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Beware Pad Thai that glitters

Not all Pad Thais are created equal. Just ask Ms Jalili’s Year 10 Food Technology students who have been road-testing some of the packet mixes, sauces, frozen meals and café-made Pad Thais on the market.

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We all know the proverb: all that glitters is not gold. Well, as part of their inquiry into Food Product Development, Ms Jalili challenged her Year 10 Food students to see beyond the fancy packaging on many supermarket shelves and find out for themselves, whether the Pad Thai kits, sauces and frozen meals, as well as a shop-bought Pad Thai from the local Thai café, were as delicious and easy to cook as their packaging suggested.

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We can all be a bit magpie-like when we are perusing the supermarket aisles. Some packaging sings to us. Others, not so much. Ms Jalili challenged her students to think about what it is about different packaging that might attract consumers. What target market are they trying to appeal to through their packaging and why? She asked the students to think about cost, value for money (ie. the ingredients that needed to be added to each kit) and also, how easy each meal was to prepare.

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The students were divided up into teams of two. Each team was given a sauce or packet mix and a choice of protein: tofu, prawns and chicken. Ms Jalili had the dubious joy of heating up a Pad Thai in a bag, complete with chunks of chicken, as well as a frozen Pad Thai meal – both, she guessed, would probably appeal to university students.

In cooking their Pad Thais, the students quickly realised that not all Pad Thais are created equally. Some looked exactly like they did on the packet; others very poor imitations. And when they considered the difference in cost, they realised that fancy packaging can be very costly on the purse!

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Once they’d finished cooking, Ms Jalili lined up all the dishes in a row, next to their packaging, so that the students could do a taste test. She also included a tofu and chicken Pad Thai from the local Thai café… which unsurprisingly, appealed to everyone the most!

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It was an interesting exercise in understanding the impact of packaging on consumer behaviour and buying decisions.