The Plight of the Cereal Bag
~ 13 October 2004 ~
Raise your hand if you’re a cereal eater.
You can put your hands down now.
I’m a huge fan of a hearty bowl of rolled wheat and milk each morning. Strap a feed bag on me and I’ll eat until satiated. Lately I find myself tearing into boxes of Mini Wheats, Frosted Flakes, and long-time favorite Honey Nut Cheerios.
And perhaps “tearing” is the appropriate term. Ever get tired of ripping that hideous plastic inside the box? Ever had it literally explode? Oh yeah. It’s as bad as it sounds. As Brad argues, we even endure “undue stress and induced foul moods because of our efforts to simply open the packaging.”
Well said. Shame on Kellogg.
So why not add a simple zip seal to the plastic bag? A resealable bag? They’re all over the place on other food products. Why not cereal? It ain’t rocket science.
But it may be an issue of economic science.
Try this on for size: Add a zip seal to the bag for a few cents on the dollar and it comes straight out of the bottom line. Multiply that by millions of boxes sold each year and you’ve got yourself a big problem.
UNLESS… Unless it gives competitive edge, which it very well could. And then you’ve got yourself a winner. Meaning, add a zip seal and you just might swoon a few moms in the process.
So you add the zip seal. Moms choose Sugar Smacks over Lucky Charms. Profits increase. And competitive entry inevitably enters the equation.
So competitors add the zip seal. Customers go wild with delight. The entire cereal-consuming market enjoys a much safer world.
But then you’ve got yourself an even bigger problem. Competitive edge is eliminated, and cereal makers are now stuck with increased manufacturing costs. Profits are now less than they were before because gains in volume are eliminated.
Ultimately, cereal makers raise prices to compensate, and we — the innocent consumer — foot the bill for the painless package-opening comfort we’ve always longed for.
What a classic dilemma. Perhaps the cereal makers are a lot smarter than we think.
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