Several years ago at a party I met someone who told me that he was packaging scientist. Of course, my initial response was laughter. I mean seriously, have you ever heard of something so fake?? His explanation - that he got his MASTERS degree in order to design cereal boxes - did nothing to help the problem at all. So I stood there dumbfounded and asked him to explain, really explain, what the hell he did every day. As it turns out, there really wasn't much to explain. All of the bottles and boxes and containers and packages that you see at the grocery store are carefully invented and designed by people - smart people - in order to provide the most secure, easy to use, and visually pleasing package. Even now, the whole thing kind of blows my mind.
It's just one of those parts of life that you never think about. And I'm sure there are thousands of jobs out there that are equally, or more, random and are needed to make our society run the way it does, but meeting someone personally really brought that home. To his credit though, every since I met the packaging scientist, I think of that profession whenever looking at something that my food has come in. Just last night I was in the kitchen and found two perfect examples of good and bad packaging science.
Leave it to Cheerios - one of the best foods ever invented - to revolutionize the cereal box. In order to close most cereal boxes you have to slip the little tab into the slit. The problem is that 90% of the time the little slit rips when you initially open the box. As a cereal connoisseur, this annoys the crap out of me. Always has. But the Cheerios box is different. The Cheerios box has the tab and then an indent. Nothing to rip. Revolutionary!!
The upside-down Lite Mayo container. It's a good theory - tip the container so that the product you want is always near the squirt top, thus negating the need for all of the violent shaking that usually occurs while standing over your egg salad. However, the two parts of the bottle on either side of the squirt top trap the mayo, despite the fact that they look like they wouldn't! And if you think for one second that someone as frugal as me is going to just throw away all that mayo away you're crazy. But then it results in a crazy pregnant lady standing in her kitchen with the Crate & Barrel bottle spatula from the wedding registry glaring into the container and coming up with new angles that could get just a LITTLE MORE MAYO out from the traps that it's sitting in. It's not a pretty sight. I have a near obsession with not wasting things and those stupid mayo traps turn me into Lady Macbeth: "Out damn mayo, out!"