Rosemarie and I have some very specific divisions of labor that have evolved over the many years she and I have been co-everythingers. One such divide is the ongong task of grocery shopping. She hates going to the supermarket. On the other hand, I love it. So she stays home and does the laundry–a task I run from–while I schlep off to the supermarket.
Now I know it is a bit odd, but there is more than the raw food itself that motivates my looking forward to the trip. I enjoy the gaming of it all. By “gaming” I mean marketing. My trained eye probably picks up more nuances of food marketing than 90% of the customers I maneuver my cart around as I go up and down the aisles. I am especially alert to changes in packaging which can either be radical or more subtle than noticing your wife change in eyeliner.
Fact is, packaging is one of the most important areas of selling food when it comes to manufacturers and producers wanting to fool you. You may not notice that box of corn flakes is a full 1/4 to 1/2 inch narrower than it was last month. That’s odd, the price hasn’t changed, just the box. I keep watch on such things as ice cream containers too. Some of them change monthly: the round ones get squattier or narrower in diameter and the oval ones subtly shrink as if you took a computer mouse to one corner of the container, clicked on it and then made the entire package shrink down a bit. And watch those product names. It can say “ice cream” only if the product contains a specific amount of butter fat cream. Many Breyers products do not measure up so you will notice they are labeled as a “frozen dairy dessert.” It may taste just as good…but it’s not pure ice cream.
And one other note about packaging: if the size stays consistent, you may still be paying more…there is simply less product in the same-size package. Plastic bottles can be deceptive too. They may appear the same size as always, but that inverted dimple on the bottom sometimes grows in size, meaning there is more of it taking up space previously occupied by product.
Just as in real estate, location location location is a critical marketing ploy at the supermarket. There is tremendous competition for shelf space, especially at eye-level. Then too, it’s fascinating how marketing can influence the amount of shelf space assigned to a specific product. Just stroll by the milk section and you will see it has grown several feet longer this past year. Regular old milk had it good for so many years and now it’s faced with heavy competition from almond milk, cashew milk and a bunch of other milk-like beverages. I wonder how the cows are coping with all the new flavors they have to produce.
Meanwhile, here’s an easy quiz. What product do you think is represented by all these variations: organic, free range, pasture raised, blue and brown, nest fresh, pasture raised on over eight acres, tended by hand, ethically raised on family farms. Yeah, you got it, these are the lines you can read on egg cartons as egg farmers try to appeal to health food enthusiasts. Remember when an egg was just an egg and the only variation was size. Do you think those chickens on the 8 acres would notice if I moved the fence in a few feet? Would we?
HEY! Now that we are moving, I’ve decided to sell a few things, like my collection of old radios. If you are interested in anything “vintage” check it out at etsy.com/shop/vintageradiosplus