A few days ago, I wrote a blog about the evils of single-serving packages (you know, the 100-calorie packs of Oreo-flavored air puffs, Cheese Nips, and so on). The mark-up on re-packaged junk food is just staggering!
I imagine food manufacturers sitting around a conference table and conspiring how to charge even more for their products.
“Say, fellas. This may sound crazy, but… hear me out. Now… what would happen if we repackaged the Goldfish crackers in such a way that we could charge double for them?”
And they’ve found a way. Kraft Mac & Cheese in the blue box has long been a symbol of cheap food… but now they’ve perverted that with their “Easy Mac” in single-serving microwavable packets.
What’s next? “Gourmet Ramen 2 Go”?
Well, friends… Not only has junk food has been soiled in this way, but also basic foods!
Corn is corn is corn.
The truth is, there really isn’t a whole lot of difference between one brand and the next.
For most products, store brands are the same exact thing as the name brands, only minus the pretty packaging and advertising subsidy.
Corn is corn. It grows on stalks, in a place like Iowa.
And how can you really “brand” corn, anyway?
That’s like saying the maple trees in my backyard are a better brand than the maple trees in my neighbor’s yard.
People fall for it, though. *shrugs*
Case in point:
Birdseye “Steamfresh Vegetables”.
This is just a trainwreck of evil marketing.
You see, kids, Clarence Birdseye’s ghost has developed a magical type of corn that can only be steamed inside this magical plastic bag!
(Pssst! You can steam ANY frozen vegetables in your microwave. You don’t need that special bag to do it.)
Let’s compare prices by weight (the all-important unit price):
- 12-ounce Steamfresh corn: $2.79 (or $3.72 per pound)
- 16-ounce store brand corn: $1.19 (or $1.19 per pound)
Somebody at Birdseye probably got a huuuuuge bonus to figure out how to charge THREE AND A HALF TIMES more for the same corn!
I don’t believe the special steaming bag costs them that much more to produce, and nobody asked for my opinion during the Research & Development phase, so I’m not paying for it. Furthermore, I’m not paying 3.5 times the price of regular frozen corn to cover Birdseye’s costs in rolling out a new advertising campaign.
One more example of basic commodities being perverted for higher profits.
Rice: a crucial staple, inexpensive and nutritious, the dietary basis of many world cultures.
I can buy a two-pound bag of Uncle Ben’s whole grain brown rice for $2.79. That bag lasts me a long time, it’s full of fiber and protein, and is truly yummy.
No, it’s not instant rice. Yes, it will cost you a whopping 20 minutes of your day. But it’s really not that hard to cook, despite what you may think. Even unapologetic stovephobes can make nice fluffy rice without burning it.
Now, Uncle Ben’s having a little bit of an identity problem. Elsewhere on the shelf, you will find…
….Uncle Ben’s “Ready Rice”.
It’s pre-cooked, vacuum-sealed in its little pouch, and waiting for you to nuke it.
Yes, I tried it out of curiosity. No, it does NOT taste good. Vaguely oily, and a strange aftertaste.
Again, let’s compare the unit prices:
- 2-pound bag (dry): $2.79 (or $ 1.40 per pound)
- 8.8 ounce Ready Rice: $1.29 (or $ 2.35 per pound)
But wait. Those numbers aren’t exactly right, are they? We’re comparing dry rice to cooked rice here.
Keep in mind that dry rice triples in volume when it cooks. So that two-pound bag of dry rice is roughly equivalent to SIX POUNDS of cooked rice (bringing the cost down to a mere 47 cents per pound).
I would break this further down to the cost-per-serving, but I’m afraid I’ll completely blow your minds.
I’ll just let that sink in.
Conclusion: Keep it simple, keep it basic.