam I have some fecipes that want the whole 5 lb bag. What a bother. Just corporate greed. Cake mix, same story. My mom had passed along some recipes that called for a box of cake mix as the basis to make something else but they no longer work out because the cake mix size has shrunk. Annoying to say the least!

    2. > I do go down grocery aisles and will often calculate per ounce pricing

      I know I said above that I prefer per-ounce/per-kg pricing, but there is one thing that tops that. When I am watching my macronutrients, I end up doing dollars-per-gram-of-protein and grams-of-carbohydrates-per-gram-of-protein calculations. There’s no reason to pay good money for food that has been watered down with fillers like water, corn, or sugar. Reading the label on one of my favorite traditional foods – scrapple – is deceptive, with ingredients listed by weight; the proteins and fats are all wet weight, and the carbohydrates (corn) are all dry weight, meaning it is deceptively high in carbs.

    3. “And chips…..have you noticed how there is more air space?”
      Not just “air space”. They’re skimping on the seasoning as well! I remember when ketchup chips were sometimes damn near purple and would burn your tongue if you ate a whole bag.

      1. They also change the recipe of many products, and not for the better. I used to love Kraft Mac & Cheese but I tried it a year or two ago and it was nowhere near as good as I remember it. It could be my aging taste buds but my guess is that they’ve done something to reduce the price of ingredients or increase its shelf life.

    4. I am 77 yrs old, & I have witnessed all these reductions in size of products that companies are now selling us, but charging us more money. The hungaryman TV dinner is a good example. It now resembles the size the smaller dinners used to look like. I also check unit price against how much money per oz. I do this on everything I purchase now. All of the companies are ripping off the customers. Add gasoline to this equation, where the greedy oil companies are adding more money per gallon at the pumps every day now. We don’t buy our oil from Russia, so the Ukraine war should not cause our gasoline at the pumps to spin out of control in the good ole USA. What I conceive the oil companies trying to do is, recoop monies lost during the pandemic, when most people stayed home. That should not be allowed by our government. However, the reduction in the size of products has been going on for decades already, & our government could care less. That’s why companies continue to invent new ways to screw over the consumer…because they know they can get away with it.

      1. Even thought we don’t get much oil from Russia, it’s a commodity bought and sold on an international market. The price of oil in the US would only be independent of its price in the rest of the world if we completely isolated the country and its markets. Here’s an article that can explain this better:

        Why gas prices are soaring when the US barely uses Russian oil

  22. I’ll be the contrarian.

    First, I don’t care all that much about the ingredients in junk food, since it’s something I only eat occasionally, anyway. I care about the taste. If you don’t like the taste of these new flavors (or have allergies), that’s one thing. But if you have to look at the ingredients before you get upset, then the taste couldn’t have been all that bad.

    I guess I can’t get too worked up over the ice cream sizes because we simply don’t eat that much of it in my house. Even the new, smaller ‘pints’ mostly go to waste from freezer burn, as I’ll just have a small scoop every once in a while. We only buy the ‘half gallons’ when company comes over, and whatever doesn’t get eaten that day basically doesn’t get eaten.

    Regarding serving sizes on the nutrition info, I thought everybody knew about that trick. If anything, I’ve noticed it getting better in recent years, with companies like Coke finally labeling their bottles of soda from gas station fridges as 1 serving rather than 2 or 3.

    I wonder if reduced serving sizes really are customer preference given smaller family sizes. I know that I personally avoid buying packages that are too big because I don’t want the food to go to waste (or actually eat all those calories), and I’ll preferentially opt for things like 12 oz of bacon instead of a full pound (what do me and my wife need a full pound of bacon for when it’s just the two of us?).

    I also wonder, when people look at the increased price per oz., did they adjust for inflation? I thought one of the main reasons for ‘shrinkflation’ was to help hide inflation costs, not necessarily to increase profits. Or am I just being naïve?

    1. Yep, we can complain about a candy bar being a nickel but people made a dollar an hour then, it’s not like a company can make, package, ship and sell a candy bar for a nickel these days even if they wanted to. A lot of the smaller packages are due to the cost of production and not simply to give us less so they can profit more but so they can keep the per unit price consistent even while the per oz cost goes up. I’ll be the guy who thanks the current administration for rather large short term price hikes in everything compared to before he took office.

  23. Besides shrinking the box and the “frozen dairy dessert” foolishness, there is another aspect of Breyers being corrupted by the dark side: ingredients.

    Remember the Breyers commercials about their ingredients? “Milk, strawberries, sugar, and cream.” It was true — that’s all that was listed on the package.

    You don’t see those commericials anymore because they are just like the other brands, adding vegetable gum, whey, “natural flavors” and whatever else.

  24. Ice cream is sort of a problematic purchase for us, because it is a long trip back from the grocery store. We do have a couple of 12 volt freezers, but they are big and awkward.
    Anyway, we have an ice cream maker, one of the good ones. You dump the ingredients in and turn it on, and it makes a hellish noise, which stops when the ice cream is finished. It has it’s own refrigeration system, so no ice and salt or similar annoyances.
    It is really the best way to go, and if you are like us, the preferred flavors are seasonal, usually berries just picked.

    The hellish noise seems to be reduction gears and a clutch mechanism. It stops churning when the ice cream becomes too thick to continue doing so. There are lots of ways that they could have built it, where it would have worked quietly, but Cuisinart chose the other path.

    1. That little machine makes damn good ice cream, assuming it’s the same Cuisinart that we have. Is yours the model that you freeze the metal “insert bowl” before making the ice cream? I don’t remember it making an obnoxious noise, but ours is small, only 1.5 quarts…it’s really easy to use and clean up as well.

      1. No, it is the one you just turn on. It freezes itself, and keeps the ice cream cold if you don’t tend to it right away.
        I makes a real racket. The first we used it, I assumed it was malfunctioning, and called the manufacturer, but the said it was supposed to do that.

        1. Oh…yeah, you have a different model. I used to have a Cuisinart “mini-chopper” that almost blew my eardrums out with its high-pitched whine. I guess Cuisinart engineers are all deaf. 😉

  25. I buy a particular, well known brand of shower cream, it used to be in 600ml bottles for a certain price. One day I noticed that the volume had decreased from 600ml to 500ml, the bottle was the same size and the price constant. some time later the bottle size was reduced with the same contents and price. After that the volume was again reduced down to 450ml bu the price and bottle size remained the same. The other trick is two for the price of one. I only buy from these offers as I reason that they are still making a profit and so the original price must have been making profit + price of one bottle. never buy without the 2 for one offer although this is being scammed by the same style label but offering two for a lower price than the cost of two bottles but looks like 2 for 1.

  26. Anyone notice the jars you buy, used to be a “flat” bottom. But now, many are indented, which reduces the amount of product in a jar. Especially, the jams and jellies. Also the jars are skinnier than they used to be.
    Noticed this working on the production line, years ago.

  27. I bought vanilla bean ice cream from Aldi’s say’s no artificial flavors, no high fructose corn syrup but on the ingredients it has skim milk, cream, sugar, CORN SYRUP etc, etc
    WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?????!!!!

    1. The next time you buy a (labeled) 5 lb bag of potatoes or fruit, weigh it first. Use the store’s scale or a luggage scale. It often weighes less, a lot less.

  28. Next time you buy a (labeled) 5 lb bag of potatoes or fruit, weigh it. Use the stores scales or luggage scales. It is often less. A lot less.

  29. Breyers used to be the gold standard for ice cream, saved for a special occasion because of the extra expense and higher quality. The frozen dessert is nothing like ice cream of old. I sent Breyers a scathing review. They sent me coupons for 2 cartons. I bought the vanilla ice cream thinking they couldn’t screw that up. But they have. So I’m done with them forever. At this point, store brand is better than Breyer’s. Thanks for validating my cynicism

  30. Related to shrinkflation is the gradual cheapening of ingredients in popular products. As soon as a product becomes a hit, its maker considers ways in which to make more profit from the product. Some of this is undoubtedly taking advantage of economies of scale — nothing wrong with that — but many times I’m willing to bet it’s replacing quality ingredients by cheaper ones and hoping customers won’t notice the change. And, unless they really screw up, most customers really won’t notice. After all, how do you compare a taste now with one two years ago? Just like Bill Maher says, “I can’t prove it but I know it’s true.”

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