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bite me
i'm all lost in the supermarket
by russ carr (@DocOrlando70)
8.14.02
humor


I've heard many adjectives used to describe *NSYNC. Ask a 12-year-old girl about the pre-fab five and you'll get things like, "excellent" and "soooooo cute." Ask a 26-year-old guy, and you'll get "money hungry no-talent puppets." Let's face it -- musical tastes can differ.

But what if your tastes are more...literal?

Lucky you! *NSYNC is now "fruity and chewy." That's right. Now available at a store near you: Brach's *NSYNC Fruit Snacks, in five mouthwatering flavors. Across America at this very instant, there are probably thousands of adolescent girls happily sucking on Justin Timberlake, a privilege once reserved only for Britney Spears.

Okay, don't gag. Instead, chew on this: the fastest growing categories in the spectrum of retail foodstuffs are all convenience foods or beverages, and the fastest growing market for these products is kids. If you think the crap they advertise during Saturday morning cartoons is bad, take a walk with me down the aisles of my local grocery store...

and we're walking...we're walking...

The first revelation comes on a freestanding table between the sushi counter and the pre-packaged deli meats: Iron Kids Crustless Bread. Who's this marketed to, picky kids and watercress-munching English fops? Sans crust, what's contained in the bag looks like nothing so much as a block of styrofoam, and the uniformity of the slices is of such German precision that I start wondering about the whole "Iron Kids" brand.

Okay, kid, you've got your bread. How's about a sandwich? Maybe a nice PB&J? Sure, there's jars of Jif, and Peter Pan and even Reese's. And then there's Skippy. In little tubes. Unwilling to toe the line, Skippy now offers us Squeeze Stix -- flexible plastic capsules with peanut butter packed in there like Annette Funicello in a Mouseketeer sweater. Also available in peanut butter and chocolate. Think about this, kids: No matter how good it tastes, do you really want to squeeze something that looks like poo-in-a-tube into your mouth? Don't answer that.

Fortunately, Smuckers has the whole bread and peanut butter thing covered. Pop over to the frozen food aisle for Uncrustables -- round, crustless white bread sealed around peanut butter and your choice of grape or strawberry jam. No crusts, no corners, no mess. It's like PB&J meets ravioli. They may look silly, but I've gotta give 'em points; I can't find a bad thing to say about Uncrustables.

But the frozen food section is large, and ripe...well, picked ripe and then flash frozen for fresh derision at my convenience.

How hard can it be to sell kids on french-fries? The way Ore-Ida's sucking up to the little ankle-biters, you'd think they were trying to market raw eggplant spears instead of the crispyfluffyoily goodness of frozen fried spuds. And so, between the Tater Tots and the Krinkle-Cuts, we find Funky Fries. The shaped potato rings I can live with. The "Sour Cream and Jive" flavor makes sense. It's the last two varieties I have a problem with: "Kool Blue" and "Cocoa Crispers." Because the days of golden brown and savory fries are over.

If they're going to screw around with French fries, then it's only fair that they screw around with ketchup, too. Dip your chocolate fries in one of Heinz's new "Kick'rs" ketchup flavors -- smoky mesquite, zesty garlic, or hot and spicy tabasco. Or smother your blue fries in Heinz's colored "EZ Squirt" ketchups in the Mystery Color bottle. You don't know 'til you squeeze whether it's going to be Awesome Orange, Passion Pink, or Totally Teal!

Teal ketchup, blue fries. George Carlin must be tearing his beard out. Are we going to have to serve only color-coordinated meals to get little Tiffany to eat? How convenient that Kraft Macaroni and Cheese comes in a Blue's Clues version with...blue macaroni. Actually, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese has a cartoon character shaped macaroni to go with just about every stage of your child's TV-centered growth ... from Rugrats to Spongebob to Scooby. My guess is the *NSYNC macaroni is being fast-tracked at this very moment. Who knows what color it'll be?

walking...walking...yet another Carpenters song on the in-store tunes...

Aisle after aisle of kid-marketed cuisine. Up and down the rows of food, swerving around women shopping vicariously via cell phones and dimwitted husbands.

walking...walking...hey, your kid's climbing into the lobster tank...

Do Mr. Burnman and Mr. Morrill really expect people to purchase their baked beans, when they're sold in a jar with a huge "BM" on it?

walking...walking...this'd be way more fun if I could use one of those electric carts...

Spam is now available in regular, lite, mini, low sodium and roasted turkey varieties, as well as a deviled Spam spread, or as I like to call it, Spam Whip.

walking...walking...how damn big does a grocery store have to be, anyway?

Ah! Ah! A childfree zone! Oh, blessed liquor aisles!

Convenience foods may have experienced the broadest growth overall, but no department in the grocery store has grown faster than liquor sales -- up an amazing 33 percent over last year. People are buying booze like crazy, probably in desperate attempts to forget the embarrassment of purchasing crustless bread and blue potatoes.

And what are America's lushes buying in record amounts? Malternative beverages. Beer that tastes like anything except beer. But with few exceptions, it's not the major breweries selling this stuff, it's the hard liquor people. Bacardi, Smirnoff, Stoli, Skyy, Captain Morgan...all of 'em are pushing potent potables with familiar labels, but truth is, there's not a drop of rum or vodka in 'em. It's all beer. Style over substance. You might as well be drinking Zima.

They're buying Yellow Tail shiraz in record amounts, too, dammit. Some wine-swilling stooge came through and cleaned 'em out. Again.

Finally it's time to push my well-laden cart to the checkout. Do I have everything on my list? Do I want paper or plastic? Do I feel like I've learned anything, as a conscientious consumer?

Actually, I did learn something: The Barenaked Ladies are wrong. They do make pre-wrapped bacon. Fifteen ready-to-eat slices, just $2.89.


ABOUT RUSS CARR

If the media is the eye on the world, Russ Carr is the finger in that eye. Tune in each month to see him dispersing the smoke and smashing the mirrors of modern mass communication. The world lost Russ on 2/7/12, but he lives on.

more about russ carr

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COMMENTS

wendy p
7.27.02 @ 9:13a

Wait until you're shopping with children.. the adventure has only begun. Mine have gone through the "let's try the green ketchup" phase and now proudly turn up their nose at it. I'm proud to say, none of mine have opted for the cocoa krispers or the kool blue fries, they love tater tots and "wrinkly" fries. Last, but definitely not least, there will be no NStync in our house, the girls even say they're boring now. :)

jack bradley
8.14.02 @ 1:54a

Malternative beverages.


Beautiful.


robert melos
8.14.02 @ 2:07a

Suddenly I'm more interested in NSYNC.

matt morin
8.14.02 @ 2:30a

It's no different than when we were kids though. Think about Cookie Crisp cereal - shaped and tasting like chocolate chip cookies. Or Sizzlean - more over bacon, now there's something even worse for you. Or remember those hot dogs injected with fake cheese?

There's always been convenience foods that play to kids or try and make cooking easier.

And as long as they don't make NSYNC hot dogs, all will be good.

jael mchenry
8.14.02 @ 7:53a

"crispyfluffyoily goodness"... okay, now I'm hungry.

wendy p
8.14.02 @ 9:09a

"...packed in there like Annette Funicello in a Mouseketeer sweater." Now THAT was funny!

erik myers
8.14.02 @ 9:11a

Y'know... the malternative beverages aren't actually even beer. They're just malt liquor, force carbonated, and falsely flavored to put onto your grocer's shelf.

None of the hoppy goodness you'd expect from beer.

mike julianelle
8.14.02 @ 9:50a

Haven't finished the column yet, but love The Clash subtitle.

mike julianelle
8.14.02 @ 9:55a

You blew it with the Barenaked Ladies reference. Quite an odd bookend.

michelle von euw
8.14.02 @ 10:07a

Just wait, Russ. In about five years, you'll be buying every single one of these products...except maybe the *NSYNC cereal. Hopefully that will be long gone by then.

sarah ficke
8.14.02 @ 10:42a

None of the hoppy goodness you'd expect from beer.

Ah, but there are those of us who prefer the taste of lemon. Or, in the case of that new Captain Morgan's Gold, cream soda.

(Yes, I am slightly ashamed of myself.)


[edited]

erik myers
8.14.02 @ 10:55a

Tsk, Sarah.

Malt liquor isn't good for you. It's a gateway drug. Start guzzling cases of Smirnoff Ice, and next you're shopping at Ambercrombie and Fitch and filling your bathroom with things like 'Foaming Apricot Scrub.'

sarah ficke
8.14.02 @ 11:12a

thhhhhhhhhhpppppppbbbttttttttt!!!!!!!!!!

mike julianelle
8.14.02 @ 11:18a

Plus it tastes like crap.

sarah ficke
8.14.02 @ 11:22a

Not any more so than cheap beer.

russ carr
8.14.02 @ 11:39a

We're not still talking about the Foaming Apricot Scrub, right?

sarah ficke
8.14.02 @ 11:45a

No, I'm willing to bet that tastes worse than cheap beer.

erik myers
8.14.02 @ 11:48a

That's what you get for drinking cheap beer, I'd say.

Life's too short to drink cheap beer.

This is all a shamless plug for my column on Friday.. ha ha..



p trapp
8.14.02 @ 12:04p

"...do you really want to squeeze something that looks like poo-in-a-tube into your mouth? Don't answer that."

Yeah don't answer, better left for analysis.

[edited]

russ carr
8.14.02 @ 12:30p

I almost broke down and bought the chocolate and peanut butter Squeeze Stix. Just so I could see how hideous the product looked. Oh, and hey, Joan.

Erik, I think your plug is full of sham.

erik myers
8.14.02 @ 12:32p

Oh hell...

Where's that spellcheck when you need it?

Shamful. That's me.

tracey kelley
8.14.02 @ 12:37p

Russ, this is hysterical. I almost wrote a column to tie into my picky eaters column (for once, no shameless plug link - go find it yourself) about the Iron kids bread, 'cause after I read an article on the special machine used to cut the loaf after it's been baked, I nearly blew a gasket.

That guilt-laden line, "eat up, there are kids starving in insert 3rd world country here" has never been more true. Many kids today are spoiled 'fricken rotten when it comes to eating, and to me, all this crap is just overconsumerism at its finest.

I do like the Glacier Bay stuff, though, much more so than the maltrages.

russ carr
8.14.02 @ 12:44p

Here's Tracey's column. To be taken with Alka-Selzer.

And haggis ain't bad!

sarah ficke
8.14.02 @ 1:25p

And the Glacier Bay stuff comes in a nifty shaped bottle.

daniel castro
8.14.02 @ 2:34p

What the hell? How come this column reappeared here? And after so long? Oh, well.

jael mchenry
8.14.02 @ 2:40p

It was submitted originally as a gallery piece and snatched up to run officially as a feature. We do it fairly frequently with gallery stuff we love. Of course, it won't happen to Russ anymore, now that he's a staffer -- yay Russ!

tracey kelley
8.14.02 @ 5:05p

Yay Russ!

I was watching CBS Sunday morning, and they featured a mother who pretty much raised her family in the 50s and 60s by winning contests. One of her prizes was to stuff a grocery cart full in 10 minutes. She went for the big stuff - huge hunks of meat, jars of cavier, hearts of palm, that type of thing. She crammed in more than $400 worth of food, which, in the early 60s, was the equivilant of about $3,000 today.

I would so rock at that. Gimmee a cart.

daniel castro
8.14.02 @ 5:25p

Oh, I see...

russ carr
8.14.02 @ 5:57p

Nothing against caviar and hearts of palm, but do you really think her kids appreciated it? You know where I'd do damage in a shopping spree like that? The spice aisle.

The thing I'd intended to work into the column but didn't (as it developed fine on its own): Praise for New Pioneer Co-op. Tracey knows this column was already a-brewin' back during IMIC, and shopping at NPC those few days (I had more credit card charges there than anywhere else in town) only reinforced the ludicrous nature of typical supermarkets.

So pro-ops to the co-ops.

russ carr
8.15.02 @ 8:23p

Oh, and additional scraps from the cutting room floor: the ultimate convenience foods. The corn dog was only the beginning...

juli mccarthy
8.15.02 @ 11:16p

Am I the only person here old enough to remember John Belushi smoking a cigarette and hawking "Little Chocolate Donuts" cereal on SNL? Imagine my reaction when I recently walked down the breakfast aisle and actually saw THREE different versions of what was once a punch line.

russ carr
8.16.02 @ 12:12a

Oh, you're not the only one to remember. And there have been a couple of donut-type cereals. I remember Donutz (powdered sugar flavored puffed rings) when I was growing up.

Still, the best cereal ever marketed on SNL was Colon Blow. " (Warning: may cause abdominal distention.)

[edited]

jael mchenry
8.16.02 @ 9:54a

Best washed down with a bottle of "A.M. Ale."

sarah ficke
8.16.02 @ 11:53a

I'm never going to escape the spectre of Colon Blow, am I?

jael mchenry
8.16.02 @ 1:07p

Which, in my opinion, is not nearly as funny as the Bass-O-Matic.

Or Happy Fun Ball.

brian anderson
8.16.02 @ 2:58p

Very few things in this world are as funny as the Super Bass-O-Matic '76 or the Happy Fun Ball ("Still legal in six states!").

I would say that Colon Blow is the best cereal marketed on SNL only because the only *other* one I can think of is Quarry, made of rocks and pebbles.

Still, though, there is one SNL commercial that stands above them all. My parents and I still quote to each other: "New Shimmer is a desert topping ... *and* a floor wax!"

matt morin
8.16.02 @ 3:03p

Oh, I still like the allergy medicine commercial where they go into all the possible side effects. Something like: "May cause exploding cranium, the growth of one big giant eye, or visions of a floating disembodied golden retriever head.

erik myers
8.16.02 @ 4:03p

Still, the best cereal ever marketed on SNL was Colon Blow. " (Warning: may cause abdominal distention.)

Hey.. it's better than the other Colon Blow.

[edited]

d b
8.16.02 @ 6:30p

Anybody remember the "Crystal Gravy" SNL ad? Ewwwwww. It even had the Van Halen music playing in the background.

If I ever have kids, they are not going to be eating blue french fries unless they're over at a friend's house. I mean, sorry, but there are plenty of other blue foods out there - Slurpees, the diamond marshmallows in Lucky Charms, Bridget Jones' signature soup.

(My hypothetical kids are really going to hate me if they ever come into existence.)

I have to cast my vote, however, for one new convenience food - the water-free tuna that comes in the little flat packages. Few kitchen tasks are grosser than draining a can of tuna.

juli mccarthy
8.17.02 @ 2:13a

Unless you have pets. When I open a can of tuna, I yell "TUNA JUICE!" and three cats and a dog come a-running. I just strain it over their bowls - happy pets for days. (The rats prefer raisins, though.)

russ carr
8.23.02 @ 10:02a

Spotted last night at "Big Lots," an overstock clearance store -- Pop Secret microwave popcorn, with the labels and instructions in Korean, and Cocoa Puffs, with the labels in one of those Scandihøøvian languages. I looked in the cleaning products aisle, but could find no overstocked Mr. Sparkle.

russ carr
6.18.03 @ 10:42p

R.I.P. Funky Fries, we hardly knew ye...

heather millen
6.19.03 @ 3:23p

Crystal Pepsi. That's all I'm saying.

jael mchenry
6.19.03 @ 3:40p

Pepsi A.M. The number one reason I liked living in a test market.



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