Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Ice Cream Conspiracy

I'm going to begin with a long, meandering anecdote that has nothing to do with ice cream.

When I first deployed to Iraq, it was 2004. I actually left for training in December of 2003, so I was essentially out of the world then. I spent nine months in Iraq, and my trailer was handily across the street (I use the term lightly) from the PX and the Burger King. So about once a week we would walk over and treat ourselves to a Whopper and a soda. Now, I'm a McDonald's guy, give me a cheeseburger or a Big Mac over a Whopper any day of the week, but BK has the AAFES contract, and you take what you can get. (Side note, there are now a wide varieties of other choices in the same complex: CinnaBun, Popeye's and Taco Bell).

I think that I would have been better served had there been no fast food, but since I had the constant reminder while eating the Whopper that it wasn't really a Big Mac, I think it was worse. Anyway, when I got back, I was really aching for some authentic McDonald's fast food, so I head to the local McD's, pull through the drive thru and order a two cheeseburger meal, supersized. I then proceed to get into an argument with the teller over the purported existence of the Supersize value meal. Unbeknownst to me, Super Size Me had been released a couple months after I left, and a couple months after that McDonald's had caved and removed the Super Size meals. Oops.

But hey, I actually do believe in the Toxic Food Environment. Food is cheap, the economy is bad, "let them eat cake." And the portions are ridiculous - more food than I can eat in one sitting, especially with the "appetizers" which have more fat and calories than a Big Mac.

Now, this is where we get to Ice Cream. I remember when I was growing up buying a half-gallon of Friendly's Double Chocolate Ice Cream with my dad. That was a standard size. Then apparently a few years ago the ice cream industry shifted from half gallon containers (2 quarts) to 1.75 quart containers. And I never noticed. I guess I might have been distracted by the other things in my life (like going to Basic in 2002 and then deploying in 2003) to notice the difference.

But then, the other day I was in the grocery store and buying my favorite ice cream (Chocolate Fudge Brownie) when I noticed that the container seemed a bit off. I couldn't quite place it, it just seemed a bit small. So I start walking up and down the ice cream aisle, looking at each brand of ice cream and comparing the sizes. Breyer's - same. Edy's - same. Ben & Jerry's - well, they've always sold by the pint, so I can't really compare. But I also remember a few months ago when all the stores were having a buy one get one (or sometimes two) free offer on ice cream. And sure enough, ice cream has shrunk yet again.

Only difference between this and McDonald's - it's about price. It's not about the interests of the consumer. The price of milk has increased, apparently, and the ice cream companies didn't feel like raising the price of ice cream above the cost of a gallon of gas. What kind of world are we living in when we can't even afford a half gallon of ice cream?

But I guess the economy is still strong

1 comment:

Kristina said...

Last week, There was a big on-line article about the incredible shrinking packaging. Peanut butter, cereal, orange juice, it's becoming fairly rampant to shave off a few ounces here and there lately.