Sunday, May 23, 2010

There Is A Flaw In My Shopping - Manufacturers!

Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t really enjoy shopping. I don’t enjoy spending the day in a mall or hours perusing the latest products or sales racks.

I prefer to get in, get it done and get out as quickly as possible with minimal damage to my wallet.

It’s not that I am cheap or that I don’t try new things – I do experiment with some things – mostly in the grocery section.

There are tens of thousands of products in the average grocery store and most of them will never be brought into my home. There are several reasons for that including: price, calories, additives, personal tastes and some mild food allergies.

When it comes to grocery shopping, I find most of my items on the peripheral aisles - in the produce, dairy and meat departments. I occasionally get bread in the bakery or things in the frozen food aisles.

The produce and meat are relatively easy. The major decision is which variety of produce or cut of meat do I want. Do I want leaf lettuce or romaine? What variety of apple? Do I want pork, beef or chicken – what cut? Those decisions are made mostly on price and quality of the item.

For me, the problem with grocery shopping usually occurs in the aisles with the packaged products. The ones with the cans, jars, boxes and such. I don’t buy a lot in these aisles, but when I do, I seem to have trouble locating the items I want.

You see, I shop in bulk. I’ve come to know what brands I like and how things are packaged. I can grab the item and do a quick price check. I check the shelf life of the item and “guestimate” how much of it I would use over the shelf life. For example: if a 1 kilo jar of my favourite brand of peanut butter is on sale and it has over a year till the expiry date, I can safely buy several if I have the extra money and the space to store them at home. This takes a bit of pre calculation, but it saves me money in the long run. Shopping like this also helps me to make more healthy choices and to occasionally splurge on some other kind of food that my taste buds would enjoy.

So, you’d think this would be a win-win situation right? Well normally yes BUT there is a flaw to my system. A flaw that is caused by manufacturers.

Manufacturers have this really annoying habit of “rebranding” or “repackaging” their products. They don’t necessarily change the recipe, they just update the packaging.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can confuse the heck out of a visually impaired and/or busy shopper!

The most confused that I ever got by a repackaging was a few years ago. I had gotten a really great deal on some feminine protection products, so bought about an 18 month supply. By the time I needed more, the package had gone from a pastel mauve to a deep purple with a completely different font for the print and entirely new labelling system. I honestly thought that my brand had been discontinued until I finally found a clerk who helped me sort out the new packaging and explained the new labelling and how to find what I needed.

In the last year or so, some major manufacturers have been updating their packaging.

Campbell’s soups have changed their labels a bit. The familiar red with white is still at the top but the soup pictures and variety labelling has been changed. I almost bought a cream of chicken rather than cream of mushroom. Not huge in the grand scheme of things but it wouldn’t have been what I really wanted.

Kraft has been doing some major changes to their packaging. Pretty much all the dressings have new labels and some items such as Miracle Whip even have a slightly different shaped jar. The familiar glass jar has been replaced by plastic with a unique scalloped edging on the lid.

The Kraft product that confused me the most though, was the Lemon Instant Pudding. The box used to be a rectangle and clearly said “pudding” on it. The newer one is more of a square – almost identical in size and shape to the Jell-o gelatin boxes. Yes, there is a suggested serving pictured but given the box shape and size it can be mistaken as gelatin unless you look closely. In the upper right of the box – in small pastel print no less – it does say instant pudding mix but good luck reading it without perfect sight!

It isn’t just the big name manufacturers though – even the store brands are changing designs. Over the last few months, there have been changes to packaging for some of my favourite no name products as well.

Picture it – you are moving along the aisle and scanning your list. You need salsa. You know you want the mild store brand but .... wait ... where is it? All the brand names are there and you know they are more expensive. Oh wait - what are all these white labels? Okay, the store brand is labelled differently now. Great – now I have to figure out which jar it is I want and hope it is the same as the one I’d been buying for the last few years.

For the salad dressings, the old labels were yellow with a small picture and a small section in blue with the word light on it for the low calorie versions. The new one is still yellow, but there is no picture and most of the printing is in black. The word light is in small letters above the variety of dressing. The light sits right beside the regular and all the other versions. That means you have to look really closely to make sure you have exactly the variety and version you want.

The boxes for the instant puddings have undergone changes as well. It isn’t as drastic but the print is different and the picture is smaller.
Some of the changes may have taken place months ago, but since I still had some on hand, I didn’t know about them until I needed them.

Now a days, when I put something on my list, I also have to be prepared for a treasure hunt. Oh goodie!


Next Post - May 30: "Pay More - Get Less!"

Related Posts:
- Food storage to save you money! - Part 1
- Food storage to save you money! - Part 2
- Grocery Shopping

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