It’s a well-known episode in food marketing that the original cake mixes, which required little more than water, mixing and baking, were something of a flop until the makers added the step of adding an egg, a spoonful of oil, and other such simple ingredients. It didn’t make much difference in the end product - powdered egg and dry-mix oil substitutes did just fine - but it gave the cook a sense of “real cooking” and that they were making a better product ‘almost from scratch’ and so forth. (Next time you make something from a box and add some simple ingredient, remember that it’s basically behavioral engineering and not food science.)
I find Starbuck’s current push to be in much the same vein. They don’t steep their cold-brew coffee in any kind of soulless industrial process… “Your barista hand-steeps it for 20 hours.” Wow. That race-theory expert in the green apron spent most of the last day making your cold coffee. Be humble.
Now I see an add for their fruity drinky thing of the week, with the cutline, “Your barista hand-shakes it 10 times to release the subtle flavors” or some such.
Not false except in the specifics; I should have known better than to stick to the “everybody knows” version. Most such stories from the old days are a polished distortion of an underlying truth. Most food products, especially these days, have marketing/behavioral engineering far exceeding this homely little legend.
Choose any story about “hand made” or “home-style” or “Mom’s recipe” foods turned out by a division of General Dynamics. I simply find Starbuck’s dusting off of the trope amusing.
I guess what I find amusing here is that Starbucks, the behemothic McDonald’s of coffee, has turned up the “little corner cafe with an owner that really, really cares about you” channel. With national advertising. Not the first to do so, by any means (coughapplecough) but the recycling of the handmade/homemade/Real Ingredients by Real People sort of trope is… entertaining.
As a former barista at a far smaller chain in 2000, where we were already cold brewing every day, I find the Starbucks take on it amusing. Night people would grind it and dump it in a pitcher with water, leave it on the counter. Morning people would strain it and stick it in the fridge. Whoa, so carefully hand crafted!
If you read the Snopes writeup, the gist of the story is true: the “add ingredients” change was made to bolster the market through allaying the guilt of the buyer/cook. That came some years after the introduction and initial success of box mixes, and boosted their use until the decline in cooking took the market to success.
Summarizing it as I did, in the conventional version that the change caused the initial acceptance, is both wrong and the simpler “everybody knows” form. It’s not “gild the lily,” either, but I doubt any but an MFA in creative writing would correct the quote.
What’s super-dumb about that is that the article mentions some kind of cookies and cream milkshake that’s “hand spun”, and made essentially the same way that Dairy Queen Blizzards and Sonic blasts have been made for a quarter of a century at the very least.
But yeah, the whole Starbucks thing is 100% marketing BS. “Hand steeped?” Is there any difference between that and a machine that would dispense an exact amount of grounds, steep it in cold water for a precise amount of time, and then strain it? Probably not anything good; if anything the “hand steeping” would open the process up to much more variation- one batch might be short on grounds and steeped for 18.5 hours, and the next may be a little heavy on grounds, and steeped for 21 hours.
I don’t begrudge the marketing people their inanities; they have a living to make, and that’s how you do that particular job. Who I do begrudge are the simpletons out there who swallow this stuff hook, line and sinker.
“By Hand” is about as meaningless as “Natural” is, yet it appeals to people’s notions of not being cold, soulless, mechanical or artificial, when it actually means nothing of the sort. IMO, the whole organic food movement and anti-GMO business are just an extension of this kind of thinking, and equally flawed and incorrect.