1-pound Loaf (Pepperidge Farm, Inc.)
Your morning rituals may involve coffee, but mine center on toast. I don t know who first thought of heating a slice of bread until it got all brown and crispy (Webster's Ninth dates toast to the fifteenth century), but it sure was a fine idea.
I just love toast -- white toast, rye toast, raisin toast, wheat toast, toasted English muffins, toasted bagels -- whatever. As a friend of mine once said -- and I m jealous not to have said it first -- bread is just raw toast.
So you can understand how excited I was when Pepperidge Farm recently unveiled their Toasting Bread line. Imagine -- bread specifically made for toasting! This sounded like the greatest thing since sli -- uh, right.
Still, toast is a very personal matter -- one person's almost-burnt is another's just-right, and you may discard the heel slice while I savor it most of all. Which factors would Pepperidge Farm consider when devising a toast-tailored loaf?
The main factor, as it turns out, is heft. A slice of Toasting Bread is much thicker than your average slice, one result of which is that there are only 10 Toasting Bread slices to a pound loaf, compared to 18 slices in a loaf of conventional Pepperidge Farm white.
Or, to take a more cynical view, at the typical rate of two slices per breakfast, Toasting Bread will have you running back to the store for another loaf four days sooner.
Pepperidge Farm Corporate Communications Vice President Edie Anderson says it s a bit more complex than that, however. Toasting Bread is a specially formulated product, she explained, not just another bread sliced thick. Anderson said the firm s market research shows toast consumers are hankering for precisely what Toasting Bread offers: a thicker, denser slice that gets crunchier on the outside while staying squishy on the inside.
When I asked if consumers were also allowed to use Toasting Bread for, say, making a sandwich, she said, Absolutely -- we don't mind at all. But in a moment of surprising candor, she later admitted that untoasted Toasting Bread really doesn t have as full a flavor as regular bread.
She had fewer reservations when I asked if Toasting Bread was suitable for feeding to ducks.
Pepperidge Farm has been selling a 15-slice toasting version of their white bread since about 1970. But as one of their fact sheets puts it, the new Toasting Bread represents their big push to compete for more of the breakfast eating occasion. The three initial varieties -- white, wheat, and seven-grain -- were test-marketed last summer and launched nationally in December, and have now been joined by raisin-oat and cinnamon.
The package wrapper and the firm's coupon advertising both attempt to liken the product to English muffins (which according the fact sheet constitute a $381 million business and, as Anderson pointed out, are used almost exclusively in toasted form ), but that isn t even a fair fight -- Toasting Bread doesn t have enough textural variety to justify the comparison.
That said, Toasting Bread does make a decent batch of toast. I sometimes find it a bit too thick -- two slices feel like more of an entree than an appetizer -- but the extra density is great for dunking, if you re so inclined.
Try as I might to focus on this product's practical utility, however, I keep coming back to the larger implications. Specifically, what does it mean when manufacturers begin marketing this sort of extreme compartmentalization of function? As another acquaintance of mine remarked when she first heard of Toasting Bread, what ll they think of next -- Sniffing Glue? (Pepperidge Farm, Inc., Norwalk, CT 06856)