Okay—What’s The Scoop on Two Scoops

By The Metric Maven

Bulldog Edition

I have no idea when I first saw the commercial. It’s part of our collective commercial culture. We all know there are “two scoops”  of raisins in a box of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran. Internet academics ask that if there are “two scoops” of raisins in a box, then is there a larger ratio of raisins to cereal in the small boxes than in the large ones? Gregory J. Crowther, Ph.D. and Elizabeth A. Stahl, J.D have done the research and published it in the Science Creative Quarterly. They formalized the hypotheses into: always two scoops, or the scoops are proportional to the box size. The boxes come in 15, 20 and 25.5 ounce sizes. Or when related to people with refined culinary sensibilities:  425, 567 and 723 gram sizes. These intrepid explorers of knowledge at SCQ counted the raisins in these different size boxes, and have reported their results as a range. The credibility of these scientists suffers as they report their results in Ye Olde English units, but I have converted them to the metric system so they may be seriously discussed:

425 gram box  201 (47.29 raisins/100 g) — 241 (56.71 raisins/100 g)

567 gram box  381 (67.12 raisins/100 g) — 294 (51.85 raisins/100 g)

723 gram box  308 (42.60 raisins/100 g) — 331 (45.78 raisins/100 g)

This data forced them to abandon their original hypotheses which they labeled A and B. Like most research it creates more questions than it resolves. They now offer these alternative hypotheses to contemplate:

(C) Kellogg employees are poorly trained in the operation of the scoops.

(D) Kellogg factories are equipped with a very large number of scoops of different sizes such that no two scoops are alike.

(E) Kellogg allocates raisins via some stochastic process rather than with scoops.

I have translated their conclusion to SI so that my readers might understand their weighty observations:

CONCLUSIONS

If you like raisins, you should buy Kellogg’s Raisin Bran in [567 gram] boxes, which appear to contain the most raisins per [100 grams]. If you dislike raisins, we recommend the [723 gram] boxes or, better yet, a raisin-free cereal.

To achieve truth in advertising and avoid lawsuits, The Kellogg Company should replace its misleading “Two scoops!” slogan with a statement listing both the mean number of scoops per box (presumably 2) and the standard deviation (roughly 0.4).

Number 50 Disher — click to enlarge

Their research did not provide an answer to “what size is the scoop used for allocating raisins to the boxes?” They did not even offer a hypothesis of what its size might be. Thankfully I have my friend Pierre to diligently work his way through the US culinary forest of literature where there are “ounces, and pottles and quarts—oh my!” The question of scoop size first entered my mind when Alton Brown of Good Eats was discussing the dispensing of—probably cookie dough? He pointed out there is a number printed on the inside of the disher, on the sweeper. My sweeper has a 20 on it. So how big is this scoop? Why 1/20 of a quart of course. You all can visualize that—right? Pierre obtained this information from a top cooking reference which explains the volumes found in US scoops (and confuses mass and weight):

Well, this graphic uses the Scoop  Number like a gauge and 20 is 1/20th of a quart or 0.05 quarts–but only tell you that in the text. The quarts are suppressed and you are offered alternating fluid ounces and cup values to explain the fractional gauge values. I’m even more confused when I use my conversion program to check the table. Well, number 20 should be 0.05 quarts which is 1.6 ounces? The answers are 1.5 fluid ounces and 1.75 ounces. Wow, my converter doesn’t offer either of those:

Ok, let’s get this straightened out. Certainly it must get the metric volume right—right? Well the output is 47.31 mL instead of 45 mL. Ok, that’s enough of this. I truly appreciate Pierre’s hard work finding the cooking reference, but I’m going over their head to Wikipedia. Their entry for scoop has this table:

Wow, there it is, Wikipedia explains the number is scoops per quart, has 1.6 US fluid ounces, and 47 mL, which would be the correct rounding from 47.31 mL. I also have a number 50 disher, which is conveniently left off of the list.

This mess, and other culinary metrology disasters, inspires me to write a one sentence book with the title: Why Johnny and Jane Can’t Cook. The sentence: Because the US does not have the metric system.

But all of this has been for not, as Wikipedia explains, there are more than one kind of scoop:

In the technical terms used by the food service industry and in the retail and wholesale food utensil industries, there is a clear distinction between two types of scoop: the disher, which is used to serve ice cream, measure a portion e.g. cookie dough, or to make melon balls; and the scoop which is used to measure or to transfer an unspecified amount of a bulk dry foodstuff such as rice, flour, or sugar.

Alfred Cralle

The disher or ice cream scoop was created by a Pittsburgh inventor one Alfred L. Cralle in 1897. Mr Cralle at least had the good sense to create a scoop which is calibrated. Even if it is in Ye Old English volumes.  This would certainly allow a merchant to keep track of the amount of ice cream or other commodity they sold to the public which would in turn help them stay in business.

Wikipedia has an illustration of a transfer scoop:

Transfer Scoop — Wikimedia Commons

Scoop of Raisin (85 Scoop)

Transfer Scoop of Raisin (85 Scoop) — Two Scoops would still be two scoops of raisins.

“Two Scoops? I love the idea Darrin”

Uh—oh. This image looks like one of the two scoops shown on the Raisin Bran cereal box, which are expertly utilized by Sol who is apparently a two fisted scooper. I’ve seen this kind of scoop many, many times. I’ve seen it vending screws and nails at hardware stores. When this is done, one always uses a scale to measure the quantity for pricing purposes. These scoops are ubiquitous in grocery stores and supermarkets. They all have one thing in common, I don’t recall ever seeing one with any sort of graduation on it. They are just used to transfer bulk quantities to a scale of some sort, which does measure them. So, at the end of our measurement quest, we have been yet again taken in by a marketing scheme. A transfer scoop does not imply any manner of quantity. It only will transfer the raisins to a device, such as a mass or volume scale, which will then be used to quantify the substance. So kids, there is no such thing as two scoops of raisins, no matter how much that amiable animated sun cheerfully claims otherwise. There is only an unaccountable advertising campaign, which almost certainly designed it that way. Sorry you had to hear it from me first kids.

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The Metric Maven has published a new book titled The Dimensions of The Cosmos. It examines the basic quantities of the world from yocto to Yotta with a mixture of scientific anecdotes and may be purchased here.

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4 thoughts on “Okay—What’s The Scoop on Two Scoops

  1. I’m devastated. One thing I always had faith in exposed as a fake!

    I think the ad came out in the late ’60s or early ’70s.

  2. The American kitchen is a bloody nightmare! It’s no wonder the US is the home of all the major fast food companies. The sheer mess of confusing and counter-intuitive ways of measuring food would drive anyone to saying “Screw it! I’m getting takeaway again!”.

    The teaspoon and tablespoon measurements sprinkled throughout Australian recipes are confusing (mainly because I can never remember how many mils in each, which makes it hard for me to visualise how much I need until I get out the little plastic spoons), but at least everything else is in grams and mils. The counter-intuitive mess you covered here makes NO sense to my eyes at all.

  3. [tongue-in-cheek-icon here]

    So close:

    [quote]
    …one always uses a scale to measure the quantity for pricing purposes.
    [/quote]

    I saw no reference in the report to weight of raisins, only quantity. The box says “This package is sold by weight, not by volume. Some settling may occur during shipping and handling.” — or words to that effect.

    I just happen to have a single-serving box of raisins from a national food-service company. At 43 grams, it contains 81 raisins. I will use a value of 0.5 gram per raisin to add raisin weights to the chart.

    425 gram box of cereal
    201 (47.29 raisins/100 g) [23.645 g/100 g] —
    241 (56.71 raisins/100 g) [28.355 g/100 g]

    567 gram box of cereal
    294 (51.85 raisins/100 g) [25.925 g/100 g] — 381 (67.12 raisins/100 g) [33.56 g/100 g]

    723 gram box of cereal
    308 (42.60 raisins/100 g) [21.3 g/100 g] —
    331 (45.78 raisins/100 g) [22.89 g/100 g]

    My alternative hypothesis:
    (F) Raisins are allocated by weight.

    I suggest that Kellogg’s puts raisins into each box using a ratio of weight-of-raisins per weight-of-box, say 25 grams of raisins per 100 grams in the smallest box, 29 grams of raisins per 100 grams in the mid-sized box and 22 grams of raisins per 100 grams in the largest box, dividing the raisins between two transfer scoops to do so. Picture two parallel conveyor belts, one belt with bins of raisinless cereal flakes and on the other belt, synchronized to each cereal bin, a pair of scoops of raisins.

    Scoops are a marketroid MacGuffin. They could use smaller scoops in their next ad campaign for an even more egregious claim:

    “Now with 3 scoops of raisins!”

    — you saw it here first.

    [/tongue-in-cheek-icon]

    • Or more likely, allocated by weight in some automated equipment; there being no scoops at all.

      Raisin-less raisin bran is known as bran flakes and is also sold. But my observation is that the raisins in raisin bran are drier and harder than raisins sold separately, so your weight estimates may be a little high. You should probably buy a box and sort into raisins and bran, then count and weigh the raisins. However, I think you are on to something with the “allocated by weight” theory.

      Finally, “This package is sold by weight, not by volume. Some settling may occur during shipping and handling” is legalese for “the box is half-full, it is NOT half-empty so don’t sue us.”

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