Grocery Shrink Ray Takes Bites Out Of Wheat Thins And Pillsbury Cake Mix

Is it the Grocery Shrink Ray, or are companies looking out for our health? A box of Pillsbury cake mix has shrunk three ounces, but still makes the same number of (slightly smaller) cupcakes. Wheat Thins lose .9 ounces in the box, but have gained ten grams of “whole grains” per serving. Are they looking out for our health, or… nah, probably just their bottom line.

Reader Brian noticed and submitted the cake/cupcake mix shrinkage. Three ounces is 16% of the original mix’s size, but the box still makes 24 cupcakes. That makes each cupcake 16% smaller. Probably better for all of us in the long run, but the savvy baker will probably make up for the lost volume by adding more frosting.

Andi noticed a difference in Wheat Thins boxes: namely, that the box offers .9 fewer ounces of crackers, but ten more grams of whole grains per serving. Yay?

Except…hey, wait a minute, we already noticed that “whole grain” thing two years ago. Back then, the crackers gained wheaty goodness, but the boxes stayed the same size. No fair!

This is probably related to Nabisco’s recent shrinkage of Triscuit crackers as well.

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  1. Blueskylaw says:

    If Consumerist is still around in 10 years, we will be reading about how Wheat Thins now come in a
    1 ounce box but with a BRAND NEW LOOK and at the SAME OLD PRICE.

    All because we listened to our customers demands of course.

    • RandomHookup says:

      By then, it will be “NEW Aerosol Wheat Thins … just breathe in those whole grain scents!”

  2. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    It’s one thing to shrink ray something that’s ready to eat, but when you start shrinking mixes and raw ingredients, that opens up a whole new can of worms. There’s no way this will make the same volume of cake, unless you have to add more flour, sugar, etc. in addition to the eggs, water, and oil.

    I have old recipes for lasagne, for instance, and my recipe calls for two jars of spaghetti sauce. Jars back then were 32 oz. Now, most are 24 oz. If you don’t pay attention to the shrink ray, recipe results are just not the same.

    • StatusfriedCrustomer says:

      // that opens up a whole new can of worms //

      Not a problem, because the new cans of worms are also 10% smaller.

    • "I Like Potatoes" says:

      I was just going to post the same thing. I have a lot of recipes that use ingredients that have shrunk over the years and it makes it very difficult to get the same results. I’m pretty sure if you poll the average consumer, they would much rather pay the slight price increase to keep the product the same size, especially for a product that is used as a base in tons of recipes.

    • eturowski says:

      This, + eleventy billion. #cookingpetpeeves

    • msbask v2 says:

      Agreed to the nth degree. This is just plain stupid. Just increase the price of the damn cake mix by 15¢ already!

    • JediZombie says:

      The other ingredients that it says to add to the cake mix, they are actually not needed. When boxed cake mixes were first introduced, people didn’t think it was baking unless you added eggs at least. The eggs and oil are un-needed. Instead add a can of soda. I know it sounds strange, but grab your nearest cake mix and add a can of soda and bake at the required temp and time. (Hint: Chocolate cake mix well with Cherry Soda and White cakes look better with clear sodas)

      It sounds strange, but you won’t notice a difference other than having the flavor of that soda.

  3. nybiker says:

    Ok, so .9 ounce (singular) represents almost 10% of the weight before shrinkage. I wonder, wonder, wonder, if the price changed by 10% as well? Yeah, we know the answer to that question. My guess the increase in whole grains might be due to the way the stuff is counted rather than just them adding 10 grams of whole grains. Take note of the asterisk (yes, it’s on both boxes) – my gut tells me there is an escape clause somewhere on the box that let’s them say ‘whole grain’ but not really give you whole grain. I don’t know, maybe I’m too cynical?
    Also, the box shown is the ‘hint of salt’ version, so we know that by its very nature, it’s a more expensive option since not putting in as much salt as the regular version costs more (that logic has always escaped me, so I don’t buy those versions anyway).

    I have no info or opinion on the cake mix, other than the normal comment that the GSR is evil.

    • MutantMonkey says:

      For the value issue, people react more negatively to an increased priced than they do to a decreased package. Generally people do not like either, it’s just that one side of the coin is seen as more as a negative even though there really is no difference. This is likely due to the inherent math problem associated with the change.

      Any who expects food prices to remain 100% stable, thus always getting the same amount for the same price, needs to take a step back and realize that is never going to happen.

      As for the wording, what is going on there is that the old product was not 100% Whole Grain while the new product is which would increase the whole grain per serving.

  4. bnceo says:

    Must cost all that money for the Family Guy ad spot. Had to shrink it.

  5. Red_Eye says:

    The same thing I said in 2008 still applies. ( http://patentlystupid.com/node/48123 ) All they are doing is screwing the planet over in the name of profit, and increase in waste and the number of purchases you have to make. Tell them this is not acceptable! Or be good sheeple and follow the flock.

    • Whtthfgg says:

      It was a good comment up til the last sentence…..the last sentence makes you look like a tool. Buying groceries that we have no control over sizes makes us sheeple….yeah..that makes sense

      • msbask v2 says:

        Well, actually, Red_Eye does make sense.

        For example: If people stopped buying Pillsbury cake mix and instead bought Dunkin Hines or Betty Crocker and told Pillsbury exactly why they were doing it, it actually could have some impact.

  6. jsimpson says:

    Too bad we are not smart enough to figure out how to boycott companies that use the shrink ray. When the shrink ray first came out, it was marketing genius. A price increase without the price going up. But as the trend continued and people started noticing the change and realized what was really going on, we just went along with it. “Oh well, they are all doing it now. What can I do?” You can say enough is enough. Call the companies hotline. Complain. Use the coupon they give you for calling in then stop buying the product. If it’s going to stop. It will be up to us to vote with our wallets.

    • "I Like Potatoes" says:

      It’s difficult to boycott for very long because, sooner or later, the other companies that make the same product end up shrinking their size, too and before you know it, you can’t even find the standard size anymore (ice cream is the prime example).

      • msbask v2 says:

        I was in the supermarket on Tuesday and purposefully looked at the cake mix boxes. ALL brands were 15.25oz, although there were a few older looking 18.25 oz boxes of not-too-popular flavors left on the shelf (coincidentally, those were Pillsbury).

        So it appears that Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker have already reduced the size of their mix. Maybe Pillsbury was the last to do it, and no one noticed until now?

    • Alex d'Indiana says:

      I think that’s just the thing: people do vote with their wallets, and they’re voting for the shrink ray.

      You can raise a huss-fuss, and I’d join in just because changing quantity instead of prices in response to inflation is just annoying, but your huss-fuss would have to be louder than the mouth-breathers out there who’ll say “What? Wheat Thins are 15 cents more expensive? I’m buying Doritos,” even if Doritos are 2 ounces smaller.

  7. wombats lives in [redacted] says:

    “Hey Fatty, how ’bout another piece of cake? Oh, don’t mind if I do! No cake for Fatty! No cake for Fatty!”

    -Captain Bellerophon “Tornado” Shanks

  8. Applekid says:

    So, are you adding less egg and oil to the cake mix? How am I supposed to crack in 2.82 eggs and 29/32 of a cup of oil?

    • Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

      With any luck the eggs and oil would have also been shrink ray-ed.

  9. ZenListener says:

    Wheat Thinners.

  10. eturowski says:

    Note how the old box of cake mix has “1 cup of pudding in the mix,” while the new box has an undisclosed amount of “pudding in the mix” (“as always,” mind you).

    Also, they both claim to make 24 cupcakes… is Pillsbury going to make cupcake wrapper manufacturers scale back the capacity of their wrappers, too? Or do the directions now say, “Fill each wrapper 5/9 full” instead of “fill each wrapper 2/3 full”?

    BOOOOOO!

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      Just think how hard this will be for fraction challenged bakers!

    • CalicoGal says:

      Yeah I’m curious to see the back of the box where the directions are…

  11. llsee says:

    Jeez people, its flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, baking powder and salt in the box (not fresh mind you, just dried or imitation), you have to add your own eggs and milk. Why buy the mix, when I already have everything in the house. And mine tastes better, cuz everything is fresh, and hasn’t been sitting in a warehouse/grocery shelf for the past year or so!

  12. dks64 says:

    Shrink Ray: “They’re giving us less product for the money!” (When their costs go up)

    Price Increase: “Can you believe that cereal is now $5 a box? That’s insane!”

    One is going to happen, make up your mind which you’d rather see. For baking products, I’d rather see the price go up, as others have said (cooking ratios get messed up). I can see why the shrink ray happens though.

  13. GodfreyOriole says:

    I hope the changed recipe of the wheat thins gets rid of the annatto extract. ITs a horrible horrible ingredient . Who cares if its natural. Studies show that 50 percent of the total world population could have horrible reactions to it. Including irratable bowel, horrible occular migraines , hyper activity in kids, and head banging in kids (meaning kids and toddlers banging their heads against walls and things). Some parts of europe ban it outright.

    I am horrible allergic to it and more and more products use it. I bet a lot of people with migrains or irratible bowel are actually allergic to annatto and do not realise it. Symptoms in some people do not appear till 4 days after ingestion . for me its exactly 4 hours after I eat something with it.

    PS cheddar cheese is yellow because of annatto extract.