What Is "Cream of Tartar??"

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I was in the grocery store the other day, standing near the customer service counter. A woman in her late 30s came up to the counter and asked, “Where can I find Cream of Tartar? My son needs it for a science project.”

The customer service person (who was in her early 20s) looked lost. She didn’t know what Cream of Tartar was either. I piped up and told her it was in the baking aisle, and that it was a white powder in a bottle.

Cream of Tartar, for those who are curious, is used for baking. It’s been around for nearly 200 years (or possibly more). Baking powder is made up of baking soda plus cream of tartar. I can remember my grandmother and mother using it, and every Christmas I dutifully buy a bottle of it to bake Christmas cookies.

So why didn’t this woman know what it was? And why didn’t the grocery store employee know what it was? Because, according to an article I read recently, this current generation is the first generation of people who don’t know how to cook or bake. They use pre-packaged foods and microwave them (or order out). Their mothers and fathers didn’t cook, so they never learned how.

Lesson For The Business Owner: Just because you sell something doesn’t mean that people:

  • Know what it is
  • Know what it’s used for
  • Know where to find it
  • Know how to use it in their daily life

The key here isn’t to bash the generation of people who don’t know how to cook. It’s to understand that you, as the small business owner, have to pay attention to your customers’ needs, and educate them if necessary.

The moral of the story is:

  1. Know what your customers need (instead of guessing)
  2. Educate them on your products and services so they undertand why and how they can use them.
  3. If they aren’t going to use your products in the originally-intended fashion, figure out other creative uses for them (like a science project) or dump the services and products and find new ones that fulfill a need

And next time you go into the baking aisle, take a look around. It just might be a whole new world for you and a strong reminder of generational changes affecting a whole industry!

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