Baby Food Fight

I am always fascinated when a new package form, all by itself, begins to influence culture.

And especially, as Tom Guarriello my fellow faculty member at the SVA Masters in Branding program and former clinical psychologist likes to say, when it has a major impact on normalizing and habituating new forms of traditional behavior. And it looks like a package form for baby food is causing a food fight among parents and the CPG companies that market to them.

Before we get into the discussion, let’s make two things clear. First it has been a long time since my kids were babies, so I have no personal experience with this package form. And second I would never presume to tell a parent how to raise their kids.

As a piece in today’s NY Times points out, Plum Organics started putting food, a mix of fruits, veggies and grains,  in little single-serve pouches in 2008. Thus allowing kids to eat on the run. Since then most of the major baby food companies have jumped on board.

This is causing a serious discussion among parents about how this one little package may be enabling a life style that discourages traditional mealtime and the cultural learning that goes along with it . . . manners, the ritual of shared time with family, maybe healthier eating, etc.

But as is typical with all things parental, there seems to be no clear consensus on right and wrong. After doing much research and interviews for this piece Matt Richtel, the author, admits,

“At last, I realized the source of my nagging discomfort. The pouch may help us negotiate the age-old battle of wills at the table, not to mention relieving me of my vaudeville act. But it also creates children in our own frenetic image: energetic, vitamin-fueled, moving frantically from one thing to the next. I wonder if that’s a good thing.”

I wonder too . . . and find it fascinating that the innovation of a simple little food pouch for babies and toddlers is enabling this life choice and of course encouraging this debate among parents.


About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
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