April 22, 2006
Since I consider myself something of a snack specialist, I thought that the best place to learn about cutting-edge snack innovations would be at the recent snack food manufacturers' trade show, SNAXPO™.
I was wrong. Screw conferences. You want to study snacks? Wait until a 7-Eleven opens on your street.
Now, I grew up with a choice between Store 24 and Cumberland Farms, in an area where convenience stores could only be successful by a) selling gasoline or b) supplying a parking lot for teenagers to hang out in and pay homeless men to buy wine coolers for them. So when the 7-Eleven opened on 42nd Street, I thought, how could a store that gives away free coffee with every breakfast sandwich possibly succeed in an enormous retail space in one of the highest-rent areas in Manhattan?
After I returned from SNAXPO™, still unable to bend my fingers due to salt consumption, I decided to investigate for myself. And that is when I realized that 7-Eleven is SNACK NIRVANA. For one thing, not only does the store stock the most creative brand extensions around, it also employs some of New York's most knowledgeable and aggressive salespeople.
Emily: What is this....some new kind of Tic-Tac? Tic-Tac BOLD™?
Clerk: Yes! They're very good!
Emily: Hm...they look neat - but I don't really like Tic-Tacs.
Clerk: Oh, these are much better than regular Tic-Tac.
Clerk: Oh yes! Much better! But we still have the old kind, too.
Emily: Ok, I'll take one of each. And those Chile Picante Corn Nuts.
Besides Tic-Tac BOLD™, which comes in a pleasing squeezable container updated for the 21st century, my 7-Eleven is currently featuring:
Seven flavors and shapes of Cheez-its™, including Fiesta Cheddar Nacho™ and Twisterz Cheddar and More Cheddar™ (don't bother; they're really just regular Cheez-its™ with a coating of Kraft Mac and Cheese powder)
A wide assortment of my favorite candy ever, Laffy Taffy™, in bold flavors such as "Sparkle Jerry Cherry", which is not only approximately two feet long, but ALSO has a sparkly sugar coating
and Heineken Mini-Kegs for $19.99.
But 7-Eleven's boldest, most daring product - I dare say, even more creative than Burger King's Chicken Fries, which are designed to fit in your car's cupholder - is almost too much to comprehend.
"Why waste all this space on our hot dog roller grill," 7-Eleven marketing executives must have said to themselves, "When we could appeal to people who want hot, cylindrical foods other than hot dogs? And what do Americans love more than hot dogs? Pizza!"
And so, the 7-Eleven Twista™ was born. (Not, of course, to be confused with the Cheez-it Twisterz™ mentioned above)
While the Twista™ and its roller-grill companion snack the Taquito still appear to be in the pilot phase, I applaud 7-Eleven's ingenuity. I can only hope that these are but the first of many snack foods, like the Chicken Fry, that are tailored with our unique American cultural tastes* and habits** in mind.
*By which I mean, salt and fat
**By which I mean, laziness and gluttony
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