Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell gets inside the food industry's pursuit of the perfect spaghetti sauce — and makes a larger argument about the nature of choice and happiness.
Journalist Malcolm Gladwell talks about Howard Moskowitz, an American market researcher and psychophysicist. Howard is famous for creating new spaghetti sauces for Prego, and his research for finding the best spaghetti sauce that makes consumers happy. In his research, he found out that providing a large number of options and variety of food for the consumers allows them to find their favorite one, which seems obvious but back in the 70s and 80s, people believed that spaghetti sauce had to be like the original italian tomato sauce. Gladwell says that Howard “changed what the food industry thinks that makes everyone happy”.
Gladwell, through his talk expresses his feelings about the nature of choices and happiness. He says, that nobody knows what they really want deep down. He uses examples from Howard’s research, of testing 45 different spaghetti sauce on Americans from many different states, grouping the sauces into three big groups. Howard finds that a third of Americans like extra chunky spaghetti sauce, but no one, after a long period of research told him that they actually like extra chunky spaghetti sauce. From this example, Gladwell describes how we can not always explain our desires.
[youtube height=”500″ width=”800″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIiAAhUeR6Y[/youtube]
Another thing that he portrayed through his talk is that there is no way of doing things one way. For example, he said that food industries thought that there was this one perfect way of making a dish. But in reality, there isn’t. People in the food industry were looking for cooking universals, to find one way to treat all of the customers. But now, it is more about looking for the variability than the universal. The last thing Gladwell said was that everything is on a horizontal plane. He gave mustard as an example here, saying that there is no good mustard or bad mustard. Just because something is more expensive or has cultural background to it, it doesn’t mean it’s better. There are different kinds of mustard that suit different kinds of people.
This TED talk allowed me to learn that even in the food industry, there have been researches to find the true meaning of happiness. It is interesting how Howard found out that we can not find happiness with just asking people because we actually really don’t know what makes us happy deep down. But on the other hand, I think some people actually know what they want, so this information varies. Gladwell mentions that a price of a product doesn’t make it better or worse, because everything is on a horizontal line. This information is not really backed up with evidence, because this statement could not be true. In fact most of the time, better priced food comes in better quality.