business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The New York Times has a story about how UK retailer Tesco has stopped selling croissants in their traditional curved shape, and now is only selling a straight version, offering a "decidedly British rationale: It is easier to spread jam on the straight variety."

“The majority of shoppers find it easier to spread jam, or their preferred filling, on a straighter shape with a single sweeping motion,” Tesco’s croissant buyer, Harry Jones, said in a statement. “With the crescent-shaped croissants, it’s more fiddly, and most people can take up to three attempts to achieve perfect coverage, which increases the potential for accidents involving sticky fingers and tables.” Tesco also says that sales of traditional croissants were declining.

The decision, the Times writes, has earned Tesco some measure of derision on both sides of the English Channel.

A Daily Telegraph editorial, for example, "noted that the virtue of the traditional French croissant was its foreignness. 'They must not be sliced in two, like buns to be buttered' ... 'They must be torn, and each morsel eaten with jam, even alien apricot jam, if wanted ... Otherwise nature is outraged, floods will again sweep the land and murrains strike our cattle. Or we could just stick with toast'."

At least one French newspaper suggested that the move could presage a possible British decision to leave the European Union.

And Tesco also was the subject of attack in social media, where some observers expressed "their disbelief that British jam-spreaders were unable to navigate a traditional croissant’s curved edges."

The ultimate irony? The Times notes that croissant means “crescent” in French. (Though the Times also notes that "while the croissant is associated with France, the pastry originated in what is now Austria, as a crescent-shaped roll called a kipferl.")

In some ways, this strikes me as the kind of Eye-Opening moral battle that could only break out between the English and the French. But I also have to admit that I'm a little skeptical about Tesco's explanation ... I have a feeling that it may actually be cheaper and more efficient to manufacture straight croissants. Tesco's recent history suggests that this is more about its own issues than the problems people may be having spreading jam on a crescent-shaped pastry.

And if that's the case, well, people will go buy their croissants elsewhere. C'est la vie.
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