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    The Zip-Lock Marketing Conspiracy

    Nov 9th, '01

    "I am still befuddled by the scorning of the zip-lock bag"

    Zip-lock bags are a flagrant scam perpetrated against hard working American consumers. This is one of the worst examples of corporate greed in the last 50 years. Alarmist you say? Here's the side of the story you haven't been told.

    We take food storage bag products for granted. They are a tiny part of our daily routine, and we toss them into our shopping basket without ever wondering why the quaint, plain baggies of our youth have been almost totally replaced by the now famous Zip-Lock Food Storage Bag. We place our trust in the high tech food storage marvel.

    But just under the surface lies the true story which is much less innocuous.

    While being fed a steady ration of cute commercials, we assume that zip-lock bags (ZLBs) are inherently better than the plain storage bags (PSBs). It also seems logical that they would keep foods fresher longer. In addition we appreciate that they are more convenient.

    But none of those things are true!

    A little history: In 1964, Glad Corporation introduced the "Ziplock" method as an improvement on the traditional baggie which had been developed by Mobile Oil Company in 1958. Glad also started marketing different sizes, color coding, etc.

    Initially we take this as "just another example of American know-how making life a little easier".1 In effect the introduction of ZLBs was a wonderful example of the inevitable inertia of American ingenuity. But in fact the move away from PSBs was nothing more than a marketing and PR ploy to increase profits with a defective product.

    With TV becoming a constant in American life, PSB manufacturers quickly realized there was no way to effectively market a clear plastic sack on this new high tech medium. They needed a bag that was also high tech. Something flashy.

    In addition to that, profits for PSBs were awful. Since they were so easy to make, any manufacturer who tried to raise prices and increase profits would be quickly undercut by less expensive brands. They needed some way to justify higher prices.

    Enter the Ziplock system. The fancy zipper, heavier material, and nifty color coding made it a marketing department's wet dream. This would all be well and good if ZLBs lived up to the marketing hype we've been raised on for the last 25 years. Unfortunately the new style bags fail on almost every level.

    We have been led to believe that ZLBs keep food fresher longer. This is not true. Food stays fresher in a bag since it is shielded from the oxidizing effects of air. However, ZLBs need to be made of thicker material to support the zip mechanism (and also justify the higher price). This added thickness makes it harder to squeeze the ambient air out of the bag. In fact it's so difficult to get the last 25% of the air out that most homemakers simply don't bother. This contrasts with PSBs which are easily pressed close to the food before they are sealed with a quick twist.

    Zip-lock bags encase food in a moist, oxygen rich pouch that is the perfect growing environment for mold, bacteria and fly larva. ZLB marketers avoid this issue altogether. In TV commercials we are distracted from this obvious failure by bags filled with bees and goldfish. We are dazzled by a color coded sealing mechanism so that we won't stop to wonder about the vast amount of stale air surrounding the food we're trying to keep fresh. We are tricked into thinking that simply twisting a bag closed is somehow harder than manipulating a finicky zipper apparatus.

    In short, zip-lock bags are harder to use, more expensive, and fail to keep food fresh.

    It could only be through unfair marketing practices and consumer fraud that such an expensive and defective product could gain such a dominant market share. Despite the fact the all right thinking consumers prefer PSBs, many grocery store outlets no longer carry the old style of baggie. One can only imagine the monopolistic business practices that led to the elimination of this clearly superior product.

    This careful manipulation of consumer behavior should not be tolerated! Do not give in to shady marketing shenanigans. Insisting on plain food storage bags will be better for you and long term consumer confidence in general.

    Well...... I hope we all learned something.

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