Some shots taken from the weekend hunt & gather operation. I wonder if these are new?



Note the typeface: it has an inner shadow, which refers to the recessed cavities into which you had to put the scapel in the game. Nice touch. Just seems like a peculiar idea for fruit snacks. Sorry, fruit flavored snacks. They’ve done Operation, but what of Clue? I want to eat a grape-flavored lead pipe in the Conservatory.


A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a lady at the store about syrup: one of the brands said it was “Country Rich,” which we found amusing. Especially since there was “Country Rich Lite,” which perhaps referred to Willie Nelson after his tax problems were concluded. I suppose that means something honest and hearty that would stick unto thine ribs and allow you to till the earth until noon before the sugar rush wore off. Well, here’s another entry, found in the Just a Dollar section of the store:




Country value. None of that big-city extravagance here, just simple honest country value, the way Ma used to make, before she was carried off by the Mexican Grippe in ’09.. I always preferred White Cake to Angel Food; in fact, the latter was viewed by some of us as a gyp or a rook, depending, because it was so insubstantial, and often came with whipped cream instead of thick, country-rich frosting. 

This is odd, but I just realized, for the first time in my life, that Angel Food cake was perhaps intended as the spiritual opposite of Devil’s Food Cake. I never put the two together. It’s as if the terms lived in separate hemispheres of my brain and never crossed paths.

Here’s a fine lesson in product redesign – but then again, I like the clean look of the new Tropicana boxes, which are now slated to be dumped for the old style. The first picture is a pure mess, the sort of cluttered junky design that abounds in the Oughts. Well, any era, I suppose, but this couldn’t have come from an era that didn’t have Photoshop and Illustrator:



Jay-hus. So the ice cream rolls out in road-apple chunks and SMASHES through the stone wall, revealing the ancient craftsman on the other side. Also, it’s churned! Don’t miss the fact that it’s 1/2 and 1/3. 

This is a store brand put out by SuperValu. Wise heads have intervened, and the result is a thing of absolute beauty:


I am in awe of this design. I want to run away to Mexico with this design. 

The ice cream itself isn’t that great. But I don’t care. 


44 Responses to Latest product roundup

  1. Bob says:

    Re “Country-” this and “Country”-that:

    We have a long-standing joke in our house, stemming from some air freshener’s designation as “Country Fresh”: “Yeah, but what they DON’T tell you is that the country is Bulgaria!”

  2. Jim A says:

    I’d at least have expected the Operation fruit-flavored bits to resemble items from its namesake game. Wrench(ed ankle), (funny) bone, bread (basket), etc. A trifle cannibalistic, perhaps, but otherwise what’s the point of riffing off the game?

  3. JerseyAmy says:

    I noticed those Operation fruit snacks at Target this weekend. I too found it a rather odd product and actually wondered how long it would take until I saw them up here on your site, James.

  4. Mr_Lilacs says:

    Wow. A rook — there’s a term I associate with the Red River Valley. I didn’t think anyone but Mom and her sister used that term as you did here.

    Good call on the ice cream boxen.

  5. Chris says:

    James, I find it mind-boggling that you have never before pondered the eternal struggle between angel food cake and devil’s food cake, about which Milton devoted several stanzas in “Paradise Lost.” Well, maybe not.

  6. swschrad says:

    angel food cake slices with freshly-thawed strawberries and tub-served imitation food product substitute material alleging to be fat-free whipped cream is a favorite treat at our place.

    that’s why we spend a morning at the strawberry farm every year, and the afternoon alternately moaning and slicing and washing 4 or 5 flats of mudfruit.

  7. jeischen says:

    RE: “Country” this and “country” that

    For some reason, that got me thinking about the last time we went through a “country” phase in the U.S., back in the malaise-filled ’70s. It was an era of Willie Nelson, c.b. radios, trucker movies, Urban Cowboy, Dukes of Hazard, etc. Do hard times make us wistful for the simpler, homier ways of the rural life?

  8. Lars Walker says:

    Either that, or it’s a subconscious fear that we’ll all soon be living in houses with dirt floors and two-holers out back. Romanticising country life makes it all seem less scary.

  9. rbj says:

    Ah, country fresh. The scent of a dairy farm on a hot August afternoon, followed up by skunk roadkill.

  10. stacylane says:

    I like how that cake slice is still intact, yet there is a big old hunk of it on the fork, too.

    That’s good, old-fashioned country value for you. It self-regenerates!

  11. Barberofcivil says:

    “Country Fresh” air freshener? I guess these people have never been through the country during the manure spreading season.

    Probably the same people who claim that they slept like a baby, which, anyone who’s had a baby knows that means waking up every 2 hours crying and hungry with a diaper full of crap.

  12. rafinlay says:

    Dairy air (ha! Get it?) I can live with. Lord, deliver me from pig farms, however.

  13. Cuneo says:

    Let’s see, one half plus one third equals…oh, just give me a cone, two scoops, I’ll do the math later.

  14. Al Federber says:

    The Operation cereal typeface can be read as either raised as recessed. I tend to read it as raised, since the only thing resembling a light source radiates from the center.

  15. Al Federber says:

    The first Stone Ridge ice cream carton is awful for all the reasons James mentions. The second carton is much better, but the “Stone Ridge Creamery” part needs work.

  16. rdh says:

    The first ice cream carton:

    Made by prisoner-craftsmen who have concocted the most powerful ice cream in the world! It’s so good it blasts through the stone walls, freeing the prisoners from their incarceration by The Man. Now with 1/3 and 1/2!

  17. Ben says:

    The “Stone Ridge Creamery” part needs work?! It’s perfect in every way! I sometimes think that good package design can improve the taste of the product within.

  18. Terry Fitz says:

    Not to get all theologically pedantic, but wouldn’t the opposite of Devil’s food cake be God’s food cake? Or perhaps the Devil of cake fame was just one of many unnamed minions of you-know-who. I must have symmetry, even regarding baked goods.

  19. Obi-Wandreas says:

    The new Tropicana cartons look nice, but they make it damn near impossible to find the particular type you’re looking for, since it’s only written in tiny letters on a little bar that you can’t see unless you look really closely. Very poor design for something meant to be sold in a supermarket.

  20. Karen says:

    This past week Hy-Vee (grocery store) had a sale on Midwest Country Fare TUNA!

  21. MaryIndiana says:

    James,if you are ever tempted to raise money for some
    charity,please consider auctioning off “A Shopping Trip
    With James Lileks”.

    You meet up with the winner for an hour or so and let
    them come along as you find these weird things. I swear
    it would bring in a ton of money..

  22. Dan says:

    I don’t remember the brand, but I’m sure I have eat Clue fruit snacks. I distinctly remember eating a purple lead pipe.

  23. MaryIndiana says:

    Oh..Terry Fitz..isn’t Old Scratch just a fallen angel?
    As I understand it,God has no equals.

  24. Lars Walker says:

    Correct, Mary. Satan is the opposite of Michael the Archangel, not of God. (To be all theologically pedantic.)

  25. Does anyone recall the generic yellow packaging that simply had a product name on it. Like “Beer”, “Milk”, or “Cola”? I don’t even recall which stores had them, except that I kind of think it was “Lucky’s” out here in California.

    What if they had generic versions of all products in simple yellow packaging – “Plutonium” “Whup A**”. Seems like you’d see something like that on the Simpsons.

  26. Lars Walker says:

    Sure. During the ’70s, when inflation was killing everybody, lots of store chains brought out groceries packed in plain white or yellow containers, with the name of the contents (no brand name) in big black letters on them. We called them Generics.

    I found that I liked generic popcorn even better than the brand stuff. Can’t recall anything else I liked better in that form, though.

    I would say that the prudent investor, looking at the market today, would be wise to invest in Generic Corporation.

  27. Warren says:

    “Operation” cereal? It’s not just a brand; it’s a foreshadowing!

    I also like the general trend toward clean design, though I can’t say I’m fond of PepsiCo’s direction. It seems like void for the sake of void, rather than a rational, lean rebranding.

    I prefer to keep things somewhat minimal in my own graphics, relying on a powerful central image to arrest attention, or sell a feeling, or create a standout visual that breathes in an information-dense publication.

    Horror vacuui has never been a particular problem to me. Interesting that it seems to be picking up some steam elsewhere too.

  28. Ron in SD (not South Dakota) says:

    Not a design related issue but one that deals with quantifiable rather than qualitative issues: have ya noticed half gallon containers of ice cream aren’t a half gallon anymore? Mr. L’s two ice cream package examples clearly illustrate this new paradigm: the first is 1.75 quarts and the store brand is the new standard – 1.5 quarts. Now I know the powers that be are worried about me and my trans fat (and other fat)intake, but this is just a little too sneaky for my taste. What’s next? 10.5 oz beer cans?

  29. RR Ryan says:

    The whole Pepsi campaign is dreadful. And I’m not saying that just because some of my friends are Co-Cola family. It’s actually worse than New Coke and I really didn’t believe that to be possible.

  30. Ryder Duncan says:

    I kind of liked the new Tropicana cartons, though I guess I never really thought about the difficulty of singling-out of a single kind. Then again, I would be sent into a towering rage if I got home only to find I’d snagged one with pulp by mistake. I can’t drink OJ with pulp. It’s like there’s bits of dead lip skin from a thousand people who have never heard of ChapStick floating around in my juice.

    Looking at the second ice cream carton, it seems they used the wrong graphic–vanilla bean ice cream should have rather prominent little black bits that the manufacturer assures you are not stray iron filings. Also, though I know what they mean, is it necessary to insist that this is “real” ice cream? Perhaps “premium” or “pure” or “not-pumped-with-water-and-air.” But “real?” Is there a problem with Doppelgaenger ice cream these days?

    That said, points for the wafer motif on the lower half. It conjures the image of a cone very nicely, which is rather useless because most people I know just eat this stuff out of a bowl. But, still, we all associate the cone with ice cream, and if we needed a reminder, there’s that cute little ice cream cone right in the center of the logo. The whole things ties together nicely. I’d buy it even if I knew it actually contained frozen, dead white mice. It would just be an excuse to get a pet snake.

  31. GardenStater says:

    LarsWalker, you’re right about the Generics. Here in the Garden State, it was Pathmark that carried them. “Spaghetti,” “Chicken Soup,” even “Beer,” all in plain white containers with black lettering. IIRC, you can see these products in the movie “Repo Man.”

  32. Mikey NTH says:

    Angel Food cake sucks. I say that because I was sick for over a month when I was seven and couldn’t have any sugar (the weekly blood draws were no fun either) and the only desert I could have was Angel Food cake – sugarless. I hated it.

  33. Mikey NTH says:

    The latter ice cream container design has elements of an old logo style in it.

    Nice. It says ‘ice cream’ clearly. They should keep that for a long time.

    Once you have a good logo/package design it should only be changed in dire circumstances – such as a food poisoning outbreak.

  34. DuWayne says:

    The changed design was to keep you from noticing that the old half gallon container has now shrunk from 1.75 qt. to 1.5 qt.

  35. Ryan W. Mead says:

    A few weeks ago, I came up with a great idea for fruit snacks: Tetris fruit snacks. My question was, would anyone buy them? I guess if people would buy Operation fruit snacks, maybe so. Actually, I think the weirdest licensed fruit snack Kellogg’s makes is John Deere fruit snacks.

  36. Ryan W. Mead says:

    “I’d at least have expected the Operation fruit-flavored bits to resemble items from its namesake game. Wrench(ed ankle), (funny) bone, bread (basket), etc. A trifle cannibalistic, perhaps, but otherwise what’s the point of riffing off the game?”

    Looking at Hasbro’s official website, the snacks are based off of pieces from the current Operation, which is known as “Operation Silly Skill Game.” Besides the snack shaped like Cavity Sam (that’s the poor patient’s name), we have five of his symptoms: Frog in Throat, Birdbrain, The Giggles, Dog Tired, and Ringing in Your Ear. Granted, I don’t think that some of these things can actually be cured by a doctor, but what do I know?

  37. Ryder Duncan says:

    “The changed design was to keep you from noticing that the old half gallon container has now shrunk from 1.75 qt. to 1.5 qt.”

    Good catch! I didn’t even notice that.

  38. Reese says:

    Best commenters since… since… Tim Blair’s or

    Every brand of yogurt around here (NM) has gone from eight to six fluid ounces. Even Albertson’s “generic.” What was the point of that? You can’t get a good filling breakfast out of six ounces of yogurt– no volume into which to mix in the raisin bran.

  39. Queeg says:

    The mere concept of “Kellogg’s Fruit Flavored Snacks” is alarming, but the John Deere fruit flavored snacks do indeed kick it up to a whole new level of weirdness. “Treat yourself to some farm fun! Fruit flavored pieces in the shape of common things found around the farm.” Uh, sure. I vaguely recall some of the more “common things found around the farm” and would prefer not to see them represented in the form of fruit flavored snacks.

    Of course, given the various tie-ins associated with this product, perhaps we should just be glad that they weren’t selling this stuff in the mid-1990s:

  40. Ian S. says:

    The “STONE RIDGE” in that second design looks like someone rounded off all the edges in “Chicago”, the original Mac system font. (Ok, the “E” is too weird to explain even that way, but the rest of the letters, man).

  41. Mr_Fastbucks says:

    The real question is, did you ask the store manager’s permission to take those photos? Or are you working covertly under a false sense of bravado with that fancy new camera of yours?

  42. jaed says:

    Is there a problem with Doppelgaenger ice cream these days?

    Actually, yes. Let me sound the clarion call of warning to a peacefully oblivious land: Dreyer’s has something called Thin Mint Cookie that looks like ice cream. It’s in a cylindrical carton like ice cream. It’s found with the ice cream. Only a careful search of the outside for fine print will reveal that it is not ice cream; rather, it is “frozen dairy dessert”.

    And what, might you ask, is a “frozen dairy dessert” and how is it different from ice cream? I had only two clues: the first was the flavor and texture, which were vile – vile enough to cause me to seek out the second clue, on the ingredients list: whey. This stuff was mostly frozen whey.

    Be warned. Keep watching the skies. Etc. Ugh!

  43. Ronsonic says:

    Country Value?

    Well that cake box demonstrates the theoretical maximum of value. Notice the forkful of delicious pudding-enhanced cake and the perfect unviolated wedge of cake. Yes, someone is having his cake and eating it too.

  44. Locomotive Breath says:

    Or as Warren Zevon once put it…

    There ain’t much to country living
    Sweat, piss, jizz and blood

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