Don’t Blame the Potato for Pringles


Last week, Procter & Gamble sold its Pringles brand to Kellogg, for $2.7 billion.

In the scheme of things, this is not big news: a famous brand goes from one corporation to another. Happens all the time. Affects us barely, if at all; you’ll still never be more than a hundred yards from the all-too-familiar red Pringles canister, which, it’s said, made its designer so proud that he had his ashes packed into one after his death.

But the sale inspired some observations about the nature of  “food.” Let’s start with a fantasy: suppose P.&G., in a fit of charity, decided that Pringles was, as we all know to be true, a brand that everyone in the world — with the possible exception of P.&G. shareholders and a few employees — would be better off without. I mean, I like Pringles as much as the next guy, but they’re not really “food,” or — to be more accurate — they’re not “real” “food”[1] and I certainly know that I’d be better off without them.

Here’s a short list of other things that $2.7 billion could buy [2]. For that money, you could feed 75 million children for a year, or fund Unicef’s child-assistance operations for two years. You could pay cash for NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover mission ($2.5 billion), and have still be able to foot half the cost of the president’s proposed strengthening of oversight of offshore oil and gas operations, which would save money in the long run. Or you could hire more than 60,000 teachers. Stuff like that.

Read the rest of this column here.

Posted in Food Politics


  1. mfemia said...

    Mark, I’m not sure I understand the objective of this piece. I read that "Pringles are processed and fried (and thus inherently bad), they generate a lot of revenue, and there’s a laundry list of nice things that could be done with that money. This travesty of Pringles isn’t the potato’s fault, it’s the greed of Big Food."But what’s the call to action? What’s the point?That the Pringles brand should be dissolved or restructured as a charity because eating a high-Pringle diet could lead to obesity? That the solution to our bloated woes is for enterprise to restructure product lines that drive their business, rather than educating consumers?I agree that potatoes aren’t the problem, but to ignore that the Pringles brand is a reality thanks to the millions of customers that evidently find value in it doesn’t help me envision a realistic pathway toward changing dietary habits.

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