This is the first in an ongoing series of comments on marketing in contemporary capitalist society. This one is about commodity fetishism and how products may become watered down over time.
I remember the Thomas' English Muffin. Great recipe, slightly salty dough with big'ole bubbles. Six of them were stuffed into a long package, and were great for toasting with butter, peanut butter, and jam on them.
Puffed up almost an inch thick, there was also a secret preparation: opening it by jabbing a fork around the sides maximized enjoyment of the bubbles, if you used a knife it just wasn't as interesting and didn't taste as good.
After awhile, we got used to it. Complacent. Housewives complained that they had to do work on each muffin to get it ready for the burger. Around the late 60's, Thomas' moved to an already-forksplit muffin. No, it' didn't quite taste the same or stay as fresh.
Then came shrinkage. How much can we save by reducing quantities and getting closer to the 12 ounces the package states? Why do we have to give away extra flour and leavening, and pay shipping for all that surplus muffin?
So Thomas' shrank the muffin to its stated weight. Nevermind that the new muffin didn't support the crevased bubbles of the original. They were still forksplit. Of course, the price kept rising.
So now you can buy a plumper English muffin at Trader Joe's and open it with a fork yourself. They really don't have the bubble thing down, and it's not quite as tasty. The Thomas' muffin isn't as tasty and doesn't hold much. It's "forksplit" but so flat it's hard to open. Economic theory suggests that "the market" will introduce a muffin at a price in between the Thomas' muffin and the Trader Joe's, at an intermediate price. I'm waiting.
- Consumer Report: Why Thomas' English muffins are fork-split