Culture //

Soft serve scandal: What happened to the 30c cone?

The price of Maccas’ soft serves has been increasing exponentially, no longer 30c, and my childhood is ruined.

The year is 2012. 

It’s the end of the school year, and I’m in the back seat of a car on the road to Canberra. The air-con, whilst on full blast, does nothing to stave off the afternoon heat. The sun bathes the surrounding scenery and road ahead in a hazy glow. Perhaps in an effort to temporarily stop the current round of  “Are we there yet?”, or any further games of “Spotto” and “I Spy”, my mother deviates from the main road. I watch from the backseat as the golden arches crawl past my window, and as soon as the car stops, I leap outside. I wait expectantly for her to park the car, desiring only one thing. The iconic Maccas soft serve: that spontaneous treat that’ll instantly placate me for the rest of the trip. 

Every so often, I would get an urge to revisit these lazy, childhood summer months and purchase a soft serve. While it wasn’t something I ordered frequently, every few months or so I’d find myself in line for the summer treat. Using receipts from these purchases, I pieced together the timeline of price changes for soft serves in my local Maccas.

In October 2014, the first of many price increases began. What was affectionately considered to be the “30c cone” from the day of its creation, began to be sold at 50c – almost double its original price. Then, in rapid succession, there was a 10c increase in 2016 and a 5c increase two years later. In 2021, the price reached 75c, with another 10c increase a year later in 2022. 

McDonald’s has stated that as franchises, some stores sell items at different prices and the company only provides “recommended prices” for some items. This difference in prices based on store location is most notable in the sales of soft serves; locals have noticed certain locations in the city, such as Town Hall, jump to 75c in 2016. 

In 2022, the price of the previously “$1 frozen coke” has also increased to $2 for the large size in store. The price remains a single dollar if the drink is ordered through the MyMaccas app, but no such reduction is given to the soft serve cone. 

One of my favourite desserts involving the soft serve, aside from the classic fry & soft serve combo, was the McSpider. The frozen McSpider was a $2 product, consisting of a large frozen coke and soft serve ice cream on top. Despite its quiet disappearance from the menu around 2017, I firmly believed that I was already cheating the system by ordering a soft serve cone and a frozen coke separately — I could pay less for the same product, and receive an additional cone. 

However, after no longer being an available menu item, the combination of the soft serve and frozen coke was not well known. To the horrified looks of Macca’s employees and confused yet judgemental friends, I would continue to eat the makeshift McSpider, gleefully plopping the soft serve cone to rest haphazardly on top of my frozen beverage. After finishing a difficult exam in 2021, I decided to treat myself to one, pulling out an exact $1.75 at the counter only to be unexpectedly short for its new price of $2.85. I haven’t been able to bring myself to get one again yet.

Having to confront the truth — that these price increases are happening, and at a more frequent pace — I’ve been too disheartened to step foot into a Maccas to order my (separated) McSpider again.

When the price of the soft serve inevitably increases again, I will rue the day I’m ordering a $1 soft serve. Perhaps it’s a sign of adulthood that I’m reminiscing on childhood treats — “Back in my day…”