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Nov 23, 2008 04:00 PM

The pumpkin can ... it's shrinking, shrinking, shrinking

This year I saw a can of Libby's pumpkin pie mix at a discount strore... 30 oz ... and thought ... hmmmm, wasn't that once 32 oz?

I mentioned this in another post, and someone wondered if it was true. Googling there are references to a 32 oz can, then 30 oz, now 29 oz. The 16 oz can is now 15 oz.

That discount store sometimes deals with discontinued products, so maybe the 30 oz can is one of them with the 29 oz can the new standard.

To be really, really sure this wasn't a figment of my imagination, I pulled out my mom's old cookbooks.

It seems that most pies use the small can. Betty Crocker's Cookbook (1986) a while not mentioning brands, specifically says 1 can (16 oz) pumpkin. Since the recipe includes all the spices to add, they were not talking about pumpkin pie mix in a can.

Her Campbells Great American Cookbook (1984) just says 2 cups which is 16 oz.

This isn't a problem if making pie directly off the can because I'm sure it has been adjusted for the size change.

However, if you are hanging onto an old recipe that says 1 can of pumpkin ... and that recipe just doesn't seem the same ... well, that might be the answer.

For me, it just means in the future that I'll include cup measurements in notes with recipes I jot down or cut out ... 1 can pumpkin (2 cup cups).

Seems like the size of the evaporated milk can hasn't changed ... yet. It was 12 oz in 1984 and is 12 oz today.

Just a thought for anyone baking pies for turkey day.

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  1. Thanks RW; good to know. The incredible shrinking can....Grrr! Why can't they just charge more and leave the sizes of things alone. Still reeling from the 30 oz. jar of mayo and the 4 1/2 oz can of tuna!!! Adam

    6 Replies
    1. re: adamshoe

      Yeah...I just noticed that the stupid Bumble Bee tuna I bought on sale for 79 cents is now 5 ounces...!!! WTF???? Sorry...but I thought I was getting such a good deal!!!! Arghhh!!! Will just have to seek out brands that have not done this...Whole Foods "365" brand, maybe? By now, they may have done the same!

      1. re: Val

        Some real sale- NOT! Perhaps the consumers should show them the sea and boycott their products.

        1. re: RShea78

          I saw a 14.4 oz can of saurkraut today. How piddling is that?

          What is sad is this is more than the majority of brands that are now 14 oz.

          Still, that is not an item as sensative as something like pie. I realize there are always a lot of variables in baking. However, if you are making the same recipe in the same place ... possibly handed down by your mother ... and grandmother ... playing with the size of the can is not tice.

          1. re: rworange

            Speaking of sauerkraut I did a quick look-up on local store brand. (Link below)

            I get only jars and special occasions I get the on hand brand of the cold refrigerated bagged kraut. I miss granny's kraut that she canned from scratch.


            My granny didn't have many recipes as both her and myself generally can "wing it" the kitchen.

            1. re: rworange

              About that pie: my mother (who was never known for baking, or any cooking for that matter...) used to tell me that the standard Libby's recipe called for too much evaporated milk....and she would cut it almost in half. She said it made for a more 'pumpkiny" pie and she preferred the consistency. You know, maybe its just what I grew up with, but I tend to agree with her...and I too cut the milk. So now I'll have to watch it to keep the pumpkin/evaporated milk ratio right....

              1. re: janetofreno

                On the same token, my granny did most of her PP from scratch. Each year the pumpkins she grew, seemed to vary enough to throw a few-new twists into the pies for that year. Liquids, eggs, and seasonings, on the other hand, she felt was rather set into stone. Only variable she used was the uncooked consistency of the "meat of the pumpkin" of which indicated a IF few dashes of flour would be needed.

                "Pumpkiny"- described in a polite terms, the pumpkin's meat cooked up rubbery side of things. I asked if pumpkiny was good thing or bad thing?

                Oh, grandson, that is for you to figure out! It is you that need those 6 pies as you promised to make/take to the Holiday Party. All I can say is at 10 years old, I thought all that lipstick would never come off!

      2. Careful in weight vs volume in reference to measurements for recipes. For example 16oz in net-weight may not exactly equal- 16 fluid ounces, 2 cups, one pint.

        Also some recipes can flop because of altitudes. Cakes or rising flour goods seem prone to changes from sea level to those of mountain regions having high altitudes.

        Now I have a good one that happened in our "Well Known Chain" that I do not believe ever made it to HQ for correction. In this restaurant we did a few to several batches of pancake mixes that required 2 quarts of cold tap water. Problems arise in the summer when the mix went flat- along with the pancake.

        I measured the faucet water temperature and it was lucky to be 65 degrees on the cold water tap. Well at 65 degrees the leavening (Baking-soda/powder) went flat. Icing down and draining off 2 quarts of water, made text book pancakes.

        2 Replies
        1. re: RShea78

          I see the time, in the not too distant future, when we'll go to the market and have to use magnifying glasses to see the products.

          Of course, on the other hand there are the COSTCOesque products....gigantic vats of mayo, etc.

          1. re: oakjoan

            ""I see the time, in the not too distant future, when we'll go to the market and have to use magnifying glasses to see the products.""

            As a kid I grew up with little product miniatures like Milnot, Carnation Milk, Morton's Salt, various cereals, and so on. Geez, so I guess about the time Alzheimer is about to set in, a run to the Supermarket would revert me back to my beloved childhood.

        2. rworange, a 'half gallon' of ice cream is now 48 ounces.

          A 'quart' of mayo is now 30 ounces.

          Oh, and prices haven't changed. Great scam, isn't it?

          20 Replies
          1. re: dolores

            Fresh cranberries are 12 oz, and I was wondering why my sauce was coming out so runny. Glad I figured that out, all recipes call for "one bag".

            1. re: coll

              Thanks for pointing that out about cranberries. I never noticed that.

              While I am more of a canned cranberry sauce person, but I have used bagged cranberries for other dishes.

            2. re: dolores

              Not really a scam, they just think you care more about price than anything else. It's a decision that had to be made at this point and that's what market research told them to do (based on psychology as much as anything). They could have just doubled the price and there would be even more complaints.

              1. re: coll

                ""Not really a scam,...""

                Depends on one's take of the situation.

                If the size of the product increased they would have added the Hoopla with bragging rights with a starred "NEW" value size and likely would have ran several TV ads.

                When down-sizing products, they are very hush-hush about that!

                It is either Hype or Hoopla --OR-- Silence and Omission. "What tangled webs that we weave; when we practice to deceive" (author unknown)

                I hope consumers let those companies know that they are not happy customers and demand some obvious notice of a product's size change. More than small print of the product size.

                1. re: coll

                  Not with me. I woud have paid more to keep my ice cream at a half gallon.

                  Yes, it's a scam. When containers are shrinking weekly and people don't know what the ounces were the week before but the prices are the sam or more -- it's a scam.

                  RShea78, take a look a Turkey Hill's blog where Quentin specifically 'tries' to explain the scam he perpetrated. Note the unhappy customers. Note Quentin's response. There you have it. Sad, ain't it?

                  1. re: dolores

                    ""RShea78, take a look a Turkey Hill's blog where Quentin specifically 'tries' to explain the scam he perpetrated. Note the unhappy customers. Note Quentin's response. There you have it. Sad, ain't it?""

                    You mean the blog below? (I always form links with line spacings, so they don't error)


                    Someone should give Quintin the "Rubber Ice Cream Cone Award", then slap him silly with it. ;-)

                    1. re: RShea78

                      Egads, I'd love to see the matching IP addresses of those who posted positive comments.

                      1. re: tracylee

                        Good idea, RShea78!

                        tracylee, my guess is that they work for (or are the owners of) manufactuers who are doing likewise on the other products. They've either swallowed the Kool Aid or are making the Kool Aid.

                        1. re: dolores

                          ""They've either swallowed the Kool Aid or are making the Kool Aid.""

                          Methinks, they spiked their Kool Aid with something other than a hard liquor...

                          1. re: RShea78

                            Very true, RShea78, I was referring to the Jim Jones Kool Aid.

                    2. re: dolores

                      Haha. Enjoyed all your comments on the blog and felt compelled to add my own support after reading your cogent arguments.

                      1. re: dolores

                        How is it a scam?

                        the manufacturers aren't exactly hiding the fact that the product sizes are shrinking. It says so right there on the package (after all, if it was printed on the label how would people know about it to complain ... like on this thread?).

                        Sure, they don't scream and shout about it to your face, but in this case not doing a particular act isn't a crime, and there's nothing deceptive or false about what manufacturers are doing -- e.g. decreasing product size but maintaining the same price.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          So it is my responsibility to scrutinize and memorize the thousands of products I buy each year on every shopping trip to see if the manufacturer is trying to get the same price out of me while giving me less.

                          It is my responsibility to remember if the can of pumpkin I bought two years ago has one ounce less. In my case, I had to pull out 1980 cookbooks to check that.

                          Yep memorize how many paper towels were in each roll and every time I'm in the market check those out. Count each sheet of bathroom tissue. Notice that the saurkraut is now 14oz and not 14.4. That there is one less cookie, a few slices less bread.
                          Even better. Let me memorize the ingredient list and read each and every item to see if cheaper ingredients are being substituted. Perhaps if I had done that over the years I would have known to speak up when HFCS was added to everything and slice cheese was mainly made out of oil.

                          Yep, I'm complicit for buying a smaller product for the same price because I could do ... what? ... drop pumpkin pie from my Thanksgiving menu ... stop buying toilet paper ... that's an effective strategy ... oh ... I know ... suck it up like a sucker.

                          As to the mortgage thing, methinks people who say that have never dealt with the situation, but it was just a badly thought out analogy, so let's drop that as that isn't on topic for this board.

                          Had the can size remained the same, but the price increased, I would think "Yikes ... prices are going up" and moved on. Prices are going up.

                          I wonder if companies think ... or care .. that squeezing a few shekels out of people compromise how the consumer thinks about them. Is their reputation worth that?

                          There are companies that have spent decades courting customer confidence and trust. For me, this finally cemented my opinion to suspect every item no matter how many years I trusted the company to stand on their reputation.

                          Though one could say that covertly Libby's did issue a warning in their commercials ... sing along ...

                          "When it says Libby's, Libby's Libby's on the label, label, label ... "

                          That may have been their way of suggesting we should read their label ... carefully.

                          I guess I would wonder exactly what a consumer is supposed to do. Buyer beware only works if there is an alternative.

                          1. re: rworange


                            I think I'll let you have the last word on this discussion as I don't want it to get nasty. Suffice to say, I think we can agree to disagree.

                            Cheers and Happy Turkey Eating!

                            1. re: rworange

                              Once again, you're quite right, rworange.

                              1. re: rworange

                                rworange- ""Yep, I'm complicit for buying a small product for the same price because I could do ... what? ... drop pumpkin pie from my Thanksgiving menu ... stop buying toilet paper ... that's an effective strategy ... oh ... I know ... suck it up like a sucker.""

                                I am sure you heard the mantra when dealing with things like this. The first time is, "shame on me". Second time is, "shame on me". Third time is, "shame on them".

                                Now who said you had to do without? How about rethinking your plans? Oh, I am sure there is options, but no 2 people will do things the same way.

                                1. re: RShea78

                                  I guess my question is what can a consumer do effectively?

                                  There are too many products for to deal with for there to be any 'shame on me'

                                  Where is corporate responsibility? I'm an innocent shelp just going to buy groceries. Shame on me for not being suspicious on every item I pick up and playing the "how are they trying to cheat me" game. I think not.

                                  Every time on every product I should write the company? I have a file case of blow-off letters from companies. I love the ones who never even read whatever complaints there are ... "Thank you for your positive comments on xxx. We appreciate loyal customers" ... after I've essentially called them swine in polite, business-like terms?

                                  How much is my time worth? That would be maybe 15-20 letters on every shopping trip. And how effective would that be?

                                  My favorite letter was when I politely wrote McDonald a few years back and told them I was a loyal filet of fish customer from the beginning and I was very unhappy about them adding lettuce and changing the filet.

                                  McDonald's wrote back and said that their test groups LOVED the new fillet of fish ... so in essence ... tuff.

                                  I stopped buying it. I guess so did a lot of other people because one year later the old sandwich was back.

                                  However, there is no choice in terms of shrinking package sizes. It is not like some companies have larger packages and others don't .

                                  However, it is one of the primary reasons I buy Scott toilet tissue - the 1000 roll size.

                                  Maybe some smart company should pick up on this and note they are NOT reducing their sizes ... sort of like Kraft tipped people off that their cheese used real milk unlike others ... what a concept.

                                  Trust me, I'm not baking pumpkin pie. This isn't the only item. Pretty much every product on the shelves has been downsized. It is not as though you can stop buying so many products without making everything from scratch.

                                  And seriously ... will me alone doing that be effective? There is a thread out there with people up in arms over the thought of NOT using packaged salad mix because of time constraints.

                                  My latest tactic has been writing my elected officials asking for a law to legislate this.

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    rwo, thought you'd be interested in the results of this Nielsen survey released today, .

                                    Of consumers surveyed, only 9% preferred downsizing package size while keeping prices the same as the option for suppliers to pass on higher costs.

                                    I can only hope manufacturers listen.

                        2. re: dolores

                          Actually, the 30 oz Best Food mayo cost more than the 32 oz used to, almost twice as much!!!
                          ps - this is in reply to Dolores' 11/24 - 3:15AM post - don't know how it ended up down here

                          1. re: Sarah

                            Of course, Sarah. And no one does anything about it, isn't it great for the manufacturers??!!

                        3. Seems to me the "end mark up" to consumers would be less if they just kept the same size can and upped the price a bit. I don't know for sure, but I would assume that when a company orders a new and heretofore unknown size can there is a re-tooling fee for resetting equipment or cutting new dies or whatever the process is for making thenew can size. So it seems ligical that fhat cost is factored in by the tuna or peach or corn canning company and passed along to the consumer.It seems to me. But I could be wrong. But if the trend keeps going, no one will have to buy thimbles any more!

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Caroline1

                            The higher prices are due to packaging (made with petroleum), shipping costs, and price of corn, oil, wheat, etc skyrocketing: companies didn't decide to do a "scam" and then got everyone else in on it. That's sort of paranoid. The ones that are lagging behind will have to do the same in the next few months or so, they're just lagging behind for whatever reason. So enjoy it while you can!
                            I just realized you guys all think that they're doing this for no reason except to make more money. They were losing money and if it continued, you'd wouldn't see your favorite products on the shelves anymore because the companies would be out of business. Unilever will never let that happen to Hellmanns for sure! They are right on top of it.

                            1. re: coll

                              No, I know companies are just passing along costs. No problem with that at all.

                              It is the way they are doing it. Just raise the price. No problem.

                              Reduce the size as a way of concealing the higher costs might be passed along. That's the scam.

                              One can say buyer beware all you want. If I remember my fourth grade history class the reason we have so many regulations in every business was because that didn't work for the consumer.

                              However, like the mayo ... they are at the point where despite the smoke and mirrors ... they can't shave sizes any more without people really noticing, so in the end prices went up anyway. Could have saved everyone the trouble by just upping the price in the first place and leaving the size alone.

                              1. re: rworange

                                >>just upping the price in the first place and leaving the size alone.


                              2. re: coll

                                You seem not to have understood what I was saying so let me simplify: It seems to me it would be a lot easier and far more direct to simply up the price of the original container. Hope this clarifies things for you.

                                1. re: Caroline1

                                  I know what you mean, I feel the same way, but they believe the price is more important to the consumer than volume. Whether their studies and theories are flawed, I don't know, but they firmly believe this is the best way to address the situation. I guess there they don't get as many complaints as they need to change their thinking.

                            2. I want to clarify that the intent of the OP was about making pumpkin pie not business practices..

                              It was the reason I worded it carefully. It was the reason this started originally on the Home Cooking board.

                              I don't cook much and I suspect that this isn't the first year with the reduced cans. However, it was a head's up that if your pie didn't come out EXACTLY as it has in the past perhaps that one or two ounces might be making the difference and to tweak accordingly, if necessary.

                              Given the responses, and the season, it seems like George Baily decided it wasnt "A Wonderful Life" and we are living in Potterville.

                              Happy Thanksgiving from me ... and ... I'm sure ... LIbby's.