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September 9, 2013

Product Dilution: Breyers Lightens More Ice Cream

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:34 am

Last year, we reported that Breyers “cheapened” many varieties of their ice cream by reducing the amount of butterfat content to the point where the product could no longer legally be called “ice cream,” but rather had to be renamed “frozen dairy dessert.”

Some stalwart flavors, like MrConsumer’s beloved lactose-free vanilla, remained untouched until now. To MrConsumer’s horror and surprise, Breyers quietly converted that ice cream variety to “light ice cream.”

*MOUSE PRINT:

Breyers old - new front
Click to enlarge

In the new packaging, the “All Natural Ice Cream” claim is replaced with the phrase “Quality Since 1866.” Of course, it doesn’t say the same quality. And the words “ice cream” are replaced with “light ice cream.”

What exactly is “light ice cream?” According to FDA rules:

“Light” ice cream contains at least 50% less total fat or 33% fewer calories than the referenced product (the average of leading regional or national brands).

Looking at the nutrition panels of the old Breyers lactose free ice cream and the new one reveals only a minor reduction in calories.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Breyers old-new

The old “ice cream” product had 130 calories and the new “light” one has 110 calories, only 20 fewer calories. It does however have half the fat. And, the federal law says that light ice cream must have EITHER half the fat OR 33% fewer calories.

There is just one problem, though. The front of the package claims very clearly that the new light ice cream has BOTH half the fat and 1/3 fewer calories.

Breyers fat-cals

Clearly, this new lactose free light ice cream does not comply with that representation when compared to their old regular lactose free ice cream. So how do they get away with this claim?

*MOUSE PRINT:

breyer one-third fewer

Tucked away on a side panel is that tiny disclosure. They are not comparing this new light ice cream with THEIR old regular ice cream, but rather with some super premium brands like Ben & Jerry’s and Haagen Dazs as well. Those have been thrown in to up the average amount of fat and calories in “full fat” brands, and thus make Breyers’ reduction seem more impressive than it really is. (Haagen Dazs has 250 calories and 17 grams of fat per serving, while Ben & Jerry’s has 230 calories and 14 grams of fat.)

Mouse Print* asked the PR firm representing Breyers three times to explain why they cheapened some of their products, and they provided no response.

If you spot a new example of “product dilution,” please send complete before and after details to edgar [at symbol] mouseprint.org .

• • •

July 15, 2013

Twinkies Upsized, Downsized, Upsized

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:06 am

Lost in the hoopla of Hostess reintroducing Twinkies starting July 15 is how the size of that sweet treat has changed over time.

Here is a short but incomplete photographic history of Twinkies over the past 40 years.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Twinkies 70s
1970s – 13 oz. – $1.19

Twinkies 2001
2001 – 15 oz. – $3.49

Twinkies Jan 12
January 2012 – 15 oz.

Twinkies Dec 12
December 2012 – 13.5 oz. – $4.29

Twinkies July 13
July 2013 – 13.58 oz – $3.99

In a rollercoaster history, Twinkies have gotten bigger, gotten smaller, and gotten slightly bigger again with today’s release. And while the price has more than tripled over four decades, it appears to have just been lowered by 30 cents.

And if you haven’t heard, the shelf-life of the product has been “improved” from 26 days to 45 days.

• • •

July 8, 2013

Choosy Mothers May Stop Choosing Jif

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:21 am

Jif peanut butter, the favorite of “choosy mothers,” may have to change their slogan to “annoyed mothers” if those women read the product’s new label and catch the inconspicuous change.

Five years ago, we reported that Skippy peanut butter was the first major brand to downsize the traditional 18-ounce jar to just 16.3 ounces. Not long thereafter, Peter Pan followed suit. But not Jif. In fact, for a long time, Jif promoted the fact that they did not downsize their brand by proclaiming that Jif was still 18 ounces:

Jif still 18 oz.

That was then. The “still 18 oz.” claim disappeared from their jars over a year ago, but the product remained the full 18 ounces. That is, until now. Beginning to appear on store shelves across the country are Jif’s new jars:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Jif then and now

They shrunk the contents of the product by a full two ounces… but the jars look virtually the same. They didn’t pull the same trick that Skippy used of hollowing out the bottom of the jar. Somehow, though, there is over 10% less in what appears to be about the same size jar. How did they accomplish this seemingly impossible feat?

*MOUSE PRINT:

Jif measured

The new jar on the right actually had its waistline trimmed by one-half an inch. That’s the secret.

For its part, here is how the company explained its decision to downsize Jif:

“We previously announced the conversion of our packaging to 16 oz. jars effective June 1, 2013 based on consumer and retailer feedback. It is important to note that we also decreased the suggested retail price so the cost per ounce remained the same as it was prior to the packaging change. ” — Corporate Communications, J.M. Smucker

Of course, we are sure that shoppers must have just deluged the company with complaints, demanding that the company put less peanut butter in each jar.

Incidentally, we paid only $2.20 for the old, bigger jar, but were charged $3.29 for the new one at the same store on the same register receipt! Both sizes were marked $3.29 originally, but the old one appeared to be clearance priced.

• • •

April 8, 2013

When the Chips are Down(sized)…

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:48 am

Snacking just got more expensive. Various brands of popular snacks like potato chips and tortilla chips have just been downsized. In these cases, the price remained the same, but the new packages contain less. In other words, it is a hidden increase. On the bright side, you also get fewer calories per package.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Lays

Here, regular Lay’s potato chips were reduced by half an ounce. While a half ounce may seem negligible, multiply that by millions of bags, and Frito-Lay has saved a fortune.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Doritios

Here too, the company lopped-off half an ounce per bag. And they did the same thing to some of their other brands and varieties.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Ruffles

Lays Wavy

What is particularly deceptive about the downsizing of both Lay’s and Doritos is that the net weight statement is virtually at the bottom of the bag, just above the seam. When these bags sit on the store shelf, the bottom is compressed, and the net weight cannot be seen. Even picking up the bag, often the seam gets folded over the net weight statement, at least partially obscuring it. Could this just be careless placement of the disclosure by Frito-Lay or something more sinister? And what about that light colored font on the new Doritos bag? It is almost illegible.

Lays

Frito-Lay did not respond to a request to comment on their recent downsizing. Thanks to Richard G. for the tip on the chips.

Lastly, not to be outdone, Kellogg’s has downsized its chips too.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Pringles Orig      Pringles

For the product on the right, there’s another example of a company using a non-contrasting typeface to disclose the net weight of the product.

Thanks to Christian M. for the Pringles tip.

• • •

January 28, 2013

More Groceries Downsize – Part 1 (2013)

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:45 am

Confession: the following items downsized in 2012, but we did not get a chance to feature them all on these pages last year.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Kraft BBQ sauce

The old reliable 18 ounce bottle of Kraft barbecue sauce dropped in size by one-half an ounce. Thanks to John O. for the tip on Kraft.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Old Spice

We lost a quarter of an ounce in the large size Old Spice deodorant sticks. The top of the stick says “Same Palm Tree, New Look,” but they somehow omitted that they were also giving the customer less. Should we say that stinks?

*MOUSE PRINT:

Minute Maid

Following the lead of other big brands of orange juice, Minute Maid also downsized its punch drinks by a full five ounces. Less sugar for the kids, just as well.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Hefty bags

This is not what you think. In a twist, the makers of Hefty bags UPsized their 44-count tall kitchen bags to 50-count, but only at Target (and they kept the price the same).

As we always say, downsizing is a sneaky way to raise the price of products because you are getting less for your money, and you may not realize it unless you scrutinize the fine print on the package .

• • •
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