Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Dec 16, 2010 06:10 PM

Ice cream container size question

When did the standard half-gallon container of ice cream that you buy in the supermarket shrink to 1.5 quarts? I just noticed this a couple of months ago when I brought home some ice cream and the container seemed a little small. I went back to the supermarket and checked out the other brands. All 1.5 quarts. How long has this been going on?

I've noticed this shrinking trend of standard supermaket sizes in other food and drink products, as well. Off the top of my head:
-canned tuna. Previously 6 oz. can, now 5 oz
-frozen vegetables in a bag. Previously 1 lb., now 12 oz.
-dried pasta. Previously 1 lb., now many are appearing in 12 oz. boxes

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. According to this article the downsizing of ice cream containers from half gallons started in 2006. Haven't you bought ice cream since then?

    4 Replies
    1. re: monku

      For the longest time I'd just buy pints of Hagen Dazs or Ben And Jerry's. About a year ago I started buying 1/2 gallons, er, ah, 1.5 quarts of Dreyer's, Breyer's or supermarket house brand to stretch my grocery budget.

      Thanks for the link. But it the date was 2008, not 2006.

      I also noticed the chain supermarket where I usually shop, Ralph's, recently repackaged it's house brand "Private Selection" ice cream and doubled the price.

      1. re: 2chez mike

        ^ "For the longest time I'd just buy pints of Hagen Dazs or Ben And Jerry's."

        Looks like someone's been snookered.

      2. re: monku

        costco still sells a full gallon.

      3. It's a very interesting trend, isn't it? Here in Canada, for ages, ice cream was sold in 2 litre containers. Gradually, they starting shrinking to 1.89 litres. Now they're all edging down to 1.5 litres.

        It reminds me of the ongoing toilet paper scam. A roll used to be 200 sheets, so a double roll was 400 sheets. Now the packaging explains that a 'single' roll is 140 sheets! So a 'double' is 280 sheets! I Wow!

        I fully expect than in the near future, we'll be buying "quintuple" rolls of toilet paper....and ice cream will be measured by the molecule, or possibly the atom.

        18 Replies
        1. re: SherBel

          So, I'm not the only person in the tp aisle comparing sheet count?? There's a brand sold here (not sure about Canada) called Angel Soft that has the best sheet count / bang for my buck.

          As for ice cream, it's really annoying as the price either stays the same or creeps higher and higher. And some "pints" are 14 oz. now. It's going to start getting wonky with recipes...

          1. re: Violatp

            The sheet count isn't the only thing getting smaller with TP: one of our bathrooms has an inset paper holder, and I used to have a hard time getting both ends of the axle thingy to go into the holes. I was congratulating myself recently for having gotten much better at it, then realized that I didn't used to be able to see both ends at once … but now the paper roll is narrow enough that can!

            Back on topic, however, I cannot express how annoyed I am with shrinking "standard" sizes. It does seem to me that dairy products should all be sold in standard sizes, whether it's ice cream or milk or whipping cream: pints, quarts, half-gallons, whatever. Or liters or half-liters. What next, 1.5-pint cartons of milk? 12 oz. packages of butter?

            1. re: Will Owen

              Whats so special or important about so-called "standard" sizes?

              Is milk somehow less tasty or not as nutritious because it comes in a 1.5 pint container as opposed to a 1/2 gallon?

              I've never known toilet paper to be more or less efficacious because a roll contained 100 or 100" sheets.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                It's a sneaky way of raising the price by gradually giving you less and less. Yet the price gradually creeps upward at the same time. I'm talking about standards that have been in place as far back as I can remember since being a kid in the 1960's, and probobly way before that, as well.

                Where does it all end? Theoretically, like the poster above mentioned, somewhere in the future, some will be paying a million dollars for a molecule of ice cream if the trend continues.. :)

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  "Whats so special or important about so-called "standard" sizes?" Here's what:

                  -- Many recipes are based on standard sizes -- e.g. a can of tunafish
                  -- You get accustomed to counting on getting a certain number of servings out of a can or package of whatever
                  -- plus there's a matter of trust. When somebody's marketing department starts short-sizing you, you feel like you're being had, and you are!

                  1. re: Sharuf

                    >>> Many recipes are based on standard sizes -- e.g. a can of tunafish

                    That's an issue with the cookbook. Why would a manufacturer cater to a cookbook or a recipe?

                    >>> You get accustomed to counting on getting a certain number of servings out of a can or package of whatever.

                    One can and should learn new customs.

                    >>> plus there's a matter of trust. When somebody's marketing department starts short-sizing you, you feel like you're being had, and you are!

                    No, you're not being had. The smaller sizes are clearly labeled on the products. It would be entirely different if the can said 10 oz. and you got only 8 oz. Clearly not the case here.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      If you've been buying the same size can of the same product for 30-some years, not only have you long ago stopped reading the label, you're probably even less likely to now that you have to dig out your reading glasses! And take it from a genuine geezer: light-face numbers printed on a dark green metallic label in 12-point type does NOT constitute "clearly labeled" for lots of us.

                      1. re: Will Owen


                        All of those issue you raise (e.g. settled expectations, small print, etc.) are issues with the consumer, not the manufacturer.

                        Resizing a package or container and then labeling it with the new size is neither (1) deceptive (2) illegal or (3) improper.

                        The manufacturer has done everything well within its rights.

                        Maybe time to visit your optometrist?

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          And don't get me started on changing cell phones and they ask you for the ESN number inside the back of the phone. That is in 2-pt font.

                        2. re: ipsedixit

                          When something is reduced from a gallon to a quart, it's obvious to the consumer. When something is reduced from 9oz to 8oz it's an attempt to trick the consumer.

                          1. re: jgg13

                            Yes, and printing the size in ounces with no further notice is the kind of excuse some of the self-righteous snots we knew in grade school would pull. Excellent illustration of what's the difference between Legal and Right.

                            Some of these old brands have a legacy of trust that goes back for generations. When we learn that Smucker's, Hellman's and Meadow Gold are sneaking things by us - by which I mean no obvious public notice - many of us feel like Grandma just flipped us off. Of course it's LEGAL, but that is very much beside the point, unless you're a lawyer.

                            1. re: Will Owen

                              I have to say that I really don't care that much if someone wants to jack up a price on something. But when they very subtly reduce the size and keep the same price, it smacks of deception to me. As you note, yes, a vigilant person can notice this, but the key is that subtlety - if it's clear that they're trying to deceive, I'm not so fond of it :( Exactly the way you put it - legal, but kind of sleazy

                              1. re: jgg13

                                But just about everything a manufacturer does can be considered "deception" (your word).

                                From the color schemes, to the package shape, to a product's name are all a part of what manufacturers do to get you to buy their products.

                                How is using Tony the Tiger to sell cereal any different than maintaining prices but reducing product size, esp. if doing so will not decrease (or maintain) consumer interest and/or demand.

                                Perhaps for people like yourself and Will Owen, paying more for the same product size may not be an issue, but for many people who are on fixed incomes they cannot pay more for the same package sized product.

                                So, instead of paying $1 more for that gallon of milk, they simply forgo it entirely because their fixed income budgets won't allow for that $1 increase. But if the price did not increase by $1, that person on a fixed income could still buy milk, but just a smaller container of milk.

                                So for that person on the fixed income or an EBT card, the tradeoff of paying the same for less is much better than paying more for the same.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Buying the shrunken size is not necessarily practical or do-able. If a product that formerly gave you two servings now gives you one-and-a-half servings, your choice is to buy two of them and have leftovers or get something else.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    tony the tiger is just as bad! i don't need people telling me what to eat -- and I want things to fluctuate at the rate of the market. Costco had a sign posted "no more than 10 bags of flour per customer". Fifty pound bags. That's because costco has smart customers who know when flour is headed up.

                                    I don't buy it: "same for less" versus "sameish for more"... I look at my costco receipts for milk, and they really don't change that much.

                                    person on fixed income is probably more ripped off by buying small quantities of milk (1 qt has a MUCH higher price per oz. than a gal)

                                    1. re: Chowrin

                                      Milk has been very stable lately, but a year or so ago was up at least 25%. Most wholesale milk comes in half gallons by the way.

                              2. re: jgg13

                                not really. they know that eople shop by price more than size. marketing will have determined that people will not pay more than $5 for product x. it is not long cost effective to sell product x in the original size for the original price. they can either raise the price or shrink the container. but the aforementioned marketing research shows they won't pay more, so the container shrink is a better sales option.
                                it isn;t dishonest - it's just indicative of how people shop

                    2. re: SherBel

                      Actually, the single roll was 280 sheets in 2000. In April of 2000, Charmin and Northern began shrinking the rolls, and then adding double and triple rolls of the new smaller sheet count. Making the new 600 sheet per triple roll, just a few more sheets than the old double roll of 560 sheets. BUT, they didn't stop there. They made each 4.4" sheet into 4" sheets. So now, the triple roll actually becomes 2% smaller than the old double roll. I think the shrinkage of toilet paper and other paper products far surpass the shrinkage in food products.

                    3. The reason/excuse I always hear is that consumers don't want to pay about a certain price, so they have to make the packages smaller. Possibly true for the general public, annoying to me. Hellmanns mayo barely lasts a week anymore at just 30 z, and I can't freeze a perfect quart of stock in their (stupid plastic) bottles anymore either. But life goes on....

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: coll

                        "passing on the price to the consumer"... slowly, and with much lag, because of the damn redesign! Give me costco's "prices fluctuate on a weekly basis" (no, I shop there once a month, but milk and ice cream certainly fluctuate together), anyday...

                        1. re: Chowrin

                          All food prices fluctuate, up AND down believe it or not. Meat and produce is a daily thing; all dairy is connected at the commodity level and tightly controlled. Wheat and grain is the new high now, and that affects meat prices since US uses grain to feed.

                          Grocery chains lock in ahead so there's your lag, sometimes in your favor and sometimes not. If you're a bargain hunter like me, you can figure it out to your benefit.

                        2. re: coll


                          Yikes! Mayo too? I just ran to the fridge and checked. How long have we been being short changed on the "quart" of mayo?

                          1. re: 2chez mike

                            A couple of years, at least. Since Hellmann prices went through the roof, when oil was sky high.

                        3. "One can and should learn new customs" is not only patronizing and insulting, it's missing the point.

                          The point is that we are spending more and getting less for products that we purchase. It's escalating to ludicrous degrees, and we're a wee bit pissed about it. It's a financial issue, not an education issue, for God's sake.

                          No "learning" is necessary, thanks.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: SherBel

                            vote with your pocket book. and your retirement fund. 1 in 6 americans got food poisoning last year.

                            Profit uber alles. We're paying them to kill us.

                            Suggest buying from places like Costco, that have higher food standards, and cheaper prices via less advertising.

                            1. re: SherBel

                              Prices always increase -- on just about everything, not just food.

                              Save for a few things like gasoline, adjusted for inflation, just about everything we buy today is more expensive than it was in days of yore.

                              Plus, companies are in business to make money, not provide charity. And I, for one, want these companies to make money. I either directly or indirectly own a stake of some sort in these companies (e.g. stocks or bonds) in either my portfolio or my retirement funds. I'd imagine most people do as well.

                              Don't begrudge companies for trying to make money. Better to be just a more savvy shopper.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                I don't need to spend money to be told what to buy. And I don't need to spend money to be poisoned. yes sir, i will begrudge companies for selling inferior products to make a buck, and ones with poor food standards. I strongly urge you to invest in companies that have better charters. 1 in 6 americans got food poisoning last year. what's the cost of botulism these days? on a per human basis?

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  No one has disputed that companies are in it to make money, nor has anyone suggested they should be doling out charity. However, there is an issue of good faith here, part of many relationships between consumer and producer. And a company that purposely hollows out a huge convex cave in the bottom of a bottle to make it look like it's delivering the same amount of product for the same price is simply not acting in good faith, nor is one that redesigns a bottle to look like it's delivering more product when in fact it is delivering less. To place the entire onus on shoppers is akin to suggesting that we should jettison all notions of the social contract that is one of the foundations of modern morality.

                                  1. re: Cachetes

                                    If the packages are labeled correctly, the notions of "social contract" which you contend are the "foundations of modern morality" are still in place.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      We are all just going to disagree about this. Our visions and frames for arguing these points are simply distinct. We can go in circles and circles, but I doubt that would lead anywhere except to the Team locking this thread. So, Happy Holidays to you and yours!!

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        Ipse - you're sounding like a spokesperson from a marketing dept.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          grok that. rathair contained inside should also be labeled, as well as percentage chance of botulism, based on current market research. Truth in Labeling, it's your friend!