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More Groceries Hit By “Skimpflation” — Part 1

When manufacturers face higher costs that they no longer want to absorb, they are faced with three choices: raise the price, shrink the product, or reformulate it by using cheaper ingredients or less of the expensive ingredient.

We saw this last option recently with Folgers ground coffee when its maker fluffed up the grounds and claimed to get the same number of cups in their large canister despite it holding almost half a pound less coffee.

Now, over the next two weeks we’ll show you more examples of products that have been reformulated, or put another way, have been subject to “skimpflation” — shrinkflation’s evil cousin.

Conagra’s Attempt at Skimpflation Backfires

Smart Balance Spread

Smart Balance has long been a high-priced but superior tasting spread in part because of its relatively high fat content – 64-percent. Recently they inconspicuously changed that and now it is only 39-percent oil — an almost 40-percent reduction.


Smart Balance Spread

Clearly this was a cost-cutting move by Conagra Brands because water is now the primary ingredient. Even if they didn’t read the label, purchasers are tasting the difference and complaining bitterly about the new water-logged product. About 90% of the 800+ reviews on the Smart Balance website give the product one star.

“Horrible horrible horrible!!!! You ruined a perfectly great product that we have used for years and years!!!! And without any notice. Now we’re out of $8…”

“If I wanted to spread water on my toast I would of purchased a cheap margarine…”

“You could have at least printed on the packaging that it was a new formula.”

“Your reformulation of your Smart Balance spreads is a great example of dishonesty in the marketplace. You are adding water to these mixes to lower the manufacturing cost…”

“I’d throw it out if it wasn’t so expensive, but in the meantime maybe I can spread it on our dog’s biscuits….although not sure he would even eat it.”

Despite multiple requests, Conagra did not answer our questions about the product change. However, customer service representatives for the company have begun telling this to their customers:

Smart Balance comments

Wow, they are actually listening to customers and are going to bring back the original recipe spread. But is it possible that this multi-billion dollar company did not do a product test with consumers before launching the watered-down version and just waited to see if people would notice and complain?

So while the watery reformulated version is still on store shelves, we decided to help Conagra better communicate the changes in the product by creating a revised label for it that is just a tiny bit more straightforward.

Dumb Balance

Next week, we’ll have two more examples of skimpflation. If you spot a product that has been reformulated with cheaper ingredients, please send clear pictures of the old and new versions along with shots of the ingredients statements to Edgar (at symbol) MousePrint.org . Thanks.

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22 thoughts on “More Groceries Hit By “Skimpflation” — Part 1”

  1. The only way these big companies react to customer complaints is when their bottom line $$$$$$$$$$$$ is affected. That’s probably what happened here instead of spewing all their BS! [edited]

  2. Skimpflation is a very dangerous thing to do to a product and when you make a change this big it can backfire big time.

    Around 95% of the reviews on the official product page in the past roughly 3 months have been one to two star reviews and the real average would be under 1 if they could allow for 0 star reviews.

    In one reply they from the company they did say they regret the incident.

    Also the product page at the official wal-mart website has a big bunch of 1 star reviews.

    Major questions need to be answered by the makers of this product:

    Who at the company decided to make the change to the new recipe?
    How much cheaper to produce was the disaster of the new recipe compared to the old recipe?
    How muck testing was actually done on the new recipe to make sure it performed as well as the old recipe?
    How much brand damage was done in the change over to the new recipe?
    What is the company going to do here to win back people here that fully hate the new recipe?
    When the old recipe comes back on the store shelves are the tubs going to stay the same size?

  3. I love the added photo, “Already within the normal range when used instead of butter” sounds exactly like something a company would put after an * on the bottom of their box. haha

    • Joel… that part of the mock label was not a joke! That was the real wording from the product that I simply did not delete.

    • When you do skimpflation you can save so much money that the package size does not have to change at all which is very very sneaky.

  4. IMO, the most objectionable aspect of the label is the word “Original.” If they made a substantive change to the formulation, stating that the product is “original” amounts to an out-and-out lie.

  5. I just bought a new tub of the Smart Balance extra virgin olive oil spread a few weeks ago and noticed something else I hadn’t seen before in addition to the change in percentage of oil mentioned in this article.

    After reading this article I dug the old container out of the garbage and started comparing labels. Yes, the percentage of oils has decreased from 64% to 39% but in addition, the words “made with EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL” have now been replaced by “with a hint of EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL”. Huh? What does ‘a hint of’ mean? Have I not been buying margarine made with EVOO and only EVOO as the oil component? I mean, the label says ‘made with EVOO’, not made with a mixture of oils that includes some EVOO! Time to take a closer look at the ingredients.

    The new tub lists the oil ingredient as “vegetable oil blend (canola oil, palm oil, extra virgin olive oil)”. Hmmm, so the EVOO is actually the third oil listed which presumably means the smallest oil component by volume. Well, what about the old version? The label says ‘made with’ EVOO so it must be mostly EVOO, right? Apparently not! Ingredients: “vegetable oil blend (canola, palm, extra virgin olive, and flaxseed oils)”. So I’ve been paying extra to buy “Smart Balance made with extra virgin olive oil” and really been buying Smart Balance made with canola/palm oil ‘with a hint of’ extra virgin olive oil!

    I certainly won’t be wasting my money on Smart Balance products in the future! I hate this sort of deception! And it’s never ending!

    • What was the ingredients on the old tub?

      I would say with a move to 64% down to 39% that the water content got increased so much that they could attempt to use only a hint of olive oil instead of a whole lot more in old recipe.

      While the so called original flavor has gotten the bulk of the attention even the one made with olive oil has gotten a small amount of 1 star reviews in the past couple of months.

      • You can’t leave a zero star review.”…the real average would be under 1 if they could allow for 0 star reviews.”

  6. Although their intent was not to make their product healthier, cutting vegetable oils down to 39% is better for those purchasers who still buy into the scam that actual butter is bad for you. If it’s not olive oil or coconut oil, don’t consume it.

  7. Hope they follow through with the promise to get the “old” product back one the shelf as soon as possible! I switched to another product in the meantime.

  8. I noticed this past week that 7-Eleven no longer lists the ounces on their coffee cups, instead using generic terms (small, medium, large, Xtra-large). I checked, and their Xtra large used to be 24 ounces, the same as the extra large coffee from Royal Farms (which still lists the ounces on the cups). However, even though the 7-11 cup is the same height and same diameter of the Royal Farm cup, the actual cup bottom has been recessed up into the cup slightly over an inch. Using a measuring cup, I found that the 7-11 Xtra Large cup now only holds 20 ounces of coffee, not 24.

    • Pilot did this just before it’s chain of convenience stores were bought by Casey’s. I walked in one day and noticed the cups were different, I immediately keyed onto the XL marker on the cup and asked, “What did the ounces of the cup go down to”. I was told, “Oh they didn’t go down it’s just a cup redesign” by the associate, so I asked her to double check because, “It would be very uncommon for a store to just decide to change the way it names it’s cups, but keep them the same.” She looked in their nutrition info book and they’re listed as 42oz cups now.

  9. The moment I stuck a serving spoon into the revised Smart Balance Spread it was obvious something was wrong. It was so mushy I thought my refrigerator wasn’t cooling. I retrieved my infra-red temperature reader and saw it was 37 degrees. It had to be the product. Then I tasted it. It was awful. Then I compared the ingredients label to a second container in the fridge. There was the answer; 64% vegetable oil became 39%. I returned it to Walmart and will not be a SB customer again until the mistake has been corrected.

    • I’m confused by these comments that people will stop buying Smart Balance until the problem is corrected. They got caught trying to screw customers. Surely, that should warrant a permanent change to a product made by a more honest company.

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