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Yesterday, we took note of a Wall Street Journal report that over the past year, Kellogg's has been ht with three different lawsuits claiming that its strawberry Pop-Tarts don't have enough strawberries in them to qualify for that name.

According to the story, "The latest suit, filed in the Southern District of New York last week and focused on Pop-Tart’s 'Whole Grain Frosted Strawberry' flavor, alleges that the products contain more pears and apples than strawberries. The case asks for $5 million in relief."

I commented:

With apologies to my friends at Kellogg's, I must admit that I am completely sympathetic to these suits.  There are so many cases of products that are labeled as one thing, and when you look at the labels, you see that they have none of the so-called featured ingredient, or so little as to be irrelevant.

I'm not sure I'd use the word fraud, but I certainly think it is misleading, and reflect policies and practices that ought to be changed.

One MNB reader responded:

I am somewhat shocked by your commentary of being sympathetic to this type of lawsuit!  The question I would ask is if any reasonable person thinks a Pop-Tart is filled with strawberries; fresh or otherwise.  And if they do, isn’t it reasonable to expect them to check the ingredient declaration?  That $5 million in relief is designed to line the law firm’s pockets while the consumer that can prove they bought the product during the aggrieved period and retained all receipts can receive a coupon.  These class action lawsuits are a real threat to the CPG industry and have little to do with misleading consumers.

And, from another MNB reader:

With regards to your story and comment on the Pop-Tart Ingredient issue...  I think that there is a very different issue between an item with a listed 'flavor' vs an item that is listed as an ingredient.

There are lots of foods we buy that have a 'flavor' that does not, and mostly likely not expected to, have that flavor as an ingredient.

We don't go after Grape or Orange Soda, we don't go after all the flavors in the Tootsie-Pop bag - they are flavors - not ingredients.

Very different from buying, say some type of Tuna, only to find out there is a completely different fish as the ingredient.

Pop-Tarts have an ingredient list on the side - that clearly calls out what is in it.

If the lawsuit is claiming this ingredient list is wrong, that is a different story.  But when I see Strawberry Pop-Tart - which I eat often - I think of the strawberry flavor I get from the Jam inside - which does taste like strawberries…

I don't think it is close to fraud and not even misleading... just my $0.02.

I take your point.  But I think that things ought to be what people say they are, not something else.

Go take a look at frozen blueberry waffles.  Often as not, there are no blueberries.


On another subject, MNB reader Frank White wrote:

I read with interest “Labor Pains: Jobs That May Never Be The Same Again”…

Supermarket/retail cashiers … "Stores are starting to put more emphasis on self-checkout and curbside pickup. They also are closing traditional checkout aisles during hours when staffing is short, resulting in longer waits that could drive more consumers to online shopping."

Walmart moved to almost total self-checkout and are now reversing to 40%+- clerk serve traditional due to customer push-back for larger buys. It makes sense.

Another MNB reader chimed in:

The jobs exampled are entry level jobs.  Cashiers, the more $$ /Hr production required for profit, the less cashiers you have.  The more you pay cashiers, the less you will have.  Not a good direction.  Restaurant workers.  This one is interesting, since it is also entry level and you can make pretty good jing, if you hustle.  This to me only points to lack of willingness to work.  Not a good direction.  Baristas?  I don’t like lattes so I can’t comment.  What people should realize, which they don’t, is that the more you push the system or fail to work within it, the more accelerated automation will become in the workforce. 

The interesting thing about your comment is that while you point out that that these generally are seen as entry-level jobs, they also happen to be jobs in which the person doing them has enormous impact on the business's relationship with the customer.  They're front-line workers who, depending on how they do their jobs, can determine whether a business is successful or not.

Also, who says they have to be entry level jobs?  I'd bet there are plenty of people who spend much of their work lives as checkout employees, waiters and baristas … not because they're just starting out, but because that;'s what they do.  I'd celebrate them, especially if they're really good at their jobs, not demean them.

Finally, if people don't want to do those jobs, you're right that employers may have to turn to automation.  But in doing so, those businesses have to reckon with the probability that they are losing an opportunity to connect with their customers in a way that machines simply cannot.  Which goes back to my original point - if businesses treat the people occupying those jobs as if they are assets not costs, and invest in those people so they feel invested in the business, then those front-line employees can make the difference between success and failure.

In my FaceTime commentary yesterday, I proposed that we retire the word "unprecedented," prompting an MNB reader to write:

A friend of mine who is a radio host is stuck on the word Iconic, every big event is Iconic to him.  Can we discontinue the word Iconic as well?

You can retire it from your repertoire, if you'd like.  I think I may use it … occasionally.  But I agree that overuse of a word like iconic makes it less impactful.