Saturday, July 12, 2003

A child of marketing

I go through a lot of coffee, and what I buy at the Co-op I usually grind right there.

Coffee grinding is one of those supermarket processes that make you stand around, like waiting at deli counters and in checkout lines. However, deli counters and checkout lines have spaces designed for waiting, so there can be lots of impulse purchases to consider and pictures of J. Lo to regard.

Strangely, however, no one appears to have given any thought to the coffee aisle as another spot to outfit with this kind of stuff. Which is surprising--you'd think by now that the marketers would have identified every last place on earth where people stand and wait.

At the Co-op, of course, there's the patina of nonchalance about this sort of low-impact marketing: the area around deli counter is relatively bare. The checkout lines are another story, however, except that instead of Hershey bars and magazines with pictures of Ashton Kutcher to tempt you, you get gay candy bars and magazines with pictures of people installing solar panels and doing yoga.

But like coffee aisles everywhere, the coffee aisle at the Co-op offers little for customers who tarry there while they grind their beans. In fact, just the opposite: the coffee aisle is adjacent to the bulk foods aisle, and say what you like about bulk foods: unlike J. Lo and Ashton, they ain't sexy.

I could speculate as to why coffee aisles are such comparatively marketing-free places. It may have something to do with the fact that few people grind their beans at the store--I imagine that most people who buy coffee beans grind them at home, and people who aren't invested enough in coffee drinking to buy beans just buy the canned stuff. (I used to grind beans at home, but eventually I deemed the process too tedious and messy to bother with.)

Which brings me to what prompted me to blog this morning. Last night, on our way to the Lemon Skweezer show at Badger Bowl, Ereck and I stopped at Capitol Centre Foods (a conventional, distinctly inorganic supermarket) so I could pick up some joe. I revved up the grinder and then, having no pictures of celebrities to look at, we stood and waited.

Our eyes passed over the various coffee items and lit almost simultaneously on the same product: General Foods International Coffees.

What's up with this? Who drinks this stuff? What is it? Precisely what about it typifies its international status? It looks as though it is extremely nasty, though Ereck and I both recalled that as children we longed for it.

I began singing the old jingle to Ereck. (I've blogged before about my terrible ability to retain every jingle I've heard.) "Celebrate," I crooned to my domestic partner, "the moments of your life."

We got out of there before we could make our way down the cereal aisle, where I might have inflicted further damage. ("Whole wheat goodness on one side! Light frosting on the other!")

Do you grind your beans at the store?

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