In Pursuit of the Perfect Spaghetti Sauce: The Nature of Choice and Happiness

Story by Laura Qualey

Many consumers rarely take a second thought to wonder why one product may have so many variations. Malcolm Gladwell, a New Yorker staff writer, popular blogger and author of four books, has been known to expose the understanding of many things that often remain unknown to the public. What was exposed today? The story of one man’s pursuit to change the way the food industry approaches creating foods that will please the general public.

Gladwell retold the story of renowned psychophysicist Howard Moskowitz this morning and his major contribution to the food industry: the reinvention of spaghetti sauce.

Moskowitz, throughout his career had been approached by companies who asked him to help create a better (or different) product to satisfy their customers.

Moskowitz shattered the assumption that asking a consumer what he or she prefers is the best path to creating a great product. After conducting experiments with perplexing data, Moskowitz discovered that the best way to make the consumers happy was to “group data into clusters.” Gladwell concluded that Moskowitz saved Campbell’s by grouping people’s taste preferences into three categories: plain, spicy and chunky.

After Moskowitz advised Campbell’s to create three new Prego sauces to satisfy its customers, it was reported that over ten years Campbell’s made $600 million in profits off the extra chunky sauce alone. Gladwell’s main point during his presentation: “When we pursue universal principles in food, we don’t just make an error, we do ourselves a disservice.” In short, embracing the diversity of human beings finds a sure way to happiness.