Listen up, blokes, there’s nothing wrong with small
It takes a man to stand tall and call his a small. Especially when he’s been a normal all his life. For centuries, it was sufficient to just order a coffee. But increasingly if you want that self-same beverage you will need to specify that you want “a small”.
Perhaps that’s no big deal. Perhaps what was once a normal coffee is too small for the modern condition. Most of us are fatter, and have no work life balance, so it may be we need the extra milk to maintain our new weight and the extra caffeine to keep the machine spinning smoothly.
And after all, it’s not just the coffee that’s getting bigger, everything’s getting bigger: Chinese swimmers, the gap between female US news presenters’ eyes, wine lists, teenage girls’ breasts – it’s the way of the world.
But there’s something about the coffee that strikes a chord, and a dissonant one at that. Maybe it’s the fact that the change from simply ordering “a coffee”, to having to ask for “a small coffee”, seems to epitomize a process of “consumer belittling”.
Which term is used here to refer to that process whereby the items you once selected, have now become the small version of a bigger item, and the bigger item is the new normal.
It’s not all bad though if your preferred portion gets pushed down the line to become the new small. This is because the alternative may be being pushed off the line altogether. Remember those cute, stubby little 200ml cans of soft drink? The technology isn’t lost to mankind – they’re still in aeroplane drink trolleys, but they are lost to retail purchasers.
Anyway, we upsized to 375ml cans and everyone was happy for a while, but hold on, the push is on to 600. The 600ml bottle might be a prudent choice in terms of calories if you have to walk an hour cross-country to purchase your drink.
And what about potato chips? What happened to those 25g packs from the 20th century? These days if you head into a milk bar your entry-level pack is around 50g. Children of this century see a 50g pack as small. And without wanting to appear paranoid it seems the marketing offensive towards the normalization of the 100g pack is proceeding apace.
Worse still, the original, modest-sized packs of “crisps” are still available all over the UK. I thought we were the sculpted, crocodile-wrestling lifeguards and they were the pasty people that called darts sport.
It may be I’m not paying close enough attention to the nut bars and the tubs of hommus, but they appear stable. Do manufacturers of healthy foods know there’s no point - raw almonds just don’t push that pleasure centre like a chip. Healthy food is naturally delimiting. It’s only the bad stuff that’s expanding.
Clearly big packs are good value. But does this mean we should just be grateful and eat up, until its time to be rolled into an early grave with a headstone – “she was fat but she knew good value when she saw it.”
There is always folding the pack over, or screwing the lid back on and “saving it for later”. But let’s face it, that’s about as realistic as arguing for withdrawal as a form of contraception.
Where giant items are presented as individual snacks, gluttony is normalized and it’s strike one against the consumer in the battle of public health.
Ah marketers, and here I was thinking they did what they did because they weren’t smart enough to design bridges or replace hips.
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