With the release for sale on Sept. 21 of the iPhone 5 by Apple Inc., it’s unlikely grain-based foods executives will have focused on the incredible commonalities between their products and Apple’s. After all, the iPhone is gradually approaching the level of household penetration of bread and other wheat based-foods. And as is the case with bread, consumers worry every several years about shortages, lining up at stores and quickly leaving shelves empty.
A little less “tongue in cheek,” the iPhone and wheat-based foods both endure incessant sniping from critics yet remain incredibly popular with the public. It is in the sphere of criticisms that actual lessons may be applied in baking from Apple. The most oft heard criticism of the iPhone 5 is that it does not represent a technological “breakthrough.”
The 5 is not much different than the 4S, which isn’t much different from the 4. Yet, the 4S flew out the door, and the 5 appears poised for the same. The criticisms miss the point that consumers have fallen in love with the basic product – the iPhone, both for its functionality and qualities as a “carrier” (a familiar term for bakers) – of a diverse range of apps.
Consumers aren’t demanding something entirely new. The key to Apple’s success is the company’s carefully considered incremental enhancements with each new generation of the phone. For example, the screen becomes a bit larger, but the phone itself remains a size users do not find unwieldy.
It would be completely wrong to dismiss a comparison to how, in bread, a range of incremental improvements have demonstrated the potential to make a great and perennially popular product better still. The addition of folic acid, the advent of “made with whole grains” products, and the exploration of vitamin D as an added microingredient are three examples that come to mind. Other examples of failed attempts by bakers to “overreach” and “over innovate” also come to mind.
Even if the payout from judicious future changes will not match the riches earned these days by Apple, a mindset of continued enhancement of wheat-based foods certainly is worthwhile for baking.