Tag Archives: Unilever

Not All Half-Gallons of Ice Cream Are Shrinking !

A Costco Wholesale location (image from schaperco.com)

A Costco Wholesale location (image from schaperco.com)

Amid the pandemic of shrinking products that is sweeping the nation, its nearly impossible to find a half-gallon container of ice cream that is still a full half-gallon, or 64 ounces.

First, manufacturers, including one of the downsizing leaders, Breyers (Unilever), shrunk their half-gallon ice cream containers to 56 ounces. More recently, almost all brands have downsized yet again, to 48 ounces (1.5 quarts). See our previous article about Breyer’s shrinking their ice cream containers. These days, the freezer at Routing By Rumor headquarters usually does without ice cream. Funny, but when we walk down the frozen food aisle in the supermarket and see the miniaturized containers of ice cream, we loose our taste for the product.

By the way, we realize that we may be jumping to conclusions by blaming the ice cream manufacturers for cheating us out of our hard-earned ice cream. It is entirely possible that this is what is actually going on.

But ice cream lovers (and lovers of value) rejoice ! If you shop at Costco Wholesale, you will still find full half-gallons of “Kirkland” ice cream. Sixty-four creamy, delicious, luxurious, decadent, fat-laden ounces. At about $4.50 per half-gallon, it’s less expensive than the anorexic-looking downsized containers of name-brand ice cream at the supermarket, which contain 25% less product. And Costco’s house brand of ice cream is available in any flavor you like, as long as it’s vanilla. That reminds us of what Henry Ford said about his Model T back in 1909. Poor Henry. He never knew the joy of shopping at Costco.

Henry Ford with his Model T Ford

Henry Ford with his Model T Ford

One of the tenents of shopping at Costco is that you sacrifice variety for value. You also have to buy a carton of two half-gallons at a time, but how many people are going to complain that they are forced to fill up their freezer with ice cream ?

One thing you won’t have to sacrifice is quality. Costco branded products have never disappointed us. We have found them to always be superior to the national brands in quality and/or value. Here’s a particularly stark example. Gallon containers of milk are $2.25 at Costco. Many local stores charge more for a half-gallon of milk than Costco charges for a gallon ! There are many items at Costco that are priced at less than half of what you’d pay at your local supermarket.

Lest you think that we are little more than shills for Costco, you’ll want to know that we aren’t crazy about everything at Costco. While many items at Costco might be slightly less expensive than your supermarket’s everyday prices, you’ll pay less, sometimes a lot less, at your local supermarket when it’s on sale. Meat and poultry are perfect examples of this. And when you consider that many items at Costco are sold in huge packages, it won’t be a bargain if you have to throw away half of it because you couldn’t finish it before it went bad. For instance, a 25 pound sack of flour, a gallon of mayonnaise, or a five gallon jug of vegetable oil are just a bit more than we need. An interesting thing about these institutional-sized packages is that in many cases, the price per pound/quart or whatever unit of measure is used, is not significantly different from your normal supermarket-sized packages. With some items, such as Del Monte or Libby ‘s canned vegetables, you sometimes end up paying more per can at Costco, despite having to buy a case of a dozen or so cans of peas or string beans, than you would if buying a single can at the supermarket. Same thing goes for cans of soda (“pop”, for our Southern readers). We think that in some cases (pun intended), Costco hopes you think you’re getting a bargain simply because you’re forced to buy such large quantities at a single time. Call it “warehouse club buying momentum”, if you will. When you get home and start calculating whether that two-gallon jug of mustard that will last you for the next twelve years was really a good buy, you start to have some regrets, even though it was only nine cents an ounce. The bottom line is that you have to keep your guard up at all times when shopping at a warehouse club. For us, we’re better off purchasing many items at a local supermarket.

When you factor in the obligatory ID check at the entrance to Costco, which is guarded by Cerberus himself (good doggie !), and the veritable strip search before they’ll let you leave, a trip to Costco isn’t a bowl of cherries (but it is arguably a bowl of vanilla ice cream). At least Costco doesn’t conduct a cavity search. We get enough of those when we visit our dentist.

Even if you don’t have a Costco membership, you can still do better when you shop at your local supermarket. While most supermarket half-gallon house brands of ice cream have shrunk to 56 ounces, they are still a better value than the 48 ounce containers that have become the new standard among the name brands, and the house brands are usually very good quality.

Now, if Costco can manage to keep their half-gallon containers of Kirkland ice cream a full half-gallon, why can’t all the the other brands manage to do the same ? That has to qualify as one of the great mysteries of the Universe.

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What’s Unilever’s Secret Ingredient in Breyers Ice Cream ?

Mmmm, Mmmm, Mmmm. Natural Tara Gum.

We don’t know about you, but we salivate at the mere mention of the stuff.

Maybe it’s the “natural” qualifier that does it for us. I mean, if Unilever used artificial Tara Gum in their Breyers Ice Cream, we wouldn’t have nearly the same hankering for the stuff. It’s sort of like the ingredient list on some foods that have water as their main ingredient. Don’t just call it water. Call it “Natural spring water”, “Triple filtered, sparkling well water” or something similar.

After posting our recent article about Unilever again shrinking the container size of Breyers Ice Cream, we found other postings on the Web which pointed out that Unilever had also recently changed their Breyers recipe to include the ingredient “tara gum”, which is used as a food thickener, similar to guar gum and locust bean gum.

Of course, you do have to wonder why Breyers, a brand of ice cream that was always so proud of its ingredients, would suddenly find it necessary to add this delectable vegetable gum to their product. We suspect that they have cheapened the recipe, probably cutting down on the dairy cream content.

We also have to wonder about Unilever. Isn’t anything sacred to this food industry behemoth? They’re messing with a brand that has always been held up as being pure and simple. They obviously have little respect for the intelligence of their customers. Do they honestly believe that prefixing “tara gum” with the adjective “natural” is going to convince consumers that this is a desirable ingredient? Why not add “natural crude oil” or “natural snake venom” to the ingredient list while you’re at it? In fact, Breyers’ very own advertisements used to poke fun at competitors who used ingredients like “guar gum” or “vegetable mono- and diglycerides” in their ice cream. Sounds like the pot is calling the kettle black, if you know what we mean. Hypocrites !

If you can stop salivating long enough to finish reading this article, we’ll fill you in on Tara gum. Until we saw the other postings about Unilever using it in Breyers Ice Cream, and then reading it on the ingredient list on a Breyers 1.5 quart carton on our most recent excursion to the supermarket, we had never heard of tara gum.

Does tara gum have anything to do with the 1939 movie “Gone With The Wind” …or is it a reference to a Hindu goddess or a character from the soap opera “All My Children?

No, No and No.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (fao.org) defines tara gum as follows…

Obtained by grinding the endosperm of the seeds of Caesalpinia spinosa (Fam. Leguminosae); consists chiefly of polysaccharides of high molecular weight composed mainly of galactomannans. The principal component consists of a linear chain of (1,4)-beta-D-mannopyranose units with alpha-D-galacto-pyranose units attached by (1 6) linkages; the ratio of mannose to galactose in tara gum is 3:1.

Caesalpinia Spinosa? Endosperm? Polysaccharides? Glactomannans? Mannopyranose?

Sounds yummy, doesn’t it? No wonder Breyers Ice Cream tastes so good. It must be the endosperm.

Oh… and what else are the seeds of this native Peruvian plant useful for? According to this article on wikipedia, “Water from boiled dried pods is also used to kill fleas and other insects“. Maybe feeding Breyers Ice Cream to your dog will take care of that flea problem.

– Routing By Rumor

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Unilever Shrinks Its Products Again: Breyers Ice Cream Now 25% Smaller !

Good news for all you dieters!

Containers of Breyers Ice Cream now contain 25% fewer calories, 25% less fat, and 25% less sugar.

How was Breyers / Unilever able to come up with a product that tastes just as good, but which contains fewer calories? They simply made the package smaller. Again. (They also added this secret ingredient).

For the second time recently, Breyers Ice Cream has been downsized by Unilever. Reduced. Shrunk.

For as long as this ice cream lover can remember, Breyers Ice Cream was sold in half-gallon (64 ounce) cartons. First, Unilever downsized the half-gallon carton to 1.75 quarts (56 ounces), which was a 12.5% reduction. Now, they have downsized the 1.75 quart carton to 1.5 quarts (48 ounces). This means the original half-gallon carton of Breyers is now 25% smaller at 1.5 quarts. The 1.25 quart carton of Breyers Ice Cream can’t be too far away.

To make things worse, unless we’re mistaken, the price of a carton of Breyers Ice Cream has gone up while the size has shrunk. But even at the same price per carton, a 25% decrease in product equals a 33% increase in price-per-ounce. For instance, even if the cost of a carton of Breyers held steady at a hypothetical price of $4.00, you used to get 64 ounces for that $4.00. But now, you will pay $5.33 for 64 ounces (one-and-a-third cartons), a 33% price increase. Factor in the increase in the price of a carton, and you’re probably paying 40% or 50% more than you did, say, a year ago.

We knew something was up when we opened the door to the freezer case on a recent shopping trip. The Breyers Ice Cream cartons looked smaller. The cartons look more like funnels than ice cream cartons. But it wasn’t until we looked closer that we realized that Unilever was up to their usual tricks. Breyers cartons proclaim things like “with fresh milk & cream”, “All Natural”, etc, usually as far away from where the carton weight is printed as possible. Wasn’t Breyers always made with fresh milk and cream? Why the attention-getting claims? Because Unilever’s usual way of drawing your attention away from the part of the package that states the shrinking weight of any of their products is to print some attention-getting claim somewhere else on the label. In our opinion, a pretty lame example of Deception Engineering on Unilever’s part.

We’ve written previously about shrinking products. Here’s a post from another blogger who wasn’t too thrilled to learn that Breyers cartons have shrunk again.

Sure enough, their 1.75 quart containers of Breyers are now 1.5 quarts. Sneaky. Very sneaky. But we still noticed, so not sneaky enough. We think everyone else will notice too. If not, that’s why we’re here.

Here’s a photo of the downsized Breyers cartons posted at consumerist.com

We put the Breyers back and bought another brand that offered better value.  If you’re wondering whether you can still find a half-gallon of ice cream that is a full half-gallon, the answer is YES ! You can find it here, and it is still less expensive than the downsized brands.

If Unilever does two more downsizings of one-quarter of a quart each, as they have done recently, you will then be getting one quart instead of a half gallon of ice cream. Even at the same price-per-carton, that will be a cost increase of 100%. That’s double.

…but imagine how much easier it will be to carry those grocery bags home.

Thanks, Unilever.

(Psst… Hey Unilever… You should know that each time you downsize one of your products, there will be more and more of your customers who will simply conclude that it’s no longer worth buying. There’s a tipping point, at which the decline in market share begins to accelerate, and the product never recovers. An example of this is the newspaper publishing business. Ad revenues decline, so publishers cut back on content, number of pages, the size and quality of the paper they use to print the publication, etc, while at the same time raising the cover price. Readership declines, which further erodes advertising revenue. Soon, the publisher realizes it’s a loosing battle. It’s reached the vanishing point. Similar dynamics apply to consumer products.)

– Routing By Rumor

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What’s The Real Secret In Lipton “Recipe Secrets” Soup Mix?

I’ll give you a hint… The secret is not inside the box.

I think the secret might be what they left out. Shhhhhh !!!

lipton-soup-mix-1_8-oz-500x520.jpg

Another Shrinking Product:

Lipton “Recipe Secrets” Soup & Dip Mix

At RoutingByRumor, we love to use Lipton’s “Recipe Secrets” mix in recipes, rather than preparing soup with it. We’re not too pleased that the packages might have shrunk.

We pretty sure that Unilever has shrunk the size of their Lipton Vegetable “Recipe Soup & Dip Mix”. We don’t buy it very often, but if memory serves us correctly, it used to contain two one-ounce packets in a two-packet, 2.0 ounce box. When we bought a box recently, it was nearly impossible to read the weight printed in the box. Take a look at the box above. Do you think Unilever, the owner of the Lipton brand is trying to camouflage something here, or is that just a printing problem? Don’t you think it’s just a bit suspicious that the net weight statement happens to be printed where it partially blends in with the varigated background of the bowl of soup, instead of printing it over a solid background, where it could be easily read?

Notice the solid color, high contrast background behind the easy-to-read statement that claims “Also Great for Slow Cookers!”. As other websites have pointed out, a common ploy when shrinking the contents of a product is to place some eye-catching graphics or announcement on the package, to draw your attention away from the shrinking content statement, whether it is a lower weight, item count, square footage, etc.

If they have indeed shrunk the size of their Recipe Secrets dry soup mix, then it seems to us at RoutingByRumor that their Deception Engineering department could have done a much better job on the packaging. It’s so hard to read the package weight that it’s pretty obvious they might be trying to hide something here.

We don’t have an older package to compare this to, so if any readers of this blog have an older 2.0 ounce package of Lipton Recipe Secrets soup mix to compare this with, we would appreciate your comments, and if possible, a scanned image of the front of the box. We will post your box here for comparison.

If indeed Unilever has shrunk the size of their Lipton Recipe Secrets soup mix from 2.0 ounces to 1.8 ounces, that is a full 10% reduction in what you’re getting for your money, assuming that the package price has not gone up. To add insult to injury, the 0.9 ounce packets (two per box) of soup mix are now very thin, flimsy, metalized plastic, instead of the much more sturdy paper and foil envelopes that the mix used to come in. Perhaps Unilever will tell you they improved the packaging, but for my money, I’d rather have foil laminated paper envelopes instead of plastic. Paper is a renewable resource, unlike plastic, which is made from petroleum, and probably takes a zillion years to decompose in a landfill. If your trash is incinerated, do you want to be breathing in the waste products produced by burning plastic? I’m sure the switch to plastic has lowered Unilever’s packaging costs. Wouldn’t it have been nice if they passed on the savings to consumers, or used the lower cost of materials to INCREASE the size of their soup mix instead if shrinking it?

Are the ingredients in Lipton’s Vegetable Soup & Dip Mix so costly that they were forced to shrink the size of the package? They aggregate the (dehydrated) vegetable ingredients as the first item on the ingredient list (carrots, cabbage, onions, leeks, peas, green bell peppers, red bell peppers and tomatoes). The second most prevalent ingredient is salt, which as you probably know, is nearly as costly as gold and platinum. Give me a break.

Lipton’s nutrition panel lists over 3100 mg of sodium per box (>5 servings with 610 mg sodium per serving). Considering the fact that sodium is only part of the weight of table salt (NaCl contains Sodium and Chlorine atoms), my guess is that if they did not aggregate the vegetables on the ingredient list, that sodium would be the first ingredient listed (in descending order of predominance, by weight). Bear in mind that, atomically speaking, table salt is almost exactly 40% sodium and 60% chlorine by weight. That means that the 3,100 mg of sodium per box (as per the nutrition label) equates to approximately 7,800 mg of table salt per box. So, when you think of it, getting less soup mix, besides meaning less soup mix, also means less sodium, which means less hypertension (ie: lower blood pressure) for Lipton’s consumers. Thanks, Unilever !!! We’re feeling healthier already.

If our hunch is correct, it shouldn’t surprise anybody that other Unilever brands are shrinking also. See our previous post about the incredible shrinking bottles of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise (known as Best Foods Mayonnaise, West of The Rockies), another brand brought to you by Unilever.

As is our policy at RoutingByRumor, if Unilever wishes to comment, we will be happy to post their statement here, unedited, and correct any factual mistakes in this article.

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Unilever Is Shrinking It’s Products. Don’t Be Fooled.

carnac-the-magnificent.jpg
Johnny Carson as “Carnac The Magnificent”

Another Shrinking Product:

Hellmann’s Mayonnaise

Carnac The Magnificent” was that all-seeing, all-knowing clairvoyant character played by Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. Carnac was able to devine the answers to questions given to him in sealed envelopes which his sidekick, Ed McMahon always explained, had been stored in a hermetically sealed mayonnaise jar on Funk and Wagnalls’ porch since Noon, yesterday (see “Carnac The Magnificent” on youtube.com).

Today, Ed McMahon might have trouble placing those envelopes in Hellmann’s mayonnaise jars. Like many other food products, the jars of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise (and I would guess, Unilever’s Best Foods Mayonnaise, as it is known “West of the Rockies”) are shrinking. Apparently, Unilever, the owner of the Hellmann’s and Best Foods brands, felt it was no longer able to continue selling the standard quart sized jar of mayonnaise. I think that the benchmark quart-sized jar of Hellmanns Mayonnaise was untinkered with as far back as anyone can remember. Lately, the container or package sizes that many food products have traditionally been sold in, whether it’s pound, liter, gallon, half-gallon, quart, pint, or dozen sized boxes, jars or bottles, are becoming extinct. Manufacturers use downsizing alone, or in conjunction with price increases and/or less expensive formulations, to raise the true cost of their products. You know, I could swallow the fact a little easier if they didn’t have to resort to deception engineering in an attempt to hide the fact that they’ve downsized their products.

George Bush told us that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. It was one of the justifications for the United States’ decision to invade Iraq. Those weapons have never been found in Iraq (see Iraq in the CIA‘s World Fact Book). Has anyone thought to look under the jars of Hellmann’s and Best Foods Mayonnaise in Saddam’s palaces?

That’s right. I said UNDER the mayonnaise jars, not in them.

In what appears to me to be an effort to deceive consumers, Unilever, the company that makes Hellmann’s and Best Foods Mayonnaise, has redesigned the jars (at least on their Hellmann’s brand) to hide the fact that they now contain less product. Unilever has used deception engineering to design a jar with a deeply concave bottom. I don’t think there’s a single legitimate reason for this, other than to make the jar appear to contain more mayonnaise than it actually does. You could probably hide half of a tennis ball under these jars. What was previously their 32 ounce (1 quart) jar is now 30 ounces, a reduction of almost seven percent. They have also switched from glass to plastic jars in recent years. I don’t know about you, but I prefer glass. I also believe glass jars (for any product) are more environmentally friendly. I doubt that most manufacturer’s packaging choices are driven as much by environmental factors as by cost, and plastic bottles and jars are currently less expensive than glass. Plastic bags are cheaper than paper bags, so most supermarkets prefer to use plastic despite the environmental impact.

To make matters even worse, we have noticed that our last few jars of Hellmanns Mayonnaise did not taste or look the same as it always did. It’s not as stiff or thick a consistency as it always was. I thought this was just my imagination until I started finding complaints posted on the Web about Unilever making changes to the Hellmanns Mayonnaise recipe. The postings I’ve read say that Unilever has acknowledged changing their recipe. This is blasphemy. What is wrong with the people at Unilever? They were apparently not content with giving consumers less in terms of volume, so they screwed with the recipe too? How much do you want to bet the recipe change was done to save Unilever money? Shortsighted, and just plain dumb, if you ask me. They must have geniuses running the company. When you have a product as successful and as instantly recognizable as Hellmanns Mayonnaise, you don’t mess with it. It’s an American classic (or at least it was). Perhaps nobody at Unilever cares. They’ll just run the brand into the ground, and sell it to another company when it’s no longer profitable. The financial analysts will proclaim what a great strategic business move it was, and Unilever’s Board of Directors will approve a salary increase for the CEO, who will fly the coop anyway, for an even higher paying job at another company.

Getting back to Iraq, if I were Saddam, I might have been tempted to hide any nerve gas, plutonium, anthrax, or other weapons of mass destruction I had under my Hellmann’s Mayonnaise jars. Honestly, who would think of looking there? The UN weapons inspectors were busy searching underground bunkers, military facilities and chemical plants. Placing those weapons under the Hellmann’s jars would have been the ultimate shell game.

Can’t find your car keys? Is one of your children missing? Unable to locate that remote control? Look under your jar of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise.

Trying to get rid of some dirt? Don’t sweep it under the rug. Put it under the jar of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise. Kids… did you get a report card that you don’t want your parents to see? You know where to hide it.

Those nice people at Unilever must have thought they could get this one past consumers. I mean, who ever looks UNDER the jar?

We do.

You might want to thank Unilever for being considerate enough to lighten their jars of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, and making them so much easier to carry. If you’re in the USA, you can contact Unilever at the number printed on the label, 1(800) 418-3275 with your comments. Don’t forget to say “Thank You”. You can even speak to them in Spanish, since the label says “Se habla Espanol”. Tell them “Mucho Gracias from RoutingByRumor”, por favor. Also, ask them why the name of their Mayonnaise changes when it travels over the Rocky Mountains. My guess is that it has something to do with atmospheric pressure.

And next time you’re shopping, you might want to buy another brand that still comes in a full quart jar, and which still tastes as good as it used to.

To summarize, in my opinion…

– Jars of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise are now smaller.

– You get less Hellmann’s Mayonnaise for your money.

– Hellmann’s Mayonnaise does not taste as good.

– Hellmann’s Mayonnaise consistency has changed.

– The Hellmann’s Mayonnaise plastic jar does not protect it’s taste, quality or the environment as well as a glass jar.

– The Hellmann’s Mayonnaise packaging is deceptive.

– Unilever has lowered the quality and quantity of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise.

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