News and views on squeezable bottles, Pepsi's Baltimore pullout and package shrink. More...
News and views from around the Web:
1) What won’t they put in a squeezable bottle? The Huffington Post, home to some of the quirkiest food commentary to be found online, has an amusing post about “13 Strange Squeeze Bottle Foods.” Of course, there’s no reason any product with the right viscosity couldn’t be packaged in a squeeze bottle. But the HuffPo is correct in that the foods in their gallery wouldn’t normally be associated with a PET squeeze bottle. They’re too upscale (white chocolate, seafood butter), too ethnic (salsa, hoisin sauce, hummus) or just too weird (bacon puree and something called Dr Pepper Cherry Dessert Topper). The HuffPo didn’t note this, but seven of their 13 products come in upside-down bottles.
The HuffPo may think it’s funny, but I think it’s great. The added convenience of a squeeze bottle may be just the thing to get a consumer to try an unfamiliar food, especially if it’s “exotic.” Conversely, those who regularly consume foods like hummus might be attracted to a particular brand by the convenience.
2) Pepsi cites bottle tax for plant closing and gets a bitter response. PepsiCo has closed its Hampden bottling plant in Baltimore, with the loss of about 75 jobs. The last shift ran last week.
The ostensible reason for the closing was the city of Baltimore’s decision to put a 2-cent fee on plastic soda bottles. The tax is charged to retailers, not bottlers, but a PepsiCo spokesman told the Baltimore Business Journal that it was behind the closure nonetheless: “At the end of the day we have to look at where our costs are,” he said. “When we have a beverage tax, it obviously impacts our retailers’ ability to sell our products.”
That got a stinging response from Tamar Fleishman, who blogs about food and restaurants at the Baltimore edition of examiner.com. She just about accuses PepsiCo of corporate terrorism: “They are trying to scare other jurisdictions into not enacting a bottle tax and if 75 people have lost their jobs, c’est la vie.”
It’s hard to believe that PepsiCo would cut off its nose to spite its face like that. But it’s also hard, for me as well as Tamar Fleishman, to take PepsiCo’s explanation completely at face value. Presumably, they’ll still want to sell Pepsi in Baltimore; all this means, as Fleishman points out, is that their trucks will have to drive farther, burn more gas and create more potholes. That won’t help their environmental credentials any.
I have a sneaking suspicion that Pepsi had other reasons for closing that plant, the 2-cent tax was the last straw, and they couldn’t resist making a point about the tax on the way out. Careful, though. If there’s one thing we know about corporate environmental efforts, it’s that they’re often susceptible to backlash.
3) The growth of package shrink. Some packaged-goods companies have responded to the recession with a time-honored tactic: Putting less product in the package and charging the same. Consumer Reports recently documented several high-profile recent instances of this.
It’s probably going to continue, as food companies are faced with higher costs for packaging as well as ingredients. But as it happens, the potential for backlash will rise-helped along, no doubt, by companies that resist the urge to downsize and tweak their competitors about it.