I often rant here on this blog the amount of packaging in the modern grocery store, how it has increased exponentially over the last two decades - since recycling has been widely encouraged. (And then they dare charge us for plastic bags.)
Seems counter-intuitive on one level, but it probably makes commercial sense.
The more packaging on a product, the more mark-up for the store and the consumer feels no guilt, because he or she recycles and buys those skanky re-usable bags that end up full of flop sweat and dog hair and baby snot that is handled next time around by the bagboy/girl and transferred to MY food purchases, every avocado and artichoke of which now has to be covered in plastic film for sanitary purposes.
Anyway, yesterday, I discovered a bulletin by the Canadian Food Controllers from 1918 complaining about the packaging trend, packaged cereals in particular.
The government was worried that packaged cereals were over-priced, over-advertised, and not as nutritious as plain old porridges and such. All very bad for the poorer citizen.
They made a rule: The price at which these products are sold to the consumer must not exceed a reasonable profit on bulk goods plus the cost of the container.
Food invoice from 1901 from the Nicholson Collection: Read all about the rising cost of living during WWI in Not Bonne Over Here on Kindle.
In the late 70's or early 80's, I recall reading an article by the Food Writer for the Montreal Gazette, where she insisted the price of cereals (5 dollars a box) must be made to come down. In those days, I believe, President Nixon had put in laws that seriously lowered the price of grains, but still the packaged cereals cost a small fortune.
Starting in the 1900-1910 era, packaged cereals, first conceived as healthier than heavy traditional breakfasts, became popular and soon they were the iconic consumer product of the 20th century: puff in a colourful box, packaged to appeal to kids and advertised to families during (and in) all the popular television shows like the Beverly Hillbillies and the Monkees.
(Well, Coke is the TOP iconic consumer age product. I notice that Coke sponsored the recent Women's World Cup. "Coke is happiness" is the new slogan, except that that is the first slogan from 1900. In those days, Coke really was happiness in a bottle.. as they advertised, not just sugar and caffeine and caramel colouring. The original Coca Cola copy says "The bubbles suggest happiness.")
In the 60's, my father tried to feed us porridge (which tasted very good cooked overnight in a double broiler) but we kids cried for Coco Puffs, basically salt and sugar and chemicals and air.
I don't think we drank too much coke back then. I've never liked carbonated drinks.
Sorry, Christine Sinclair.
And watching Wimbledon a while back, and admiring all those lithe super-fit young tennis players, I noticed half the ads on TSN are all for junk food/fast food, when they are not Harpo propaganda. Well, Genie's Pinty's ads were an exception.
So it goes.
The irony today, or should I say the Catch-22, is that buying whole grains in 'bulk' at places like Bulk Barn costs a small fortune too. (Supply and demand: wealthier people buy the healthy grains.) They sell candy, too, and almost give it away. It now pays to eat crappy, except when you factor in medical bills.
Here's a bit of the article, published in the McGill Daily, of all places.