Grocery Shrink Ray Minimizes My Brownies

Maurice took this beauty shot of two generations of Betty Crocker’s Turtle brownie mix side-by-side. The new version, on the right, gives you less brownie for the same cost. By his calculations, the new version, meant to fill out a 64 square inch pan, makes barely more than half as many brownies as the old, which were suited to a 117 square-inch pan.

He writes:

Attached is a photo of Betty Crocker’s Turtle Brownie mix, the old package size was 20.75 oz the new package is 17.6 oz. Old package make 9×13 pan of brownies, the new package makes an 8×8 pan. The tag is for the new size, but the price is the same for the larger package.

At least it’s less embarrassing and diet-damaging to devour an entire pan of brownies with the rebooted, withered Betty Crocker Turtles.

Comments

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  1. Amaras says:

    I like turtles

    -Zombie Kid

  2. RioPuerco says:

    Almost all brownies have undergone this change, the 9×13 sized brownies are now called “family sized”.

    • sth9669 says:

      Undergoing the change is one thing, but reducing the product by nearly half and maintaining the price point is a bad call for consumers. Next they’ll introduce a new package that says “New and Improved!” or something (which first of all is impossible, because if it’s new, how can it be improved since it didn’t exist before, and if you took the time to improve it, how can it be new?!) and raise the price 50 cents. . .

      • minjche says:

        By weight, it’s not half.

        You’ll end up with thicker brownies. Someone did a calculation in another comment below.

      • skylar.sutton says:

        They didn’t reduce anything “by half”. The OP is not good at three dimensional math and Consumerist is just as guilty for posting it. Yes there is less dry weight, yes that will produce slightly less brownie, not it will not be HALF as much brownie because of the pan size… it will be a DENSER brownie (read: taller).

        • sth9669 says:

          sorry, misread 20.75 as 27.5. . . reading comprehension fail. Now, while I’ll agree that that isn’t being reduced by half, I was frankly too lazy to calculate the difference from dropping from 27.5 to 17.6. It’s in the ball park of half, and that’s good enough. Still, reducing the amount in the box and charging the same is never good for consumers, plain and simple.

          Sure, the resulting brownies will be thicker and tastier, but they could’ve dropped the price 20 cents to reflect the difference and called attention to the new baking instructions vis a vis the pan size. Anything less and it’s just shady. . .

          • minjche says:

            Costs go up. If companies always stomached the increases in production costs and raw materials, many would be out of business right now.

            The company made a choice between reducing the product size and maintaining the price point, increasing the price point and maintaining the product size, or maintaining the product size and price point. #1 and #2 leave you with a personal choice of how you choose to perceive the change (as “shady” or otherwise), #3 leads the company out of business.

            I’m all for consumers, but this is not something I see as an afront to the consumer.

      • Gstump says:

        new (this version/recipe for this product didn’t exist before) and improved (this is a better version of our old product) are not as exclusive as you seem to believe

  3. NarcolepticGirl says:

    Hm.
    On the website, they have it listed as 20.75 with an image showing the one to the left.
    Since the picture posted is blurry, I can’t tell which one is supposed to be the “new” one… or if someone could even tell.

  4. NarcolepticGirl says:

    Actually, I can’t find anywhere that is selling a 17.6 oz turtle brownies by Betty Crocker.
    Was this an old box? or so brand new that no one has changed their description on their websites (including the mfg)?

    In any case, I wouldn’t be surprised.

  5. smo0 says:

    I make my own brownies at home…..

    …. and this really affects that…. /cry

  6. Wrathernaut says:

    Betty Crocker is merely changing “Family Size” to reflect the average family size of the American household, down to 2.2 children.

  7. OnePumpChump says:

    If they include the appropriately-shrunk brownie pan for the price, I’m okay with this.

    Otherwise, it isn’t like your kitchen equipment adjusts to fit the whims of some card-punching douchebag exec. Your results will not be the same if you don’t go and get the appropriate pans, and regardless, if you like the center-of-the-pan brownies, you’re getting less of them. This isn’t less of the same thing, it is less of something different.

    • Liam Kinkaid says:

      Who doesn’t have several 8″x8″ and 9″x13″ pans laying around? I’m not even all that much of a cook and I have quite a few.

      • partofme says:

        A poor student who’s kitchen doesn’t have a lot of storage space and makes less than 25 different things. Decisions to buy new kitchen equipment come down to how often will I use it and do I have room to store it?

        • nybiker says:

          I know this is off-topic, but some mistakes need to be pointed out.
          “A poor student who’s kitchen” s/b “A poor student whose kitchen”

          • minjche says:

            I just called a 9×13 cake pan “square” in another comment, so yes mistakes will be made :-P I’m wishing for an “edit” button.

    • minjche says:

      Seriously?

      You don’t buy a unsliced loaf of bread and expect a knife, you don’t buy a larger package of meat expecting larger cookware to cook it in, you don’t buy a bottle of some beverage with an increased package size and expect larger cups to drink it.

      If Betty Crocker made a pie chart of consumer complaints, I’d guess this one would be the tiny slice labeled “Insane consumers who would find some way to complain about us including wads of cash inside the packaging”.

      • nybiker says:

        I am going to respectfully disagree with you. The commenter is noting that s/he already has the regular pan to make brownies out of the ‘old package’. S/he doesn’t want to have to buy another cooking tool because some exec decided to reduce the amount of brownie mix in the bag. Brownies are already an ‘extra’ so if things were more expensive the company should just jack up the price and keep the quantity the same.

        • minjche says:

          I’m glad you’re so quick to follow the steps of the previous commenter and blame some nameless executive whipping post, and also to attribute your own opinions as the opinion of every consumer.

          While on the subject, can you believe the nerve of McDonalds to not charge the same price for cheeseburgers that they charged back in 1973? I mean jeez, some evil baby eating executive must have decided to jack that up.

          Back to reality. There’s a group of consumers like you who say “same quantity if it means higher price” and another group who say “same price if it means smaller quantity”, and a much larger group of consumers who either don’t notice or don’t care because they know when to choose their battles.

        • minjche says:

          Also, go to any store that sells bakeware (any grocery store, any Walmart/Target/Sears etc.)

          You’ll see two sizes of square cake pans: 8×8 and 9×13. There may be other specialty sizes, but 8×8 and 9×13 are very much “standard” sizes. I don’t think it’d be a stretch to say that many household kitchens have at least one of each.

    • RioPuerco says:

      I don’t keep an 8×8 pan around, but a 9 inch pie pan works perfectly in these situations.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        That’s a GREAT IDEA. I never thought of that. And every brownie will have both edges and middle edges!

  8. Andyb2260 says:

    OP here. Sorry for the quality of the image, my phone takes crappy pictures. I uploaded the original here :http://yfrog.com/mhimg00023j

    I work in a local supermarket, the new size only started coming in a couple of weeks ago.

  9. Liam Kinkaid says:

    The new package is 84% of the old package (dry weight). Assuming the addition of ingredients (eggs, oil, water) is linear, the volume of the new package should also be 84%. So, even though you’re using an 8″x8″ pan instead of a 9″x13″, the resulting brownies will be thicker using the smaller pan. If my back of the envelope calculations are correct, the new brownie mix in the smaller pan will result in brownies that are 55% larger than the old brownies.

    This doesn’t negate the presence of the shrink-ray, but it’s not quite as bad as only getting half, as the article suggests.

    • minjche says:

      I could just imagine directions saying “Add 84% of one egg.” :-P

      Good point, though.

    • OnePumpChump says:

      It does completely change the quality of the brownies that come out. If you like them chewy, you’re SOL. If you like them gooey, then this is an improvement.

  10. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    I recently purchased a box that said it was the 13×9 family size (same brand–always get it), but it was clearly better suited for a smaller pan. They shrunk the amount, but not the pan size. The brownies were quite thin and unappealing.

  11. PunditGuy says:

    I’m going to risk a threadcrap, because it’s consumer-friendly to avoid some items on grocery store shelves.

    Some convenience food I understand, but brownies are a single-bowl affair. All Betty did for you was basically measure out the dry ingredients. Take any of a billion brownie recipes, melt some caramel candies in a small amount of whipping cream or evaporated milk, toss in some chocolate chips and pecans and call it a day.

  12. TheGreySpectre says:

    I never understood brownie mix, It’s not like brownies have all that many ingredients.

    I suppose this is a stereotypical consumerist “I make my own” comment, but still brownies are really easy and quick to make from scratch

    • balthisar says:

      Actually, I came here with a random reciped with costs broken down per unit quantity, all prepared to say, “and much cheaper, too!” But I’m getting a price of $3.49 for a homemade 8×8 version of a recipe I like. It’s hard to check grocery prices online, and I tend to over-estimate prices, so it could be a lot lower (which was my original thought!).

      • josephpr says:

        I always have brownie mix on hand for last minute needs, and never thought it was worth measuring etc. “from scratch” Considering that the ingredients should be about the same, the differnce between box and home-made was very noticeable. One time-saver we do now: make a big pan of home-made (I get to eat all the crusty edge pieces), package some of the brownies for the freezer. Best of both worlds – good brownies, and available “on demand”.

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      Well, for turtle brownies, most of the recipes I just viewed have similiar recipes to this:

      2 cups chopped pecans
      2 cups white sugar
      1 cup unsalted butter
      4 eggs
      1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
      1 cup all-purpose flour
      2 teaspoons vanilla extract
      24 individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped
      42 pecan halves

      For someone who doesn’t like to cook, is cheap and/or is clumsy (like myself), this less than $2.00 box is more ideal.

    • flipflopju says:

      This is why brownie mixes exist: http://www.bakerella.com/thaaank-you-betty/

    • RioPuerco says:

      I make my breakfast, lunch, and dinner foods from scratch, but if I am throwing something like a brownie into the mix (which is a rare occasion) I will just make it from the box because it is convenient and doesn’t taste that bad at all.

      I bake without boxes throughout the winter months when homemade cookies and pies seem to make me feel less guilty.

    • TheGreySpectre says:

      I generally just use the recipe out of the Joy of Cooking, cheap tastes good and works for me.

    • The Cybernetic Entomologist says:

      Agreed, brownies are pretty easy to make at home without a mix.

      This recipe from Alton Brown makes absolutely epic brownies. (makes an 8×8 pan, scale accordingly) http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/cocoa-brownies-recipe/index.html

  13. JulesNoctambule says:

    Time to break the boxed mix habit! I have a brownie recipe that’s so easy my six-year-old niece can make it, and I promise the only time it will shrink is if you halve it.

  14. Mulva says:

    This is not as monumental as, say, the shrinkage of shredded cheese from 8 oz. to 7 oz. at the same price. If I want to make something that calls for two cups of shredded cheese, now I have to buy three packages to complete my recipe, with a portion of a package not being used. Of course, I will find a use for the remaining cheese, but being forced to buy more to meet my requirements is a rude way to make a profit, twofold.

    A box of brownie mix makes a pan of brownies, regardless of the pan size. It doesn’t mess with your measurements, it’s self-contained. Yummy treat tip for poor college student whose kitchen is tiny – buy the Pillsbury mini-brownie mix (it comes with its own pan) + some Reese’s mini-cups, push them in the brownies as they come out of the oven (uh, remember to unwrap the cups first).

  15. Warble says:

    Just look at it as being 50% healthier or something? Or make better brownies.

  16. Rob says:

    Well, since the eggs that you add to the mix will probably kill you, does it matter how many brownies are left after you are dead?

  17. wi.dragonfly says:

    I have also noticed that the shelf tag that gives the cost per unit is not necessarily accurate because the package stocked on the self if a different size (smaller) than what was used to calculate the unit price on the shelf tag. Consumers need to run their own cost per unit to be sure they are accurate.