Friday, January 20, 2023

Insight: Stuck in the 1960s

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

As a proud card-carrying member of the Baby Boomer Generation, I refuse to surrender to trends popular right now with members of subsequent populations of Generation X, Millennials and Generations Y, Z and Alpha.

These trends are on display every time I visit the grocery store or thumb through magazines in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.

For the record, Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964, while Generation X is classified as having been born between 1965 and 1980 and Millennials falling between 1981 and 1996.

Despite the fact Baby Boomers were surpassed in 2019 by Millennials as the largest living adult generation on earth, I refuse to purchase some products and services now embraced by that generation.

Take soap, for instance. I still prefer to purchase bars of soap for the shower instead of liquid body wash. Discounting the argument that bar soap is a breeding ground for bacteria and dehydrates the skin, bars of soap certainly last longer than bottles of body wash and are more economical in my opinion.

If you look at the label of a bar of soap compared to body wash or shower gel, there appears to be less ingredients in a bar of soap, and bar soap is priced much more inexpensively than body wash.

Lately though I’ve noticed that the display space in stores for bar soap appears to be shrinking while the available selection of body wash and shower gels is expanding. There’s an abundant offering of body washes in fragrant scents of orange blossom, jasmine, coconut, eucalyptus, Moroccan sunflower, peony, and rose oil and seemingly include every body lotion known to modern man.

Meanwhile, packs of Irish Spring, Safeguard, Dial, Coast, Lever and Dove are relegated to lowly positions on the bottom shelf.

Being traditionalists and Baby Boomers, members of my household remain solidly in the camp of bar soap and to this point have avoided alternative choices.

Then there’s the question of condensed soup versus the so-called regular soup. Once again, being a Baby Boomer and somewhat nostalgic for life growing up in the 1960s, I prefer to purchase condensed soup cans while shopping as opposed to some of the newer, lavish types of soups available.

When I was young, my mother would fix my brother and I some bowls of Campbell’s Tomato Soup during the colder winter months for lunch and it was usually paired with one of her grilled cheese sandwiches. Sometimes she would let me help her open the cans of condensed soup with a hand-cranked can opener, or if she had already opened the cans, she’d let me fill the can with water to add to the condensed soup mix inside.

When she went shopping, she happened to choose Campbell’s products and our pantry was always filled with cans of Campbell’s Tomato, Bean and Bacon, Chicken Noodle, Vegetable Beef and Vegetable condensed soups. As an adult setting up my own home in the 1970s, I followed suit and would choose Campbell’s condensed soups when shopping.

About the same time that I was finishing up college in the 1970s, Campbell’s introduced a new “Chunky” line of soups, and the product line steadily grew in popularity among shoppers.

The new “Chunky” soup was not condensed and was advertised for shoppers as “the soup that eats like a meal” and featured the simple instruction of “heat and serve” with no water needing to be added.

“Chunky” flavors originally included Chunky Beef, Chunky Turkey, Chunky Chicken and Chunky Vegetable, but the brand really took off when it became the “Official Soup of the NFL” and included favorites such as Sirloin Burger and Creamy Clam Chowder.

Other non-condensed soup brands, such as Progresso, followed suit and began selling a complete line of “heat and eat” soups, making condensed soups less relevant. Today many store shelves are loaded with numerous “heat and eat” soups and I confess I enjoy them from time to time, but I continue to purchase Campbell’s condensed soups most of time when I’m shopping.

I’ve also noticed that shelf space is declining for jars of chunky peanut butter lately. My wife and I greatly prefer chunky style peanut butter to smooth, but newer brands of “natural” smooth peanut butter seem to be selling.

I grew up by spreading Peter Pan, Skippy, or Jif brands of chunky peanut butter on slices of bread, but in the 21st century, millennials are opting for more organic, honey sweetened, unsalted, or preservative-free types of peanut butter.

There’s always going to be a difference in preference when it comes to foods, but a couple of months ago, I read an article online that detailed how some millennials and increasing members of Generations Y, Z and Alpha greatly prefer adding other substances to basic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

The article revealed how preferences for PBJ sandwiches in school lunchboxes suggest adding thick slabs of bacon, cherry tomatoes or buffalo mozzarella cheese are now par for the course for younger generations over just a plain combination of bread, peanut butter and jelly.

My personal preferences have developed over a lifetime of eating and shopping and I’m sticking to them.<

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