- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Smart Balance vegetable spread will return to its old recipe after an attempt to water it down sparked customer complaints about “skimpflation,” food company Conagra Brands confirmed Wednesday.

Daniel Hare, a spokesperson for Chicago-based Conagra, confirmed the reversal in an email to The Washington Times.

“We made changes to some Smart Balance products to make them easier to spread,” Mr. Hare said. “We have heard the feedback from consumers and have decided to return to the previous recipes in the coming months.”

According to the advocacy website Consumer World, it’s common in times of high inflation for companies to water down food or substitute cheaper ingredients to keep prices down.

The Massachusetts-based website has tracked instances of skimpflation since 1995. It reported earlier this week that Conagra had quietly cut the spread’s vegetable oil content from 64% to 39% sometime over the summer without notifying customers.

Reflecting this change, the company placed “water” ahead of “vegetable oil blend” on the ingredients list, reversing the previous order.

“Even with minimal market research and taste tests with users Conagra should have learned you can’t make a really good buttery-tasting spread out of water,” said Consumer World founder Edgar Dworsky.

On the Smart Balance website, Consumer World reports that about 90% of more than 800 recent reviews give the new product a 1-star rating, with some customers calling the new product “yellow water spread.”

Another online review complained that while the original recipe tasted “buttery,” the watered-down version “tastes like nothing.”

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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