Food Engineering

Editors Note: Need to feed at full-speed? Indeed

March 28, 2003
This past June I had the honor of being invited to judge the annual DuPont Awards for packaging.

Joyce Fassl
Editor in Chief
e-mail: fasslj@bnp.com


The award winners, as well as the many others entered, embodied the true spirit of technological innovation in our industry in both the use of machinery and materials. Quirky but convenient peanut butter and jelly packaged in slices was honored as well as a pasta product featuring oxygen scavenging film.

Two of this year's award winners, Campbell's Soup at Hand and Procter & Gamble's Torengos tortilla chips in a triangular can, are part of a new era in convenience packaging--foods that fit in the car cup holder.

No doubt about it, Americans are eating and drinking more in their cars. So much so that I think it may be time to start buying stock in the car detailing business. To save time, I am now drinking my morning can of Diet Cherry Coke in the car. I know drinking sodas while driving is not a good idea, so I limit my imbibing to stops at red lights or completely stopped traffic jams. I live by the same rules for my cell phone. However, I am beginning to feel very alone.

I feel no great necessity to eat in my car, but I can understand the big attraction. I spent two years commuting almost every week between the Philadelphia and Washington DC metro areas--that's at least two and a half hours each way. I have to admit, at that time, I ate at least one meal per week in my car--the only difference is that my car was stopped.

As I waited in the toll booth lines along I-95, I often fantasized, "If only the toll collector was also a Wendy's cashier.” With that stressful and time-consuming commute, I admit I'd do just about anything to save the 25-30 minutes it took to get off the road, find a place to eat quickly, and hop back on the road.

Whether you're on the highway or just driving around the neighborhood, here's a driving scenario we've all experienced. You see a swerving vehicle up ahead and begin to wonder if the driver is drunk. This happened to me a few weeks ago. As I pulled up next to the car at a red light, I could see that the person was not drunk, just insane. This mini-van driver was talking on the cell phone with one hand and eating an ice cream cone with the other.

Recent research reports show that chili, barbecued foods, and fried chicken are the worst foods to consume while driving. I don't know about you, but I don't need a research report to tell me eating while driving is not a good idea. I assume the average person would be intelligent enough to know that simultaneously eating an ice cream cone, talking on a hand-held cell phone and driving a motor vehicle is a very deadly combination.

From my I-95 commuter days, I have a few unusual road stories to tell. Although this next one has nothing to do with food, it's a classic example of how people are becoming more distracted while behind the wheel. I noticed a car up ahead traveling much too slowly in the middle lane of the highway. The driving was holding up what looked like a large piece of paper.

I assumed the driver was lost and checking a map. Not quite. I as passed, I could see very clearly that the driver reading the Sharper Image catalog.

It's amazing what people will do in their cars, sometimes at a deadly cost to themselves and others. But for food and beverage manufacturers, the car as breakfast, lunch and dinner table is a trend that will continue to grow. I am beginning to wonder how long it will be before our industry will be required to label products with the following statement: "Do not consume while operating a motor vehicle."