Aisle be damned

Diverse city
By SHAY STEWART-BOULEY  |  April 4, 2007

Even if I didn’t already have some kind of procrastination gene, I do have a rather hectic life, so I’d probably be writing my column this week at the last minute anyway. I always have the ideas; it’s getting around to the typing part that trips me up. In any case, one of the interesting things about my delay is that I’m writing on April 1. Yup, April Fool’s Day. I’ve never been one to pull pranks, but it did briefly occur to me to pull a joke this column.

You know, maybe something like telling you that Maine is about to become a lot more racially mixed now that we’ve been designated as a refugee resettlement area for 12,500 Aborigines fleeing political unrest in the Australian Outback. Or announcing my dismay that Governor Baldacci has refused to set aside May as hermaphroditic history month.

Then I remembered that I’m an issues-oriented columnist, not a humorist. Not that you would be confused after seeing in the previous paragraph what passes for a funny diversity-related idea for me.

Still, I did want to take a jauntier tone for once. Being all heavy and serious and talking about issues is great, but I figure I can lighten things up every once in a while. So, what to talk about?

How about diversity in the grocery aisles?

Or, more to the point, less of it.

Yeah, I champion a lot of diversity causes, but you won’t see me crying for more variety in the grocery stores. We’ve got too much already.

Granted, there are some pretty common food items I used to buy in Chicago that for some odd reason just aren’t sold here in Maine, and I’d like to see those. But what gets me is the proliferation of things we just don’t need, but marketers tell us we do, and enough of us bite to prove them right.

Let’s take one of my prime offenders and a relatively recent entry to the snack aisles: Yogos. Don’t sue me, Kellogg’s. But hey, you have to admit that there’s something wrong with a product that advertises itself as “yogurty-covered fruity dots.” Come on, now. It’s bad enough that it’s “fruity dots” instead of “fruit dots.” But I grew up in this consumerist culture and have seen enough artificially flavored items to accept their place in society.

But “yogurty-covered?” Kellogg’s couldn’t even be bothered to pretend to be healthy and commit to fully yogurt-covered. They have to hedge their bets and put as much artificiality as they can even to the yogurt portion.

And while we’re on the subject of useless items clogging the shelves, why the hell do we need Coca-Cola Zero and Pepsi ONE? Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi weren’t sufficient to meet our needs for low-calorie colas? We really needed extra options with different sweeteners in them? Do we get Coke Sugarcane with pure cane syrup or Raw-Sugar Pepsi to supplement our calorie-laden cola options next?

I also can’t figure out why Cheerios, which already has honey nut, apple cinnamon, and multigrain versions, needed to add Fruity Cheerios to its repertoire. Anyone heard of Froot Loops? I cannot imagine that Fruity Cheerios are nutritious enough to be considered a “healthy” version of Froot Loops, nor can I imagine that if they are, they have enough flavor punch to make them worth throwing over the competitor.

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