Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Apr 16, 2008 09:32 PM

Decreasing size of packaging for store bought ice cream.

I don't know the exact year that containers for ice cream bought in the freezer section of supermakets started decreasing, but it was in the last few years.

My recent purchase of Breyer's Lactose-Free Vanilla Ice Cream found myself looking at what seemed like a box that had shrunk even smaller than the last time. Maybe it seemed smaller because I have been buying other brands in the last year, such as Edy's, which has kept a heartier ice cream quality than some other brands that have added air to their ice cream (boosting the volume size, thus decreasing their cost per unit per weight) and packages their ice cream in what seems like a larger container (maybe it's an optical illusion in that their container is more of a cylinder type vs square shape).

The Edy's package was 1.5 quarts (1.42 L). The smaller size allows for easier storage in a small top freezer, though.

I bought this due to the "buy one get one free" offer at a local supermarket. The price of one container was $6.30. From the offer, that meant that one container was $3.15. It wasn't so long ago that one container of ice cream sold at a non-sale price of $3.00 and that was when the container was at least 25% larger. At to that the more air that some companies have been putting in to the making of their ice cream and you will get a better grasp of how much more expensive ice cream has become by weight.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Interesting post. The weight is less and the companies that "inflate" their ice cream cause it to get freezer burn and ice crystals much, much faster causing inedible ice cream after just a few days of opening the container. Yuck!

    1. Since I'm just one person, I usually buy just the pint-sized containers. A Haagen Dazs or Ben and Jerry's will run about $3.99 ish for a pint. I usually wait till they go on sale, but even then, it's like $3 or occasionally $2.50. However, it usually lasts me a week or so, even if I eat it every day. I do see the larger containers that are twice as big or larger for almost the same price as the pint-sized ones. But a) it wouldn't fit in my freezer, and b) unless I'm in the mood for ice cream, even the pint-sized one might sit in the freezer for months, so I can't imagine how long it would take for me to go through the larger sizes.

      Breyers ice cream has a lot less calories per serving size than Hagen Dazs does. But then I looked at and felt the box, and it's also substantially lighter. I guess they add air to theirs.

      6 Replies
      1. re: anzu

        anzu - your ability to make a pint of ice cream last one week is unbelievable. But as you said, because the ice cream is richer than the lower premium quality ice creams may explain why you are able to not consume the pint at one sitting.

        By the way, the brand Turkey Hill Ice Cream's containers are 1.75 oz, except for their new line of ice cream consisting of two different flavors, something called "Duo" or something like that. I think even Turkey Hill is putting more air into their ice cream. Edy's, so far, has maintained a denser ice cream, in a larger container (1.75 oz, I believe), making it harder to consume the entire container at one sitting.

        Hipquest's explaination of airier ice cream leading to freezer burn makes sense.

        I did try some time ago, Edy's "Dreamery" line of pint sized ice cream. Amazing graphics on their packaging and superrich ice cream. It was too rich for me. Their New York strawberry cheesecake ice cream tasted like chilled/frozen cheesecake. It was so rich, I couldn't take more than several spoonfuls, which for me, is unbelievable.

        To me, it's scandalous that some of these companies are airing up their ice cream, decreasing the size of the packaging, and charging more for an inferior product. Once I know that's happening, I try other brands, or buy only when the product is significantly discounted. No way I'm paying $6 and more for an inferior product.

        1. re: FelafelBoy

          I had the same experience just this week with the b1g1 offer for Breyers. I didn't even realize the sizes were different until I put the two containers next to each other- one was 1.75, one 1.5. Does anybody actually pay the full $6? I hope not. I was disappointed that I had to put my cherry vanilla back to find something that came in the larger size-- opted for dulce de leche. Meh. And I've noticed the air content lately as well! I have not been enjoying the new, frothy Breyers ice cream, and that used to be my favorite brand! Does anybody know if you can get Turkey Hill in the Chicago area? Does it have as much air as Breyers? I'll have to try the Dreamery next time.

        2. re: anzu

          Wow. The same tub of Haagen Daz sells for about $6.99 +taxes, at most stores where I live.

          1. re: tarteaucitron

            Yes, but it sells for $6.99 Canadian, as opposed to $3.99 US.

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              Exactly. As of today, 1 CAD is still worth about 1 USD. And with the heavier taxes in Canada (where I am now), it looks like I'm paying 2x here...

              1. re: tarteaucitron

                I've go to say that's pretty pricey. But I bought a pint of Haagen Daz a few weeks ago at my local store for $6.50 in NYC.

        3. EVERY ice cream producer adds air to their product, or else it'd freeze up in a brick and be completely unscoopable. Churning ice cream bases is essentially low-speed whipping to keep the product smooth. In the industry, it's called "overrun", and even the highest quality ice creams have at least 100% overrun (meaning that their volumes are increased 100% by the addition of air). Lower quality ice creams have even more overrun, which may make them easier to scoop - since it's less dense - but also lowers the net volume of product and improves the bottom line.

          As for the shrinking size, I'm pretty sure that Dreyer's/Edy's was the first to cut their packaging size (around 2002, IIRC), and I also seem to recall their marketing department came out with some BS story about how the smaller package fits better into "modern freezers", or some such baloney. Of course, they didn't lower the price per unit any, so I'm sure the increased profits fit better into "modern balance sheets", too.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ricepad

            Ricepad, you statement that "even the highest quality ice creams have at least 100% overrun" is incorrect. The highest overrun that can be incorporated into ice cream to still be legally called ice cream (ice cream is a term that is regulated by the federal government) is 100%. Therefore, you will not find an ice cream on the market that has more than 100% overrun. Most cheap-o ice creams go right up to 100%, but not over.

          2. Jfood gave up buying ice cream in the store about 2 years ago. And he was a "half-gallon" a week eater.

            As the weather is now turning to ice-cream time he will begin to make his own again. With the "price increase" associated with the smaller package it is almost, if not, cheaper to make his own and it's way better.

            6 Replies
            1. re: jfood

              Ah, if only that were an option!

              The way I figure with the ice cream prices, it's like juice for me. Some people drink a lot of juice, so they buy the concentrated stuff. My parents used to do that, b/c there were 3 of us kids. But since I buy juice rarely (several times a year?), when I do get a craving for it, I'll suck it up and buy the really expensive freshly-squeezed kind. Likewise with ice cream (though I buy it far more often than several times a year. . .). I've tried the Breyers, Edys, Dreyers, and for some reason, I don't like it as much as Haagen Dazs, Ben and Jerry's, etc. They end up costing twice as much as buying the larger tubs, but with ice cream, I rarely do the single-serve. Mostly, b/c I feel like why pay $2.50 for a serving of Baskin Robins when I can get a pint for a few dollars more if I delay my gratification a bit, so that's what I end up doing a lot, and then thinking I "saved" money or at least got a better deal. :) It's probably akin to thinking you "saved" money when you spend $300 on a sale item that you wouldn't have otherwise bought, but by parallel logic, when I buy the $3-$4 pints, I feel like I'm still "saving money".

              Of course, if I had a family of 5, I'm sure many of my food consumption habits would change (e.g. aforementioned OJ example). . ..

              1. re: anzu

                FelafelBoy, this dirty trick on the part of food manufacturers began more than five years ago with Dannon, which reduced their yogurt container to six ounces from eight. When I called them, they said it was ‘what the customer wanted’. Right.

                Fast forward a few years, and I notice Turkey Hill had reduced their ‘half gallon’ from 64 to 56 (and soon to 48) ounces. When called on it, they said ‘oh we haven’t gotten any complaints but we’ll send you a coupon for a free near-half gallon’. Lovely.

                Oh, and Dove has now reduced their ‘pint’ to 15.4 ounces.

                Anzu, I boycotted Turkey Hill for awhile but it didn’t work. Homemade ice cream is too good and is gone in a flash. At least the TH near-HG lasts two days.

                Disgusting, ain’t it? And there ain’t a thing we can do about it.

                1. re: dolores

                  Don't you love it when companies shrug their corporate shoulders and cite "customer demand"? It's what the customer wanted. Yeah, as a customer I always want less provided to me for more money. Sheesh.

                  1. re: coney with everything

                    I also recall Dannon's response to "consumer demand" for a smaller sized container for their yogurt. That 8 oz. container really did serve as a more filling amount for yogurt than the smaller 6 oz container.

                    I wonder how many people ate from the 8 oz. container and said, "this is so filling, I must put the remaining half that I cannot finish now for another day." I'd love to know if they did focus groups and the majority of people preferred the smaller size. If they did, they probably used the yogurt as an appetizer for their next course, perhaps a supersized portion of some other food that had not yet been downsized!

                    Just think, with all the smaller single size boxes of "snack/processed" foods like granola mixes, cereals, etc., a person could combine everything and make their own meal, such as something consisting of a mixture of yogurt mixed with the granola and/or cereal and/or trail mix. Let's see, that small snack would come to over $2. A reminder of why buying in bulk or larger sizes and/or making your own such mixtures is more cost effective. Just as buying some items at those minimarts for convenience is offset by the premium charged for such "convenience."

                    Fortunately, bananas are still relatively inexpensive, as are apples. I guess sometime in the future, such real food will cost a premium as the cost of transportation and increasing demand for food on the planet drives up the cost of food. Currently, there is a premium charged for the so-called "convenience" foods and those which are more oriented toward impulsive eating habits (like that which one cannot do without, like a drug fix).

                    1. re: FelafelBoy

                      Excellently put, coneywitheverything and FelafelBoy.

                      I guess it's all about the flash (the advertising) and not the substance (the truth behind those smaller sizes).

                2. re: anzu

                  What jfood has found is the home made beats the craving faster and jfood eats less than store bought Turkey Hill. And for some reason when he buys Phish Food it seems to disappear in one sitting.

                  So jfood keeps his Cuisinart bagel in the downstairs freezer and uses Ben and Jerry Cookbook or on-line recipes.

                  You should try it, very good.

              2. You might not have noticed, but reducing package size is fairly widespread. Basic food products like milk, wheat and corn keep getting more expensive, it's one way to "sneak in" a price increase more gently.

                6 Replies
                1. re: mlgb

                  Yes, I forgot about the change of packaging that Dannon did. But, prior to that, their container was alot larger than the container used by Yoplait which evidently was popular. Interesting that when fast food places were supersizing their portions (of semi-junk food), here we have more real food downsizing portions!!

                  Yes, I know about the need to put some air into ice cream, but I am talking about the obvious volume increase put into ice cream by some of these ice cream makers to cut down on product content - that coupled with a price increase and container decrease results in a triple whammy to the consumer - less product, less value, lower quality.

                  I have no problem with this version of ice cream, but at least give consumers a choice - and that's why I have switched to Edy's for most of my ice cream purchases. So far, its orange creamery ice cream, or whatever it's called, consisting of a blend of vanilla ice cream and orange sherbet is still rich and not too airy.

                  I bought Breyer's (lactose free vanilla) because they don't add too many artificial ingredients like some other ice cream makers.

                  Beware of some bottle containers for other products like mayonnaise and hummus. The bottom of the containers often have this big hole that cuts right up into the container itself reducing the overall volume. The first time I saw this, I thought, "how sneaky!!" Then I thought, "how ingenuous!" I'd guess many people assume the bottom of the container is flat.

                  With the cost of materials increasing, these manufactureres will continue to be creative with creating the illusion that consumers are getting good value for their dollar and not having the cost of their food increase that much. Commodity prices are going up, and we should continue to see increased prices on many food products. I'd rather not see the QUALITY of the food product compromised.

                  (I think the box size of crackers also shrunk about two years ago. Even cereal boxes are shrinking too. I see that some cereal manufacturers are packaging their products in a mini version. The price is much more per serving than if purchased in a larger quantity. There is an optimum serving size for ice cream, though, to retain its freshness. Edy's has a unique packaging, in that they don't use a plastic sealer for protection - you just remove the lid that has no packaging protection, and there the ice cream is ... according to the company, when they fill the container to the top, the seal is created by that process. Once in awhile, I have gotten freezer burned ice cream due to the seal not being present.)

                  1. re: FelafelBoy

                    FelafelBoy, I just remembered where it all started here in Westchester -- with a can of coffee. Formerly a pound, it went down pretty quickly to 13 ounces. There it's been, for a long while, surprisingly.

                    Yes, cereal is no longer 16 ounces, and I remember also calling Lipton Cup of Soup when they gave less packets in their box. Again (company mantra?) I was told: it is what the consumer wanted. Riiiiight.

                    And again, guess what we the consumers who notice can do about it? You guessed it, bupkus.

                    Oh, and I just thought of another boondoggle -- the cookies that are separated and marketed 'to go' or the 100 calorie snacks. Because, don't you know, I can't separate my own cookies and put them in a baggie. Or figure out how much of a package is 100 calories all by my self. Sheesh.

                    I'll hazard a guess that it will get better before it gets...wait, it won't get better, so no need to finish that sentence. It will just keep getting worse.

                    1. re: dolores

                      "Oh, and I just thought of another boondoggle -- the cookies that are separated and marketed 'to go' or the 100 calorie snacks. Because, don't you know, I can't separate my own cookies and put them in a baggie. Or figure out how much of a package is 100 calories all by my self. Sheesh."

                      No one's forcing you to buy the snack packs. It's not like they've stopped selling regular boxes of cookies. Go ahead and do your own dividing - or not. There's no scam being run on you, however.

                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                        >>There's no scam being run on you, however.

                        That's right, not on me there isn't. But on those who haven't done the 'per cookie' price of those 'handy' snack packs there is.

                        But you're perfectly correct. If someone wants to pay three times the price because they don't know how to separate a few cookies from their tray and package them in aluminum foil and then in a baggie, they are quite free to do so.

                        As P.T. Barnum supposedly said, there's one born every minute.

                    2. re: FelafelBoy

                      Not only are packages decreasing in size, but Breyer's, and particularly Edy's, are coming out with products that are not even ice cream. Look at the carton. If it says "Frozen Dairy Desert", like Edy's "Loaded", "Butter Pecan", "Cookie Dough", etc., it does not meet the legal requirements to be called Ice Cream. The primary ingredient is whey, as opposed to ice cream which lists milk, cream, and so on as primary ingredients. This "Frozen Dairy" stuff is horrible. There is no quality control anymore at Edy's and they're trying to pull one over on us.

                      1. re: six_string_21

                        I actually happen to enjoy the Overloaded products from Edy's, despite being fully aware that they are a "Frozen Dairy Dessert" as opposed to ice cream. Not only are they loaded with all of the junk that I love (i.e. cookie dough, peanut butter cups, brownies, etc) but they are lower in fat and calories than a comparable flavor ice cream would be Sure, there's lots of artificial stuff in it, but then again I'm not consuming ice cream and similar products under the guise that I am doing my body any favors. It's an indulgence and I'm okay with that.