Jewish World Review May 29, 2003 / 27 Iyar, 5763

Greg Crosby

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Consumer Reports

Milking it for all it's worth | Once upon a time, many, many years ago, people who didn't want to drink whole milk had an option -- they could drink something other than milk, like maybe a glass of wine or fruit punch, or carrot juice or as a last resort, water. Then some genius discovered that it was possible to remove the cream from milk and make a new kind of watery milk beverage. It was called skim milk. Skim milk had no fat and less calories than whole milk and lots of people started drinking it for one reason or another. It caught on big -- it got quite popular with diet conscious milk drinkers.

You want to buy a little skim milk today? Good luck -- try and find it. It doesn't exist. At some point, many years ago, it was decided by the milk powers-that-be that they would change the name of skim milk to something else. Why? Who knows. Maybe they thought that the word "skim" was confusing people. Maybe they thought lots of potential customers were being turned off by the name "skim" because it sounded to close to "skin" and who wants to drink milk that comes from skin? So they changed the name to something else. That something else became non-fat milk.

Non-fat milk was exactly the same stuff as skim milk but now it had a swell new name. Well, non-fat milk went on it's merry way and people accepted the name change without question. Folks that wanted milk sans cream bought the watery liquid just as they did under it's maiden name of "skim." But that's not the end of our story. Oh, no. Just about the time the whole world had gotten used to calling the drink "non-fat milk," guess what? They decided to change the name again. So what was once "skim" milk that became "non-fat" milk has now become "fat free" milk. Fat free means the same thing as non-fat -- it's just different words. Companies like that word, "free." Fat free, sodium free, caffine free. Free is the hot word in packaged consumer foods right now. I can't wait to see what they're going to change the name to next. Maybe they'll call it "fat-less milk." Or how about "lacking-fat milk?" "No-fat-at-all milk." "Fat-be-gone milk." "Bye-bye fat milk." "Ain't-no-fat-in-this-here-milk milk."

You've got to hand it to them marketing wizards -- they have really done a job with milk. Ya got ya regular whole, ya got ya fat-free, ya got ya 1% and 2% and extra rich. There's chocolate milk, buttermilk, strawberry milk, half & half, heavy cream, whipping cream, and eggnog. They've got powered milk, condensed milk and goat's milk. Milk in bottles, in paper, in cans, in plastic, and in boxes. Pasteurized milk, vitamin enriched milk, homogenized milk, raw milk, and acidophilus milk.

And then we come to eggs. Used to be a time that eggs came in small, medium or large. Now they come in "large," "extra large," and "jumbo." The actual size of the eggs haven't changed, they've just upped their size desciptions, that's all. If this trend continues, we'll be seeing eggs labeled "huge," "enormous," and "humongous."

You can get brown eggs and eggs from free-range chickens (there's that word "free" again). But after you get passed the size thing and brown verses white thing, there's really nothing else you can do with eggs. You can't do flavored eggs. They tried to do fat-free eggs by removing the yolks, but most people don't want to deal with a yolk-free egg -- after all, the only thing an egg has going it, is its yolk. You've got to admit that without a yolk an egg is pretty darn dull.

So eggs must really drive marketing people nuts because there's nothing they can do with them. I wonder if they've tried canning eggs. It sounds disgusting, doesn't it? They do have powered eggs, but unless you happen to be stranded on a desert island or something, powered eggs isn't exactly your breakfast of choice. No, in the final analysis eggs is eggs is eggs -- that's all. You just can't do sugar frosted eggs, or lemon flavored eggs. No 1% or 2% eggs. No Franken-berry eggs or honey-crunch eggs. It's plain ol' eggs or nothing at all.

You know what it is about eggs that must really frost the marketing mavens? The shells. They can't figure out how to get around those darn pesky shells. It's one package design that they can't change. They can't fix it, alter it, or improve it. They can't put the egg in something else, like plastic, and tell people that it's better that way. They can't change it's shape in order to fit more of them on a shelf or in a shipping carton.

About all they can do, is to keep changing the names of the egg sizes ever larger. Look for the superduper colossal mammoth egg coming soon to a grocery store near you.

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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© 2001 Greg Crosby