Skimpflation: Watchdogs say look out for food ingredient changes amid shortages

Many food manufacturers have changed some ingredients in foods and beverages due to shortages, supply chain delays, and rising prices. 

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However, watchdogs say what's called Skimpflation has been happening for years.

Skimpflation is known as ingredient changes to make a product more profitable. However, manufacturers say changes can happen for several reasons, like improved taste or quality, extending shelf-life, or when ingredients are in short supply.

Consumer World reports that this summer, Smart Balance margarine went from 64% vegetable oils to 39%, and water became the most predominant ingredient.

In response to hundreds of negative reviews, Smart Balance states on its website, "we are working on getting the old formula back on shelf and consumers can expect to find their old formula on shelf late fall/early winter."

The watchdog has been tracking trade-offs, however.

Founder Dana McCorvie says several Campbell's soups have changed over the years, including its Cream of Potato Soup.

"Campbell's Cream of Potato soup originally contained potatoes as the first ingredient," said McCorvie. "But today water is the first ingredient, even though we are supposed to add more water or milk during the preparation."

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McCorvie says Aunt Jemima syrup has not only had a name change to Pearl Milling Company Syrup, but some ingredients have also changed.

"Once upon a time, Aunt Jemima was made with real maple syrup, which the origin of maple syrup is from maple trees, and it actually included some of that," said McCorvie. "Today, owned by Pepsico, it's made primarily of high fructose corn syrup."

McCorvie says she's noticed ingredient changes to several Whole Foods 365 products, including its Organic Honey and Nut Morning O's cereal.

"There are no longer any almonds noted in the ingredients in this cereal, just organic natural flavor. We just have the flavor of almonds now, instead of the real almonds," said McCorvie.


McCorvie says some Whole Foods 365 products now list "natural flavors," in the ingredients, despite that a 2012 Whole Foods blog said that using natural flavors was not transparent.

FOX 26 contacted Whole Foods, which sent us the following written statement:

"Whole Foods Market's private label products continue to meet the same strict quality standards for ingredients required of all products sold in our stores."

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Whole Foods listed some of their other food changes:
• From 2017 to date, we’ve added 129 food ingredients to our banned ingredient list, bringing our total banned ingredients in food products to more than 250.

• In 2018, we introduced sustainable canned tuna standards in our Grocery Department, which take us well beyond the dolphin-safe label you find elsewhere. All our canned tuna is sustainable and traceable to the fishing vessel, and we require all fisheries to use pole-and-line, troll, or handline catch methods for our canned tuna. That means catching tuna one fish at a time, which prevents bycatch and harm to other sea life and creates more fishing jobs in coastal communities.

• As of January 2020, all shell and liquid eggs solid in our dairy cases and used in our kitchens now go beyond cage-free and are audited to one of four production systems to meet our Animal Welfare Standards for Laying Hens. This is an enhancement of our 2005 quality standard, where all the shell and liquid eggs sold came from cage-free hens.

• In 2020, Whole Foods Market became the first major retailer to publicly commit to improving broiler chicken welfare with the publishing of our Statement on Broiler Chicken Welfare. 
• At Whole Foods Market, all 365 by Whole Foods Market brand chocolate bars, 365 by Whole Foods Market chocolate chips, and 365 by Whole Foods Market baking chocolate are certified by Fair Trade USA.

• In 2021, we transitioned all 365 by Whole Foods Market tea to be certified by either Fair Trade USA or Rainforest Alliance.

• In addition, all 365 by Whole Foods Market packaged coffee is responsibly sourced and certified according to an approved third-party certification, including Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade USA, or Fairtrade International. Whole Foods is also a member of Conservation International’s Sustainable Coffee Challenge, a collaborative effort of companies, governments, NGOs, research institutions, and others to transition the coffee sector to be more sustainable.