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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Laughable Labeling in the BAHAMAS

cruising life
Holy Shit Pepper Sauce:  Funny name, phone number
and serving suggestion.  That’s it.
 
  
Confession time:
Even as a kid, I considered packaging labels, even on aspirin bottles,  worthy reading material.  I read them with a discerning eye, (“Mom, did you know this ‘fruit juice’ was 10% fruit juice, not 100%?”) geekily living up to my despised childhood nickname, “Dana Logical.” 

Fast forward a bit.  In college, writing “Color’s Role in Packaging” was my second favorite term paper (the first was to take a Victorian author and put them in a modern setting and predict how they’s react – I wrote on“John Stuart Mill’s Response to Male Strippers in His Home Town” which earned an uncommented but solid A from my prof).  My degree?  Advertising, with a minor in marketing.  What better way to indulge in my nerdy desire for clear communication?

Fast forward a bit more.
cruising activities
Tinkyada pasta… purchased because it was gluten-free.
Unusual packaging color and graphics style
for pasta.  Pink?  Cartoon bunnies?

Long, long ago, I tried oodles of hot sauces in a single “sitting” without a single sip of refreshment at a “Fiery Foods Festival” in Albuquerque.  It was not a masochistic act; merely practical.  I love hot, spicy food.  My goal was simply to find the best hot sauces, with a minimum of interruption.  Besides, I didn’t want to jostle a beverage working my way through the throngs to sample these fiery liquids.

In the process, I made a surprising discovery (other than it’s tough to taste-test with a numb tongue)….  The best looking packaging more often than not encased mediocre to bad hot sauce.  If, on the other hand, the packaging was boring or even inept, the hot sauce was far more likely to be excellent – hot, but but still flavorful.  That is the heat didn’t obliterate the flavor, but enhanced it. 

My theory? When it comes to hot sauce producers, there are cooks, or there are marketers, but rarely the twain shall meet.

Over the years, as I’ve continued to sample hot sauces, for the most part, that packaging generalization has held.  If I can’t try before I buy, I assume that if I wanted to buy hot sauce just for a joke, sampling is a moot point.  If I want to buy it to eat, if it’s cheap and ugly, I might give it a go without a sampling. I will not buy hot sauce just for the packaging if I plan to enjoy it.

cruising life
Tinkyada’s packaging: “Promising a delightful eating experience.”
When I saw “Holy Shit Pepper Sauce” in the isolated Ragged Island’s Duncantown, it didn’t surprise me Marjorie said she was selling it for a friend who makes it.  Marjorie splits her time between Duncantown and Nassau; my bet is her friend’s from bustling, touristy Nassau.  It’s the perfect joke gift.  I bought it with that in mind, with the intent if presenting it with my hot sauce packaging theory -- to treat it like a Barbie of hot sauces – better looking than tasting.

Despite Holy Shit Pepper Sauce’s flashy labeling, this Bahamanian product is definitely not States-sales-bound.  The only info on the package is a teaser “Taste De Island” the “Holy Shit Pepper Sauce” product name, a phone number and a serving suggestion (use on soup, stew, chowder, [conch] fritters, souse, conch salad, etc.).  What’s missing?  Who made it.  Where they are.  Volume.  Nutritional information.

Once in a while, an atypical Stateside package pops up.  Seems it’s most likely to happen when the product originates out of a non-English speaking country, especially if it’s Asian in origin.

That’s how I came across Tinkyada’s pink-packaged pasta, a gluten-free rice-based pasta that in theory is from Seattle, but screams out Asian origin. 

For one, most pasta packaging comes is flat, bold primary colors – school bus yellow, tomato red, or maybe cobalt blue.  Letters are thick and bold, solid like a zesty pasta sauce.  Pink is a color used for Pepto Bismo, not for food packaging, certainly not for pasta.  Nor would pasta package designs tout cartoon bunnies.

But, unlike most gluten-free products, Tinkyada is cheap, like Asian rice flour as opposed to Bob’s Red Mill or just about any other “mainstream” gluten-free product.  Frugally, I take the extra time to read the labels, and go for content and price, regardless of whether they’re mainstream or offbeat.

Still, I can’t deny being further amused by TInkada’s hyperbole.  Not only do they definitely not pay for top quality translator, they must also save some corporate overhead by not lawyering up on their marketing content reviews.  No “Just the facts, Ma’am” lawyers I’ve worked with in 20+ years of marketing would allow claims like “Promising a delightful eating experience.”  Lawyers don’t like it when ANYTHING is “promised.”  Heck, I had enough time getting approval on basic product differentiators, like quality.  I can’t imagine their reaction if the words “promise” and “experience” were used for packaging or promotion.  Violent shaking?  Tantrums? The lowering of a large gavel?  Volcanic explosion?  Hysterical giggling while they roll on the ground?  A hard state with a barely restrained eye roll?

By the way, Tinkyada pasta was quite good.  Maybe my hot sauce packaging theory extends well to other food products; at least of the packaging is inadequate or amusing.


What’s the funniest food packaging you’ve seen?  Did you try the product?  If so, how was it?  What’s the biggest letdown you’ve had from especially well done food packaging?

Location Location
April 29, 2014 BAHAMAS.  We’re now in Hatchet Bay (N25.20.962 W76.29.253), Eleuthera; headed North toward Spanish Wells.