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May 19, 2012 12:47 AM

Fourteen ounces is the new pound

I couldn't help notice yesterday when I purchased a package of puff pastry that it is sold in a 14-ounce package. Most recipes that I can recall that specify pre-made puff pastry generally call for a pound package.

I also needed a pound of Great Northern Beans. The first bag I picked up was the Iberia brand, and as I was examining the beans inside the plastic bag I noticed that the weight was only 14 ounces. That kind of surprised me, as I had always purchased dried beans in 16-ounce bags, as least I always thought I was buying 16-ounce bags. Never paid attention to the net weight before, but now all the dried beans and lentils (Iberia, Goya and store brand) are packaged in 14-ounce packages. No longer one pound bags. Kind of annoying when most recipes that specify a quantity usually call for a pound of beans. In a soup the missing two ounces won't make much difference, but there was a time in my salad days when I might have thought I needed the exact ONE POUND measure and likely would have purchased two bags so I could obtain the missing two ounces. I've noticed the same thing on certain canned goods, where the net weight is an ounce or a couple ounces less than they used to be.

I know there have been other posts on shrinking package sizes, and this is is NOT a rant on rising food prices, evil food producers charging more for less, or food processors trying to fool or somehow take advantage of us poor consumers. But sheesh, I feel like I'm being nickel and dimed to death. Food manufacturers, please cover your increased costs and just charge a bit more, I'll gladly pay the cost for a full found of product. Don't pare away at the quantity in the pacakge, on a unit basis we'd end up paying about the same anyway.

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    1. I liken it to "new packaging"....Tropicana OJ has re-invented the half gallon of OJ with a 59 ounce container....but their argument is that it is actually 1.75 litres!

      1. re: PHREDDY

        That same thing happened to half gallons of booze in the 1970s (handles). It was interesting that booze went down from 64 ounces to 1.75 liters, BUT soda went up from a half gallon to 2 Liters (67.x ounces)

        So it's not always down sizing. In fact there is a thread going about Tuna coming out in 7 ounce cans which disappeared and started shrinking 40 years ago.

        1. re: bagelman01

          Another example is the pound can of coffee.....The cans are now collectable!

    2. And a "pound" of coffee has been 12 ounces for quite some time.

      3 Replies
      1. re: CindyJ

        I beat that by buying my Peet's coffee from the Peet's store. Their per-pound price is roughly what Ralphs charges for 12 ounces, except when it's on sale there. I'd rather go to the Mother Lode anyway.

        1. re: Will Owen

          It's also probably fresher there than the bagged stuff you get at the supermarket.

          1. re: CindyJ

            Especially since I get it ground. (Yes, I know what a truly dreadful thing that is to admit these days, and I do have a perfectly good Peugeot hand mill. But I'm not only LAZY, I am also OLD, got NO SENSE OF SMELL and CAN'T TELL THE DIFFERENCE.)

      2. The down-sizing of the pound happened in the 1970s. In the 1980s packages returned to their original size. The down-sizing was due to the lousy Jimmy Carter economy. I predict that we will know that the Bush/Obama recession is truly over when packages of beans, "half-gallons" of ice cream, etc., return to their true pound and half gallon sizes. But it's a sneaky thing to do. Do the producers of 1.75 quart ice cream containers and 14 ounce packages of beans think that we don't notice? It makes me think less of the manufacturer.

        2 Replies
        1. re: gfr1111

          They will never return. Once everyone gets used to the new sizes, we'll never go back.

          1. re: gfr1111

            Yah, that'll happen when gas at the pump returns to its pre-GeorgeW price of 95 cents.

            Then again, never say never...

          2. It's called the "grocery shrink ray" and is discussed frequently on a consumer website I frequent. Companies routinely shrink the package size but keep the price the same. I guess they figure that people will be happy paying the same price for less rather than just raising prices. Most people aren't real happy with the approach. Consider that when they do this they incur fairly consequential costs for changing their packaging which further erodes their bottom line.

            Seems like it would be simpler and more honest to just increase the price rather than sell a 48oz container of ice cream and pretend that it's a half gallon.

            5 Replies
            1. re: meadandale

              Yes,I agree with you. And I know the practice has been around for a while - I can't recall when coffee was actually sold in pound packages. For things like coffee, ice cream, orange juice, cereal and the like, the typical usage is to remove a portion for immediate use, rarely does one use up an entire package of coffee, OJ, ice cream, etc. at once, and the shrinkage while irritating and maybe noticeable, won't affect the end use. But when a recipe specifies a pound package of puff pastry, or a pound of dried beans, the shortage of 2 ounces will make a difference in the yield or the taste. Perhaps not significant, but noticeable. Yes, I wish standards remained standards.

              1. re: meadandale

                It is everywhere. Ice cream is the worst. All of the major brands have shrunk packaging or added air. Now the price is skyrocketing on top of the shrinkage. Guess I need to make ice cream if I really want it.

                The best ways I have found to avoid the shrink ray is to buy out of bulk dispensing. IE: open bins of produce, meat out of the meat counter etc. Or buying larger bags of things like beans. I buy more of the dry kinds of things out of the bins at the local food coop since I know what I am getting vs. the price and the quality is usually better. Making things from scratch seems to help too since much of the shrink ray is in processed products.

                1. re: blackpointyboots

                  For me, fresh cranberries were the worst. Since I only make them once a year, it took awhile to figure out why my compote was coming out so liquidy, but 4 oz out of 16 is a big drop.

                  From what I read here, I just went and checked my dry beans. I have two grocery brands plus Goya, and all are 16 oz.

                  1. re: blackpointyboots

                    The other day I was excited to see Breyer's ice cream on sale for 2.50$ (it's usually about 7.99$ a container!). It wasn't until I was unpacking the groceries at home that my husband pointed out to me how small the container actually was. It had to have been at least a third smaller than previously.

                    1. re: causeimhungry

                      If it's two-thirds the customary size, you got it for half price.

                2. On the opposite - yet still gouging the consumer - I ordered a pound of deli meat at the local Harris Teeter yesterday. What I got was 1.2 lbs. which added a whopping $2.00 to the cost of the deli meat.

                  I complained to the customer service representative.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: lynnlato

                    Wow, I'm surprised that the deli worker didn't ask if you were okay with the extra amount. Whenever I order deli meat at Publix and they slice more than I asked for I'm always given the option of accepting what they've sliced, or just getting what I asked for. And they remove the extra cheerfully, no problems. Isn't Harris Teeter known for its customer service?

                    1. re: janniecooks

                      Yes, they are typically known for their customer service. In fact, I was quite surprised by the customer service rep's response. Although, this particular harris teeter is known to have staffing & managerial issues. But yes, they typically ask you if the extra is ok - and that's only a couple of slices over - not 20% worth.

                      GH, I'm not sure I understand why you wouldn't have complained? I ordered 1 lb and got 1.2 lbs. Not too complicated but slightly shady on the part of the meat slicer. Fortunately, it's not something that has happened to me often. But I'll be paying closer attention from now on. Shame on me for being so trusting of the store where I shop just about every other day.

                    2. re: lynnlato

                      I usually stand there as they weigh out the meat, and notice. They also ask if a bit over is O.K. But, that's because I am standing there, watching them weigh the product.

                      1. re: lynnlato

                        That's unusual. Every deli department I have used for years, and there are many, weighs it right in front of the customer, with the weight displayed, and the weight usually closer than that to the requested amount, unless the customer approves it. This is not general practice. It can happen only when either the scale is not located where you can read it (in which case shop somewhere else), or the customer is not paying attention. This isn't something I would complain about.

                        1. re: GH1618

                          Every grocery store where I buy sliced meat, if they go over what you ask for, they start to remove the extra or ask if it's okay. They don't just leave it in there unless you asked for a specific number of slices.

                        2. re: lynnlato

                          why didn't you say something while you were at the deli counter. In this kind of case, It is not gouging. It is still the same price per ounce. Your argument makes about as much sense as if you would have said i got ripped off, i asked for a pound of meat, but got .80, but you would have paid 80% of the pound price.