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What’s In A Name?

The other day I came across a great article online from Jillian Eugenios that focused on large companies using the name “Artisanal” to describe some of their products. She referenced companies such as Dunkin Donuts and Vlasic who used this term to describe certain lines of their products.

The article discusses how the consumer defines this term and how large companies push the envelope when using this terminology to sell their products.

An artisan (from Italian: artigiano) or craftsman (craftsperson)[1] is a skilled manual worker who makes items that may be functional or strictly decorative, including furniture, clothing, jewelry, household items, and tools or even machines such as the handmade devices of a watchmaker. An artisan is therefore a person engaged in or occupied by the practice of a craft, who may through experience and talent reach the expressive levels of an art in their work and what they create.

The adjective “artisanal” is sometimes used in marketing and advertising as a buzz word to describe or imply some relation with the crafting of handmade food products, such as bread, tofu, beverages, and cheese. Many of these have traditionally been handmade, rural, or pastoral goods but are also now commonly made on a larger scale with automated mechanization in factories and other industrial areas.
(Courtesy of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artisanal )

I know when I hear the term “Artisanal” I’m picturing something being produced in small batches by hand using fresh ingredients. Maybe it’s me but, I don’t equate the term “Artisanal” with products being mass produced with stabilizers, emulsifiers and other additives on a series of conveyer belts.

The author focuses on Dunkin’s new line of Artisanal Bagels. These bagels, like their other line of bagels, are produced in large factories. The only thing that sets the new line apart from the original line of bagels are some of the ingredients being used. Rest assured that there are not skilled bakers in some back room painstakingly kneading the dough. I would also venture to guess that the grains are not being milled on site.

In the world of procurement I see this every day. Ambitious marketing teams try to capitalize on every angle to set their product or service apart from everyone else. Sometimes it’s even comedic. In the restaurants we see this with creative menu speak. Chefs and menu designers become very liberal on their menu descriptors.

In my mind there should be some type of policing of the liberties we take with certain words. Maybe some reading this blog may disagree? Let me ask you this. Do you think it is fair to let Dominos use a term like this to compare their product to an operation that makes their pizza dough by hand and then bakes it off in a wood-fired stove to order each night? Is it fair for Dunkin Donuts to use this label when the bagel place in Midtown Manhattan hand forms and boils their own bagels every morning? How about a large cheese company who mass-produces a line of “Artisanal Cheese” when a small farmer in Wisconsin creates small batches of cheese from the cow they milked that morning? You get the point.

What do you think? Have we taken too many liberties with this? What’s In A Name?

Until Next Time….



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  • Tad Wilkes posted: 25 May at 12:47 pm

    This was the subject of a report on the Daily Show With Jon Stewart recently, casting light on Domino’s Pizza for marketing “Artisinal” pizza, with a trademark!

  • Mike N posted: 28 May at 8:20 am

    I guess everything an artist creates – whether it be pottery, paint or food – starts out as ‘artisinal’ until someone figures out how to mass produce it. Perhaps a new term – mechanisinal – would be more appropriate!