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Do Supermarket Grocery Stores Have Too Many Items?

Updated on February 18, 2020
Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle spends as much time in the kitchen as she does at a keyboard. It's no surprise that cooking and food are favorite article subjects.

1943-- Grand Grocery Co. Lincoln, Nebraska. Oranges for a penny apiece. Squeeze your own orange juice, and you'll have no packaging trash to toss. [Library of Congress- Public Domain image.]
1943-- Grand Grocery Co. Lincoln, Nebraska. Oranges for a penny apiece. Squeeze your own orange juice, and you'll have no packaging trash to toss. [Library of Congress- Public Domain image.]

Fewer Products That Stayed in The Same Place

A supermarket I used to frequent, recently underwent a marketing reorganization.

Translated roughly, that means "change of heart", but since we all know that supermarkets have NO heart, it really means that everything is now in a different place than it used to be.

It's bad enough that items, like orange juice or toothpaste, have multiplied into hundreds of varieties and permutations, making it impossible to decide which one you really want.

In the old-fashioned market, there used to be one kind of orange juice, and one kind of toothpaste , and it was always in the same place.
Simple, quick and easy.

Orange juice: How many kinds?

My supermarket choices of orange juice.
My supermarket choices of orange juice. | Source

Pulp Fact and Fiction

Today, for instance, when buying OJ, you now have to know what level of pulp you want or don't want.

You also need to decide if you want added calcium, a blend with other fruit juices, extra vitamins, minerals, juice from concentrate or "fresh squeezed".

Each, of several brands, has its own version of all of the choices in all possible combinations which could theoretically add up to about seventeen thousand kinds.

You can get "fresh from the grove", calcium + vitamin D (lots of pulp or no pulp), or else "Original" (pulp free) or even "Home-style" (some pulp).

There's also a "Simple Orange Country Stand Orange Juice" (medium pulp, apparently with an actual country stand in it).

There is a "Simple, Grove Made" (high pulp), because they are probably not able to de-pulp it right there in the orange grove.

An antioxidant (no pulp) version touts age-fighting properties, and there's the "health for your heart with Omega-3" variety (they put fish oil in it? or walnuts?), and another special choice for the health of your kids (no pulp), plus low acid styles (also no pulp).

You might even see, Pure Orange, Premium Pulpy, Valencia Orange, Navel Orange, Blood Orange, Plus Orange, Plasma Orange, Laser Orange, Neon Orange, Clockwork Orange and Turbo Orange. You might.

In addition to the additives already mentioned, you can get "Original Home-Squeezed Style ”with more juicy bits of orange”, or "Grower Style” with "the MOST juicy bits of orange”.

Does somebody count the bits? How can I know if I'm getting the most or just more?

The Corner Grocery Store. 1940

1940 -- Shulman's Market Washington D.C.   [Library of Congress -- Public Domain image]
1940 -- Shulman's Market Washington D.C. [Library of Congress -- Public Domain image]

Some juices have extra vitamin A,B,C, and most of the rest of the alphabet, plus all of the minerals on the periodic table of elements.

Some of the blends are intriguing: Orange Strawberry/Banana, Orange/Mango, Orange/Pineapple, Orange /Tangerine, Orange/Acai.

What's next? Orange/Chayote?, Orange/Prickly Pear? Orange/Pumpkin? Orange/Loofa?

OJ is already one of the most healthful food products on supermarket shelves. Why do they have to tinker with it so much?

Specializing in soda pop?

1940-- Grocery Store-- Natchez Mississippi.  [Library of Congress-- Public Domain image.]
1940-- Grocery Store-- Natchez Mississippi. [Library of Congress-- Public Domain image.]

It Happens All Over the Store.

Toothpaste choices are even worse. In fact, most categories of supermarket items have gone through the same "varitization" process, until we can't even find the plain original products any more.

We don't need any more new and improved choices to soak up our shopping minutes. We are already on choice overload.

Along with that, we are in a hurry.

When we go into a familiar store, we hope to find things in the same place where they were located last time we shopped. Does this happen?


Even if they haven't added a lot of extra choices since the last time you shopped (but, of course, they have), It is apparently mandatory to switch items around every couple of weeks. The soups, previously located on aisle three, are now on aisle eleven. The cookies which have always been on aisle five are now on fourteen.

The road less traveled--to the Grocery store

1940 -- General Store-- Cuesta, New Mexico [Library of Congress -Public Domain image.]
1940 -- General Store-- Cuesta, New Mexico [Library of Congress -Public Domain image.]

Impulse Buyer's Paradise

I'm sure they change the locations of our regularly bought items so we have to stop and look at everything twice.

It is like being on an Easter egg hunt, except not as much fun even if you can find the eggs.

In this particular reorganization, somebody had apparently been playing a matching game of grocery-related accessory item associations.

Bottles of wine and boxes of fresh mushrooms were stashed between cuts of prime beef.

Cheese graters were in the cheese bin, as if we wouldn't otherwise know what they were for.

Fresh garlic was near the pasta, muffin tins dangled above the baking mixes, catsup and mustard dispensers stood among the condiments, mugs hung in the coffee aisle, can openers were cannily stashed among the canned goods.

Bagels were snuggled up beside the cream cheese . . . bread and butter, pretzels and beer, and --most insidious of all-- cheap Chinese toys in the cereal row.

It is now an impulse buyer's paradise, and a purgatory for those who actually know what they are looking for.

"Store Wars" by FreeRangeStudios

"May the Farm Be With You!"

Cuke Skywalker gets advice from Obi One Cannoli in this supermarket version of the space epic.

Will Cuke learn the truth about Dark Tater? Watch the video above, and find out.

The Search

An elderly gentleman stood pondering rows of cleaning products, with a spouse-written list in hand.

A passing shopper offered assistance, but when he asked his question she shook her head and said, "I haven't seen that for a long time . . . I don't think they make it anymore."

"Well," he said looking at his note again, "It's on my list."

"I don't know," she said thoughtfully re-scanning the shelves, "How old is your list?"

It seems to be true that a lot of the old-fashioned, tried and true products are now longer available.

They have been replaced by the dozens and dozens of "new and improved" products which have been "specially formulated" for the purpose of confusing us.

Shopping used to be simpler.

It is easy to see what is located at the eye-level of a child sitting in the cart: expensive junk toys, candy, and more candy that is disguised as breakfast cereals.

It's hard enough for the big people to avoid temptations, leading children astray in this manner is unconscionable.

You would think the produce department would be easy to navigate, but now we have to decide if we want organic, even though the "regular" produce isn't labeled as non-organic.

I wonder if it is plastic. A lot of it is wrapped in plastic.

By accident (or by market manager's plan) I did happen to find some plain, medium sized drinking glasses somewhere in the reorganized maze. When the cashier saw them, she remarked that she would like to have some of the same kind. Did I remember were I found them?

Let's see . . . next to the fruit juices? . . . in the dairy case? . . . no, it seems there were at room temperature. I tried to give clues.

I don't shop at that market any more. I dislike the obvious effort to tempt me into buying something I don't need.

When I think back on it, I have a vision of a person who has recently been awarded a degree in marketing-- a psychology minor-- who spends his nights in the darkened store, sleeplessly rearranging things into logically linked combinations: Cheese and crackers, peaches and cream, champagne and caviar, partridges and pears. . . Bay Laurel and Hardy. . . Paul and Oats . . .

Shopping used to be much simpler.

Shopping Poll

How do you feel about grocery shopping?

See results

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