Consumer Packaged Chaos

As I have written before, I spent the first 10 years of my working life in the consumer packaged goods industry. During the first four years I worked for Procter and Gamble, initially buying folding cartons for Crest toothpaste and Head and Shoulders shampoo. Then I spent two years in sales, selling teenage acne and cough and cold products to Boots. I was not too good at that and the people at Procter & Gamble asked me to go and work for a different company. Turns out that was a good thing, because I then spent six years at a market research company called IRI. The company used sales data from supermarkets to help manufacturers sell more and understand the effectiveness of their business strategies. With them I worked in the UK, Turkey and Italy. I am pleased I left the consumer packaged goods industry, but I’m still interested.

I recently visited Waitrose, which is known in the UK as an upscale supermarket. One of the important things about the retail business is the placement of products on the shelf, with eyelevel being the place where manufacturers pay more. In my powered chair I think I am looking one shelf lower than the average consumer.

The visit enabled me to reflect on either the amazing choice which consumers have, or the absurdity of this business; depends on how you see it.

When I was younger you bought tea, now you buy this lot:

To add interest to 1970s food, we had the choice of brown sauce or tomato ketchup. Now you can go for Jack Daniels or reggae reggae sauce:

Breakfast cereals are designed by famous people, although I haven’t heard of the person in question here. If I can look that great I think I’ll buy Special K now.

It’s pretty amazing that you can buy dogfood, with chicken and carrots and peas. I’m not sure I remember when dogs started liking peas:

 It was pretty exciting in the 1970s in North Yorkshire when we were able to buy Ski strawberry flavoured yoghurt. Here is part of today’s range: 

 There is a very annoying trend in the UK where products speak as if they were people. The chocolate in the photo below says’Hello, my name is’. Ridiculous. 

 It’s reassuring to know that some things have not changed. It’s good to see that you can still get a free spoon with Kelloggs Rice Krispies. 

 It’s also great to know that you can still buy a Penguin and a Club.

 I do get concerned when I see a magazine for the modern woman. What is the modern woman? 

 In this innovative world of ours, it is good to know that you can still buy alphabet spaghetti. It’s also good to know that those people at Heinz put one tomato in each tin of it.


Next time you go to your local supermarket, stop for a moment and wonder at the creativity of the human race, satisfying the wants of consumers or creating needs which they never knew they had.

Author: Andrew Knowlman

I am a 50-year old father of two children, married to Jane. I live in Hertfordshire, UK. I was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in April 2015.

7 thoughts on “Consumer Packaged Chaos”

  1. Alphabeti Spagetti – I now have a craving and I’m not gonna find that in Texas! Thanks Andrew?
    I will have to try teapigs Anniken

  2. Well done Andrew, you made me laugh. Although packaging and marketing is no laughing matter when even selling to adults is dumbed down.
    BTW what are tea pigs?


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