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December 11, 2017

The Case of the Missing Almonds

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:58 am

MrConsumer recently bought a bag of Nutty Naturals trail mix. According to the label, it was a mix with almonds as the primary ingredient followed by cranberries, sunflower seeds, peanuts and chocolate chips. What could be bad?

Trail mix front
almonds first

After munching for a while, it dawned on MrConsumer that there were not many almonds in the bag yet they were supposed to be the primary ingredient. So it was time to figure out exactly what and how much was in the mix. Even MrConsumer did not have the patience to separate and weigh everything in a nearly pound and half package, so one cups-worth was analyzed instead (after shaking the bag to better mix the contents if they had settled).

1 cup of trail mix

Separating the five ingredients into different piles made it abundantly clear visually what the actual proportions were. Putting each pile on a digital scale revealed the actual weight of each component.


6 piles weighed

As it turns out, for a product that is supposed to be flush with almonds, you could count them on one hand in this test.

In order of predominance then, the actual number one ingredient was peanuts, followed by cranberries, chocolate chips, sunflower seeds, and almonds last (and least). This is distinctly different from the representation on the front of the package suggesting that almonds predominated and also is contrary to the ingredients label on the back which is required under federal law to list the ingredients from most to least by weight.



MrConsumer contacted the two owners of Ocean State Job Lot where he purchased the trail mix to tell them about the problem. The very next day he heard back that they were pulling the product off their shelves in all 129 stores. The co-owner in charge of buying groceries even went so far as to dump test packages of the trail mix on his desk to see if what MrConsumer had discovered was true. How’s that for speedy, responsible action by an ethical retail chain!

Later that day, MrConsumer received a call from the president of the firm that manufactured the trail mix. He admitted that he reduced the amount of almonds in the product and substituted peanuts when the price of almonds skyrocketed. He said he is going to restore the original recipe of almonds being predominant at least in the short-run.

The Food and Drug Administration, which has jurisdiction over labeling issues like this, said through a spokesperson that, “We cannot comment on this particular case but we expect food labels to be truthful and not misleading.” The agency has already contacted the manufacturer and we’ll report back if they take any enforcement action.

Let’s hope that being vigilant and speaking up as a customer, taking quick action to remedy consumer issues if you are a retailer, and not messing around with a product without changing the fine print if you are a manufacturer, are important lessons heeded by everyone in the future. (Well, we can hope.)

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  1. A success story. Wish all were like that

    Comment by Rosemarie — December 11, 2017 @ 8:23 am
  2. With such a clear-cut win, Edgar, both you and ‘Mr. Consumer’deserve a thumbs up!

    Comment by Marty — December 11, 2017 @ 8:28 am
  3. Let’s call this a “pending” success story. Unless the manufacturer actually changes the product, it’s not yet a success.

    I commend the president of the trail mix manufacturer for responding to Mr. Consumer and mentioning the change in recipe, but I will hold my praise until it is verified that action was taken to make the package contents match the label.

    The comment from the FDA is not very reassuring. We know that the FDA ‘expects’ labels to not be misleading, but do they REQUIRE and ENFORCE that labeling regulation. The wording makes FDA sound toothless.

    Comment by Wayne — December 11, 2017 @ 9:38 am
  4. A big thumbs up to the store owner for removing it from the shelves.

    But this kind of thing isn’t surprising, as an example: Honey Nut Cheerios only has ‘almond flavor’, no actual pieces. But when you can’t even trust the ingredient list?

    Comment by Gert — December 11, 2017 @ 3:52 pm
  5. Wow, impressive. I half expected a “just kidding” at the end, since how often does an individual get attention/action like this short of causing some kind of viral sensation on social media?

    Edgar replies: Rick and everyone… it is funny… I don’t consider this a big personal victory and that certainly wasn’t the point in telling the story. To me, I was hoping to hear more outrage about the practice I spotlighted — that a company would have the chutzpah to substitute cheap peanuts for the promised expensive almonds.

    Comment by Rick — December 11, 2017 @ 9:59 pm
  6. Same product is sold at Dollar Tree stores. We buy such snacks for travelling and noticed the discrepancy when we were on the road. Hey, where are the almonds? But for a buck, we did not pursue the issue. Thanks, Mr. Consumer, for trying to keep ’em honest.

    Edgar replies: Jon, I was at Dollar Tree yesterday too by coincidence and noticed they had the Mojo Healthy. In that store, anyway, the product was labeled as peanuts being first.

    Comment by JonK — December 25, 2017 @ 11:35 am

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