Video: The History Of Maxwell House Shrinkage

This video shows how a variety of food products have shrunk over the years, while the price remains the same, and the tricks manufacturers use so we don’t notice the differences. She stacks up the coffee cans as they go from 16 oz to 11 oz. At one point, Maxwell House says that while the size is going down, the potency is going up. “We’ve fluffed the beans!” they say. So then why do the instructions on the side of the can for the amount of coffee you use to make a perfect cup stay the same? Though we don’t really mourn for lost Maxwell House value, the example is illustrative of standard industry tactics, even on food that doesn’t taste like crap.

Food Amounts Shrink Over Years, But Containers Are Same Size [WTAE] (Thanks to Kevin!)

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  1. SuffolkHouse says:

    I like that the link to the video takes you to a news site that is quite capable of showing you an advertisement, but then needs to install a plug-in to show you the news clip.

    Fuck it.

  2. Adisharr says:

    Agreed, a lot or these new sites need to get their act together and get a video player that works w/o a plug-in.

  3. AMetamorphosis says:

    Even w/ the plug in I couldn’t get the video to load :-( …

  4. Gokuhouse says:

    Yeah, I watched the stupid ad and then gave up on the video….How is it they can show me an ad but I need a plug in to view the video?

  5. zigziggityzoo says:

    Couldn’t get the video to load.

  6. mikey07840 says:

    I also was able to watch a commercial, but the video never played.

  7. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    Plug-ins: all the better to install scumware on your machine, my pretty.

    ‘Sides, the summary on this site pretty much tells it. Over the years it’s gone from a full pound of coffee to under 3/4 of a pound. Just goes to show that in good times the shrink ray just turns off, it doesn’t undo the shrinkage made during bad times.

  8. bcsus83 says:

    video worked for me…I’m using Firefox 3.0.1…I didn’t have to install anything.

    The lady in the video reminds me of my 87 yr old grandmother. She will call and complain and make a big deal about anything. Sometimes she makes some legitimate points, but for the most part, I think she just needs the attention, ya know? The lady on the video does make some good points, but I think she is really making mountains out of mole hills. It’s called inflation, and it happens, sometimes rapidly (like right now, for instance). It’s not the end of the world. Yeah, it kind of sucks to get less product for the same price, but is it really worth getting your panties in a wad over?

    • outinthedark says:

      @bcsus83: I think you missed the point a little and I wonder from your comment if you actually buy groceries.

      The ice cream deal is ridiculous. Edy’s went from 2 quarts to 1.75 to 1.5 in a matter of weeks it seemed. Now you cannot find any brand in 2 quarts size! It’s not entirely inflation. In the time Edy’s went from 2 quarts to 1.5 I cannot even fathom the dollar skyrocketing that much.

      The fact that most people just shrug it off like you have just lets these companies pinch more and more off. Would you like to buy a package of 4 socks sitting right next to an older packaged set of 5 for the same price? Oh ok that’s not the same thing right? Socks aren’t consumable.

      @Marshfield: That scoop of coffee still makes the same amount of coffee. Last I checked an ounce weighed the same as an ounce. Good to know you like paying for all that air weighing down your coffee.

      Me personally I thank the ice cream companies for ripping me off. Not that I’m a big ice cream fan but that 1 half gallon tub every month or so went down to nil unless it’s buy one get one free and I can get 3 quarts for the same price as 2 used to be not that long ago.

      • outinthedark says:

        @outinthedark: Oh and the vid worked fine in IE. Not going to install a WM plug in for FF 3.0.1. I agree whats with being able to watch the advert but not the video?

        Also I don’t buy anything less than 1.75 quarts and it has to be on sale. I don’t eat too much ice cream but you know every once in a while you get that craving for a quarter ounce of air with my ice cream.

    • Invective says:

      @bcsus83: The point is that there are two ways to sell products to your consumers. One way is honest, the other is not. Subterfuge is dishonest and a way to trick consumers into buying their products. Instead of using a straight forward approach, company twerps in their infinite wisdom decide to risk the bad PR and liability. Coffee is just one example. Coffee, like most products was always sold by the pound, (or some applicable unit) and now it’s not. Perhaps Consumerist.com would consider putting up a list of common products, with their actual cost by the unit. Consumers can contribute and it’s a way to ‘out’ who’s doing what and track them with their pricing. Which could be a valuable asset to consumers. Unless of course you are preprogrammed to accept things as they are. Sometimes they call that ‘well adjusted’. Personally I refuse to adjust to a good screwing, or accept it as normal. Being an optimist, I’m convinced people can actually change things. However if hearing people complaining about the mass ‘consumer subterfuge’ upsets a person, then perhaps this would be the wrong website to monitor. Personally I’m glad it’s here. :)

  9. boomerang86 says:

    They can keep it anyway. Personally, I can’t take the taste of the swill they brew at my place of work, it’s Maxwell House “Master Blend” and it’s not only overflaked for high yield, it’s over roasted too.

  10. Teh1337Pirat3 says:

    Judging by the looks of her house she doesn’t need to be worrying about spending the same amount of money for less goods. She’d be griping if the companies started charging more for the same amount either way we would be paying more. Everything is going to go up eventually.

  11. laserjobs says:

    Where does she keep all those stinky old containers to make her point of shrinkage? Opera browser had no problem with the video, no plug-ins asked for.

  12. quail says:

    Maxwell House. Bleh!

    Seriously though, I’d love it if someone were to take the items that have shrunk over the years and the ever changing ingredient lists and figure out what we would have to pay to get what we got back in the 50’s, 70’s, and 90’s. The hardest part of that equation would be to figure out the shipping costs for those larger containers. But it would be an interesting look.

  13. SkokieGuy says:

    It is a well known medical fact that the elderly, especially women, shrink with age. Maxwell House is engaging in a thoughtful and sensitive product improvement to keep pace with today’s seniors.

  14. ChuckECheese says:

    I have FF 3.0.1, but had to install the Windows Media Player plugin before the vid would play. Be sure to close your browser before installing the plugin, or it won’t work.

    This is sorta interesting. I didn’t know the grocery shrink ray’s grandmother was a retired English teacher and grocery historian.

    I have often wondered about the toilet paper. Eventually, some company is going to restore the full pound of coffee and the full size and length of the toilet paper, and let us know they’re doing us a favor by doing so.

  15. Trai_Dep says:

    My granny’s shrinking every year, yet I still have to get her a decent gift.
    But I’d never tell her to her face for fear of being cut off from the homemade Tollhouse Walnut cookies.

    • SybilDisobedience says:

      @Trai_Dep: I know, mine’s like 3 feet tall now.

      She’s still feisty as hell, though. I wouldn’t dream of skipping out on a gift, she’d charter a plane to come down here and make me pick out a switch.

  16. Just launch in IE, it’s fine. Firefox just needs a plug-in. That being said, I’m getting more and more fed up with companies doing this? Sure, the obvious answer is “don’t buy,” but what if EVERY damn company is doing this? Make your own coffee?

    • Princess Leela says:

      @beyondthetech: Sure, why not? Track down a coffee grinder at a yard sale (or use your food processor if you already have one) and buy your beans in bulk from a local roaster. Better coffee for, in the long run, probably not any more money.

  17. Marshfield says:

    From the heading on this post: We’ve fluffed the beans!” they say. So then why do the instructions on the side of the can for the amount of coffee you use to make a perfect cup stay the same?

    Actually, there’s nothing wrong here. They weight decreased, so the can weighs less, but the volume of the coffee is the same. You make coffee by measuring it in cups, and that doesn’t change as the “fluff” the beans (or grounds), it just makes more surface area so the coffee making process is more efficient. That scoop of coffee, though, weighs less than it used to.

    • lidor7 says:

      @Marshfield: I was going to point that out about the coffee, but looks like you’ve already noticed it. It’s not clear in the video, but if the containers are the same size and filled with the same volume of coffee beans and each cup of coffee takes the same volume of coffee beans, each container should make the same amount of coffee, regardless of weight.

      I don’t think you really need to save containers to notice how small ice cream cartons have gotten. I went to a nearby QFC and staring a whole section of ice cream, it was very apparent. And what’s with those new tiny tiny containers that have a single spoonful of ice cream?

  18. msbask says:

    I’m not sure this is a “tactic”. Manufacturer’s are faced with the choice of either (a) raising their prices; or (b) decreasing the amount of product they sell for the same price.

    (Of course, this does not apply to manufacturer’s who both decrease the product and increase the price!)

  19. dmuth says:

    Does anybody actually drink Maxwell House anymore?

  20. techstar25 says:

    AARP for the win!

    There is a line I thought I’d never type.

  21. grumpymo says:

    Actually a useful point of this whole video was buried at the end after the toliet paper demonstration.

    Old recipes can call for a can of this or that. Now that the grocery shrink ray has hit most things it takes more then one can to make things come out correctly. You have to guess how many oz the can used to be and re-measure things.

    • Meretrice says:

      @grumpymo: This!

      I have dozens and dozens of old recipes from my grandmother and many of them call for a 16oz can of this or that. It is beyond frustrating when I can’t make the recipe because I only have one 14.5oz can, or I have to open a second can and try to guess exactly many peaches equals 1.5oz. It is ridiculous.

      And by the way, has anybody noticed the canned soups? The cream of [whatever] that I use in recipes for casseroles is now 11oz! (Same with all of the red label Campbells soups) They are miniscule! They all used to be 16oz as well.

      I hate you, grocery shrink ray. Die in a fire. :(

  22. Tonguetied says:

    The video loaded the second time I reloaded the page and sat through a second ad (with the sound off). It was somewhat delayed but after a few seconds of a gray screen it started playing.

    I understand the frustration with the shrinkage of products but I also understand the side of the businesses. They can either keep the size the same and raise the price or they can shrink the product and keep the price at the same level. In effect they are raising the price, just in a different way. I don’t imagine that it’s dramatically increasing their profit margin so much as keeping it at the same level. Especially for the food industry my understanding is that profit margins are razor thin. (They make it up in volume!)

    Is it deceptive? Yeah it is, especially when the companies don’t just come out and admit that it’s a ‘per ounce’ price increase. But when you go to the store expecting to pay $X for a jar of Peanut Butter and are instead charged a higher price that hits somewhat harder than paying the same price for a smaller amount.

  23. TACP says:

    It’s kind of ironic. A few years ago, people were complaning about huge servings of food, and how they were making us fat. Huge jars of pickles, huge bags of Oreos, etc. were phased out.

    I agree with the lady’s point, but she just comes off as one of those customers who is never satisfied. If you’ve ever worked in retail, you know the type.

    • mbz32190 says:

      @TACP:
      The problm is, they (for the mostpart) have always kept a “regular” size, and a “big” size. So they got rid of the big size, shrink the regular size, and keep the same price, or raise it. I understand why companies must do it, but it should be watched carefully.

  24. Tonguetied says:

    3 16 oz cans = 48 oz
    4 12 oz cans = 48 oz
    (I’m using 12 oz because the math is easier)

    If the price has stayed stable at, say, $5 a can (I have no idea how much coffee costs) then the price for 48 oz of coffee has gone from $15 to $20 or 33%.

    Now is this keeping up with the rate of inflation or is it higher? When was coffee sold in 16 oz cans? When did it drop to the 11 and 1/2 oz cans? Over how many years did this price increase.

    At a 4% inflation rate prices double in 18 years. Is that right?

    • hapless says:

      @Tonguetied: Real rates of inflation are closer to 10% than 4%, bud. The government “fluffs” the numbers a bit.

      • Fist-o™ says:

        @hapless: Yeeeaaah, I’m gonna have to go ahead and sorta dis-agree with ya there. “Bud”. “The Government” is not the sole entity which estimates inflation.

        If inflation were 10%, then, let’s see: When I was a kid (16), and started driving, gas was…. oh, around $1.05/gallon. That was in 1986. $1.05 amortized at 22 years @ 10% = $8.55.

  25. GreatCaesarsGhost says:

    1. Your opinion of MH coffee couldn’t be less relevant.

    2. If you’re buying processed foods, “shopping around” is pointless, as everyone is doing this.

    3. No one’s ripping you off. The price of goods has changed. Instead of incurring your wrath by raising prices, the companies are being subtle. No, it’s not just inflation. Yes, companies are just looking to increase profit. They’re allowed to do that. And if you don’t notice, it’s your fault not theirs.

    4. People should make themselves aware of this, but we’re beating a dead horse at this point.

  26. Parting says:

    Maxwell house has never been a ”real” coffee.

    If you look in the bin, it looks dried grass mixed with grinded coffee.

    They have been cheating their customers for years like that. If you take out all non-coffee crap in the box, you get very little REAL coffee.

    It would be more cost effective to buy any other brand, that doesn’t dilute their coffee with unknown stuff.

  27. karmaghost says:

    I still can’t get over what I think is, perhaps, the saddest example of the grocery shrink ray; the Cadbury Creame Egg. First off, they tried to play it off as “it didn’t get smaller, you just got bigger!” But I mention this product because, I believe, the changes they’ve made have altered the overall product. With coffee or cereal, for example, you get less of that product, but it essentially stays the same. Whereas with the Creame Egg, the structure of the whole egg changed; the thickness of the chocolate, the size of the cavity inside the egg, the amount of cream, etc.

    I can’t think of any other examples like the creame egg, can anybody else?

  28. TechnoDestructo says:

    Hahah, bet these douchebags didn’t count on someone saving ice cream containers for years.

  29. southbark says:

    My wife works as a P.O.S. manager at major chain in California. She basically puts all those tags that have the prices on the shelf and makes price tags for sale items.She has seen frito lay change there bag size 6 times over the past 10 years and recenly even companys like tropicana,dreyers Ice-Cream, and others drop a few ounces from there products over the past few years due to fuel and manufacturing cost but mostly because of fuel even budweiser and coke are doing it.

    Don’t ask me what P.O.S. means.

  30. Anita says:

    I know this is from 2 years ago, but is she misunderstanding the maxwell house can shrinkage? It implies that she seems to think that maxell house changes into a new formula every time they shrink, its as though she doesn’t understand that there are different varieties of maxwell house coffee?