You’re not fooling me Drake’s, I know about the coffee cakes


The following essay was produced as part of my 2013 effort for the November National Novel Writing Month effort. As such, please understand that while I did give it a quick review, it has not gone through the same proofreading and editing I normally try to give all of the material posted on this site.

I always make some mistakes. There are errors to be found throughout this web site, and many exist despite dozens of attempts to correct problems. That said, ask that you approach this material in the spirit intended – a basic thought, slightly worked out and very informally researched, delivered in the hopes of writing more than 50,000 words by the end of November.

Thank you.

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I know you’ve all seen the incredible shrinking package in the grocery store. Things are no longer a gallon or a quart in the ice cream section.

And chances are good that even your nearby neighborhood markets and stores have raised prices slightly… or adjust product sizes accordingly.

In fact… while this story is a few months old, the concept works perfectly for where we are headed.

I don’t completely agree with Jill Cataldo’s statement that: “You should be able to get 24 cupcakes out of cake mix.” However… I’m not sure that’s the literal thing she meant. I mean…

Jill may very well make her cupcakes, and every time ends up with two dozen. And the idea that she has created a filler, or supplement, to get her twenty-four cupcakes back doesn’t support my claim that she didn’t literally mean a box of cake mix should give you exactly so many cupcakes. Instead…

If you read the column further, you saw how things have been a bit dishonest in the world of food products.

Packaging adjusted to hide shirking mounts of product. (Note the example of peanut butter.)

Adjusting recipes. (Really? Replacing cream with air?)

And, the most wonderful concept of all -- package less product and reduce the size of the container, and then… no… body… move… don’t… even… breath… and maybe the shopper won’t notice.

And when we do notice… the shell game is on. Everything is in a constant state of new and improved. So these changes and adjustments and, frankly, ways of misdirecting or confusing the consumer, end up being turned around into a (my words) “it’s not us, it’s you” accusation. And honestly, when you step out of the environment and view it, it’s like watching Martin Short bring Nathan Thurm to life.

(This link will bring you to a transcript for one of the all-time great Saturday Night Live appearances of Thurm.)

As many of you know, the return of Twinkies… of Hostess… is being branded as one of the greatest in history. And, as part of that, the Drake’s Coffee Cakes are back now as well. The other day… a box showed up in our house. And inside were the coffee cakes.

Honestly… I couldn’t tell you if they are smaller now than they were before Hostess took its break from production. Things were shrinking on store shelves months and years ago. What I can tell you is that after opening the box, I sighed with the realization that they were smaller.

Let’s for a moment consider Twinkies.

Twinkie the Kid, and the cream-filled golden cakes of my youth were a treat. But somewhere along the line, things changed.

I have no clue where.

I was never a huge Twinkie fan. I really liked them. I enjoyed them as a treat now and again. But I didn’t see them while out shopping and suddenly collapse and give in to a craving of unspeakable strength. They were kind of just there. And that led to an interesting cycle of events over the past ten to fifteen years.

If I had to give it a date, I’d say we are now around 1996 or 1997. Tigg and I were heading toward our marriage, and we’d be out shopping for our house. In addition to the normal purchase for breakfasts, lunches and dinners, a few snack items would make their way into the cart. And… one day… Terry spotted Twinkies on sale, explained that she liked them, and a box was purchased.

And it wasn’t the same.

Funny thing though… according to any record you can imagine trying to check out… nothing had been changed. According to the Hostess-loving-world, these Twinkies were made the same way as the ones I enjoyed decades before. (And some will claim they could have even been the same ones I enjoyed decades earlier… though that is a myth for a different time.)

I don’t really know how to explain it. The cake didn’t seem as fresh. The cream filling didn’t seem as creamy. It was almost as if you showed a picture of a Twinkie to someone that had never eaten one… explained yellow cake and vanilla cream filling… and off they went to make some. Yeah, it looked the same. But the taste was off.

As you get older (I won’t say as you grow up), tastes do change. Things are never quite the same. Maybe it’s the manufacturer changing things… maybe it’s your preferences in determining likes and dislikes… and maybe it’s simply time just playing tricks on you. The thing is… you could claim that the only major change over the years was whether or not they included a banana-cream filling… these Twinkies didn’t shake the world for me, and if I was going to cheat with a snack, there were better places to find those empty calories.

Once every two or three years though… the details of the “it’s not the same experience” would fade… and Tigg and I would be there in the store… and Twinkies would be prominently displayed for one reason or another… and again we’d try them.

And again… not the same.

So when it was announced that Hostess was going out of business, I was not one of those carrying signs, rushing to stores to get some boxes from what could have been the final delivery ever, and looking for ways to vent my disappointment through social media.

Honestly? I didn’t care.

It was a story though… so perhaps a link or two in a passing entry on the daily journal of In My Backpack. But it wasn’t anything I would be writing letters to try and change.

Now… why the Twinkies story?

Two reasons.

First, when they came back to the stores, Tigg and I did buy some and try them. And you know what… they tasted better. Something was absolutely different, despite all denials and claims of production.

Second, the rumors began swirling that they were smaller. And, for the most part, media sources found information showing that Hostess had actually reduced portion sizes before they went out of business in 2012. And that meant that the new methods of baking… supposedly relaying on the “final batch produced before going out of business” recipes and directions… were delivering the same product as before. So to speak.

Which brings us back to the coffee cakes and Drake’s.

See… chances are the portion size was reduced years ago and it isn’t something brand new or aligned with the comeback.


Down the road several miles from my house is a tremendous bakery. Love the place. Incredibly inexpensive and the quality is just beyond outstanding. Recently we began noticing that a few of the items are a bit smaller in serving sizes. The brownies are cut just a wee bit smaller… the donuts seem just a tad smaller… and they actually went up a dime or so per item in cost.

We don’t care.

Compared to other bakeries we’ve been to in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts (and honestly, anywhere), this one makes significantly more delicious pastries and the cost is usually ridiculously below what is collected elsewhere. You want them to succeed and stay in business, and also realize that your wallet would be far lighter (and your tastes not even remotely as satisfied) at any other place.

I suppose you could say… supply and demand.

Go back to that first article I linked to in outlining the overall issue here. They discuss packaging of peanut butter. And the reality is… smaller containers or no, we as consumers make our choices. And the products we stand behind, with collective purchases, stay in business. It’s no different than the vast majority of television decisions -- you can love a show and consider it the greatest thing ever, if it doesn’t have some sort of ratings or numbers to back it up beyond you and you alone watching it the show isn’t staying on the air.

Do consumers want Drake’s Coffee Cakes? Do they care about the size of a Twinkie?

They’re not fooling us, though in many deceptive ways I think they want to. And yet, it may not matter whether they do or not. We’ll vote with our purchases. And in that regard, fool me once… fool me twice… fool me any number of times… many products may disappear with the changes, and many will remain.


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