Written by Patrick Lacombe
Each time we go to the store we see an item that is new and improved, according to the label. You might be tempted to wonder why so many poor products made it to the market to begin with. I am sure that somewhere the market experts have figured out that sometrhing new or improved means that we may want to try it. This goes with redoing the packages as well, changing colors or making the images somehow more appealing. All a big game to get the consumer (us) to buy more or switch to their product.
Now there is the periodic item that is improved and technically “new” so we have to consider that. Perhaps there was something added that made it taste better or even perform better. I am sure we could all come up with a list of things that we might want to suggest for the long list of improvements. Perhaps the maker of the product doesn’t have the same insight as we do, so we might be better at testing the items in the real world.
Food items are an odd group. With the variety of tastes out there it would seem near impossible to please a large number of people with a single food item, especially those with flavors. So there are often several variations of ingredients to make the foods appeal to many different tastes. Then there are the physical type products that clean or do something beneficial for us. Some work well; some don’t meet our needs sufficiently.
A couple of items I can think of right off the top of my head. These two styles of paper products have been around as long as I can remember, so they have easily had enough time to perfect the procedure to produce the products in a functional way. But I don’t believe we have seen complete success. The two items are toilet tissue and roll paper towels. While the basic concept of making the paper absorbent and useful, the dispensing leaves a bit to be desired. I mean we have an entire “mobile home” in space where astronauts live for months on end, yet the technology to effectively cut a perforation in paper has yet to be perfected. How many times have you had a couple of wet or dirty hands and needed a paper towel? We all have this situation rise up in our kitchens. You manage to start the tear along the perforated strip. Then with a good strong motion you pull and the next twelve feet of paper towels flow out onto the floor like some New York City ticker tape parade. Then not only do you have the first mess, now you have all these clean paper towels exposed to the elements. The same episode happens with toilet tissue, I just don’t understand how paper won’t tear on a cut yet will tear at odd angles.
One item that I have found that is improved is packaging. I can remember as a child it was a regular occurrence when we had a can that was swollen on both ends, or had leaked. I was always told this was botulism and it was fatal, I didn’t even want to take the can to the trash. But now I can’t really remember the last can of food that leaked or puffed out the ends. We must be doing something right. The plastic bags that hold foods have improved as well, and all of this is good. There is one local brand of potato chip that I like; it is thicker with a variety of flavors, only half of which I like. The problem is that the bag is almost impossible to get into without a pair of scissors. If you were stranded in the desert with water and a bag of these chips, you might die of starvation before you could get into them. You would have to fashion some sort of cutting tool from the surrounding objects and grind your way into the bag to get to the wholesome contents.
New and improved is good, change is actually good, although I am suspect at times. But perhaps the people at the paper towel factory should exchange their workers with the overachievers at the potato chip packaging facility. We might benefit from both.