Thursday, February 14, 2013

Trade-off of the Day: Taste vs Convenience

A major problem with canned food is its lack of flavor (Popular Science, 5/10/1012):
What gets sacrificed to the public’s demand for convenience are flavor, texture and nutrients. For food to survive on a shelf for a year, it has to be free of nearly all microbes, and the most common FDA-approved method of ensuring that is fairly primitive. In fact, it is the same sterilization technique that Napoleon’s army used in 1810: Kill all the pathogens by heating food to 250°F in a pressurized vessel called a retort. Hormel Compleats Beef Tips, as a result, taste a bit like canned dog food smells.
The trade-off is based on the dominant process that kills both microbes and flavor by over-heating. Food companies solve the problem by adding artificial flavors. Although a breakthrough solution for the problem exists, the industry is in no hurry to apply it:
In France, the food manufacturer Knorr just introduced the first line of boxed soups that are sterilized with electric current—a more efficient approach that leaves the vegetables in the potage more firm and flavorful than a retort can. But new approaches like these, despite their advantages, take decades to make their way into the entrenched and conservative food industry.
In the example we can see the power of the dominant design/process. It's virtually impossible to displace it unless one is willing to create a different market.

tags: trade-off, problem, solution, dilemma

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