Small can versus environmental determinism

How to connect a simple holiday observation to some grand theory? (“Why more like?” I hear you ask. Sorry. No answer to that one.)

Well try this – and please do comment as I’m genuinely intrigued by this – but I think the grand old Victorian theory of Environmental Determinism is well and truly at large again in the world of beer.

Why at home are we (and I’m thinking men here) only happy to drink pints, or buy large cans? I’ve seen it for years now, in research groups, or just chatting to drinkers in offies and supermarkets : offer anything other than pints or 440ml / 500ml cans and the response is a flat “no”. “Too small”, “For girls”, “There’s only two sips in there”. Halves are bad enough, but 330ml cans have been tried and never worked (except it seems for Gold Label and perhaps Heineken’s little ‘mini barrel’). They’re just not manly enough.

Go to the continent on holiday though, sit yourself down with friends on the veranda and share a BBQ and everyone’s tucking in. “Good these, aren’t they?” “Just the right size, always cold?” “I like them too, not over-facing“, your long suffering partner interjects, “…why can’t we get these at home.”

All real quotes these, no actors involved.

So, what’s going on? Is it simply the presence of some Sun (assuming you’re not on a two week break in Murmansk)? Is it ‘when in Rome’ syndrome? Could it be that because it’s not one of our familiar brands, we behave differently? In short: environmental determinism – we meld ourselves, copy, the situation we are faced with. Or,  are we actually responding truthfully and our home lives are just a panoply of half-truths and filters of what we think we should say?

We shall see. Foster’s has just launched a tidy little 6 by 330ml can pack. It looks well and they’ve called them ‘stubbies’ which may confuse those familiar with the dumpy French bottles.  Unlike tall cans, they look in proportion (What is it with pint cans? They look like they’ll tumble off the shelf any moment or worse, collapse under their own weight) and seem less likely to pop out of the plastic hi cone.

It’s a curious little observation, but for some one interested in beer and drinker behaviour, potentially quite profound.

© David Preston, Beer Tinted Spectacles. Originally posted on Posterous, April 2012

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