Prego Farmers’ Market and the cautionary tale of Mr. Tidbit’s step-grandfather


Prego goes to the Farmers’ Market

Today Mr. Tidbit wishes to begin by telling a tale relayed to him many years ago by his father, whose stepfather (let’s call him Bob) ran a general store in Pawnee, Oklahoma, in the early 1900s:

As Mr. Tidbit recalls the story, Bob sold coffee beans out of a big bag for 10 cents a pound. One day he put out two more bags, marked 8 cents a pound and 12 cents a pound, and filled both with the same 10-cent beans. He suggested to some folks that the 12-cent beans were really great, and why not give them a try? To other folks he mentioned that the 8-cent beans were almost as good as the 10-centers, and why not give them a try?

He reported that many of the folks who tried the 12-cent beans said they were better than the 10-centers, though a little pricey, and that many of the folks who tried the 8-cent beans thought they were OK, but not as good as the 10-centers.

That said, let’s consider Prego’s new line of Farmers’ Market somewhat upscale pasta sauce, described on the website as “made with ingredients you would find at your local farmers’ market.” Mr. Tidbit thinks that calling the new line “Farmers’ Market” suggests that: (1) somebody at Prego’s parent Campbell’s Soup knows how to use apostrophes [Who was that masked man? I wanted to thank him]; and (2) that it is a roundabout way of invoking the notion that many grocery firms attempt to call forth with the word “simple”:  That all the ingredients are foods.

By looking at the new sauces in the context of Bob’s coffee beans, Mr. Tidbit doesn’t mean to suggest that the Farmers’ Market sauces aren’t better than the regular Prego sauces. The tomato basil Farmers’ Market sauce, for example, contains actual onions, basil and oregano (and olive oil) instead of the “natural flavoring” (and canola oil) in the regular Prego version.

Bob’s experiment might, however, shed some light on whether folks think Farmers’ Market (in a 23 1/2-ounce rectangular canning-type jar with cup and ounce quantities molded into the side) is worth $3.49 (14.9 cents an ounce) at a discount store where regular Ragu (in a featureless 24-ounce jar) sells for $1.99 (8.3 cents an ounce). Mr. Tidbit suggests that the 79 percent higher cost per ounce is probably lots more than the increased cost of ingredients.

(Mr. Tidbit  points out that he is not related by blood to Bob)


Al Sicherman

Author: Al Sicherman

Al Sicherman and his used dog, Gus, live in Minneapolis. Al is on the left/

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