When ice cream isn’t ice cream anymore: Shrink the package, or shrink the quality?
After discussing the ever-increasing phenomenon of “grocery shrink,” where packages keep getting smaller but the price stays the same (or worse, goes up,) I wondered in another post what will happen when products become so tiny that they really can’t be any smaller. Case in point – just in the past few months, Oscar Mayer Lunchables dropped from 4.4 ounces to 3.4. Suave deodorant chopped 47% of the deodorant out of their new packaging, with a 2.6-ounce solid dropping to 1.4 ounces… almost trial-sized. Dawn Hand Renewal dishwashing liquid is now 9 ounces, down from 9.5. Will packages keep getting smaller, or will manufacturers begin downgrading the ingredients to cheapen the cost… and in turn, the quality?
Ice cream shrunk from a half-gallon to 1.5 quarts quite some time ago. And recently, Consumer Reports’ blog The Consumerist noted that many flavors of Breyers “ice cream” are no longer ice cream at all. These products don’t contain enough cream and/or milk fats to meet the standards set by the USDA to qualify as ice cream under Dairy Industry Act S.N.S. 2000, c. 24 N.S. Reg. 200/89.
So, what happened? The Breyers name used to be synonymous with all-natural ingredients. Remember their commercials which featured shoppers trying to read the ingredients list of a carton of other ice cream? Breyers advertised that they used natural ingredients like milk, sugar and cream, mocking a competitor’s sodium alginate, polysorbate 80, malic acid and locust bean:
Another of my longtime favorite blogs, Cockeyed.com, recently did a comparison between Dreyer’s (that’s Edy’s, to us Midwesterners) Light Ice Cream and regular Dreyer’s Ice Cream. The blog’s author, Rob Cockerham, opened two cartons of Dreyers and let them sit and melt completely, so he could see how much air was in each. While there’s a good deal of air in all ice cream, 54% of the Light Ice Cream carton was filled with air:
Dreyer’s slow churning process doesn’t have anything to do with churning.This newish ice cream is made using a process called low-temperature extrusion. This technique uses equipment which operates at a lower temperature, -20° C instead of a mere -5°C, allowing them to keep the ice crystal formations super small, resulting in a creamy taste, even though there isn’t much actual cream inside.
So what if they sell you half a carton of air? You LOVE when air tastes this good.
On a somewhat related topic, Rob’s Cockeyed.com blog has a running feature called “How Much Is Inside,” which his let-the-ice cream-melt experiment was part of. In another post, he notes that a Pillsbury Moist Supreme cake mix box states that it will make 24 cupcakes, but when he poured the mix into a cupcake pan, it only filled 17 cupcakes:
When it was time to pour the cupcakes, I was somewhat surprised to find that the batter barely filled 17 cups. These were by no means overflowing, top-heavy, muffin-top cupcakes. They were kind of pitiful actually, and yet the box claimed to make 24 cupcakes.
What would they look like if I spread this batter among 24 cupcakes? They’d be cupcakes for ants.
Indeed, I’ve gotten really frustrated with the shrinkage of cake mixes too. Earlier this summer Consumerist.com noted that Pillsbury took three ounces out of their cake mix:
Three ounces is 16% of the original mix’s size, but the box still makes 24 cupcakes. That makes each cupcake 16% smaller.
All of this has honestly made me think about making more things at home from scratch. We have an ice cream machine… why don’t we use it more? Cakes are pretty easy to make without a boxed mix too, and then you can make a batch of batter as large as you’d like.
Has the downgrading of products’ ingredients and the shrinkage of packages made you think about changing your shopping and cooking habits more too?