Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mid-Week Product Notes

Asteroids now come in a convenient 100-calorie bag. Actually, they're a species of Cheetos -- small balls of Cheetos, so Cheetoids might be more accurate if not a better brand name. The strategy of buying them in portions of 100 calories is easily defeated by eating three or four bags at a time. More interesting, the bag promises that they are Dangerously Cheesy. And yet it also promises 0 g trans fats. Where's the danger in that?

Does anyone in the wider world realize that the US major drug store chains have been battling for some years like Guelphs and Ghibellines for retail dominance? The real estate industry, which has zero historical sense -- unless it involves an historic preservation tax credit -- prosaically calls this event "drug store wars." Getting your store on the corner of a couple of busy streets is something like capturing a strategic hill in this kind of war.

We were at one of these corner drugstores recently and came across Sipahh brand milk flavoring straws. A box of 10 cost $2, so it was a fairly harmless impulse purchase, egged on by the smallest member of the household. Here's the gimmick: tiny flavored beads made of tapioca starch are trapped within each straw by filters at either end. Eventually, the beads melt, but as you suck the milk through the straw, it picks the flavor as it heads mouthward. (This is called the Unistraw Delivery System.) Chocolate was the only flavor for sale, so we got that.

Ann was most eager to try them, and expressed the most satisfaction with the result. Lilly was positive, but less enthusiastic. In the interest of accurate reportage, I tried one myself. It was passable, but I have more adult tastes when it comes to chocolate.

Still, I admired the ingenuity. Crack American marketing know-how, I thought. Shows you how much I know. Turns out it was devised by an Australian, coming to the US only in 2006. Distributed, as it happens, by a company based in West Chicago. But if they're now sold at one of the major players in drug store wars, the concept is definitely on its way in this country.

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