Everyday design: chocolate sprinkles

Many things are designed for everyday use. Some you fall in love with, others drive you up the wall. One of my love-hate relationships starts at breakfast and concerns a box of chocolate sprinkles from Albert Heijn (AH).

The box has a nice shape, a pillar with a square base. There isn’t much wrong with the contents either. The opening of the box however is a disaster. I‘ve tried for many years now, but have not yet succeeded in finding a good way to open and close this box. There seems to be only one workable solution to open it: you must violently poke your finger through the opening. Once the entire opening is in the box, you then make a hook with your finger and pull the entire opening out. This procedure results in a good size opening, but the convenient chute that’s supposed to deliver the desired chocolate sprinkles to my slice of buttered bread dangles uselessly from the box.

Every time I open AH’s chocolate sprinkles, I wonder why they don’t improve this design. All of AH’s competitors have perfectly functioning openings, although one main difference (besides the fact that they actually work) is that the openings of the competitors are made of plastic, while AH has attempted, admirably, to construct its opening from the same cardboard as the box.
As for the contents of the box, in 1936, a company named Venz found a brilliant answer to the question of how to cover your bread with chocolate: sprinkles. Since then, chocolate sprinkles have become a staple of every Dutch breakfast table, although strangely enough, chocolate sprinkles have yet to conquer the world and are difficult to find in shops outside Holland. Nowadays, many companies produce chocolate sprinkles. My favorites are made by De Ruijter. AH’s own brand comes in a good second, not considering the poor design of the opening.

Venz’s sprinkles are too sweet, although kids seem to like them, perhaps also having fallen victim to the sophisticated marketeers at Venz who put jokes on the box and toy treats inside. As with any popular product, there are variations on the original ‘sprinkle’ formula. For the weak-hearted, there is the milk chocolate or vanilla (white chocolate) varieties; vanilla sprinkles are only sold as a mixture of vanilla and dark chocolate. For diehards, there are the extra-dark chocolate sprinkles, but they’re much thinner and shorter than the original, presumably because even diehards can’t stomach them in the original size.

But what if you don’t like chocolate? Even for choco-phobes there’s a yummy selection of sprinkles available for decorating your bread, including fruit sprinkles (sugar with a bit of fruity flavor added), which are very good on another Dutch favorite, beschuit (dried toast). Then there are the traditional pink and white, or blue and white sprinkles, known as muisjes (mice), which are small anise seeds covered with sugar. Muisjes are traditionally served on beschuit to celebrate the birth of a baby, with appropriate colors for boys or girls. Finally, if you don’t like chocolate and think muisjes are too hard, you can also buy crushed muisjes, a nice mix of powdered sugar and crushed anise seeds.

Ready to try some sprinkles? Supermarkets sell variety packs or try a single-serving box at your faculty cafeteria. But don’t worry, these small boxes don’t come with malfunctioning chutes. Just rip off the top to get to the good stuff!

Mark Bakker is a lecturer at the faculty of Civil Engineering & Geo-sciences

In de buurt van het Ketelhuis, de kantine van de faculteit Bouwkunde, is maandag een Engelse granaat uit de Tweede Wereldoorlog gevonden. Bouwvakkers stuitten op de granaat tijdens graafwerkzaamheden voor het aanleggen van een nieuw parkeerterrein. De huls was nog gevuld met springstof. Volgens Hans Linschoten, commandant van de Explosieven Opruimings Dienst, was er geen groot risico dat de granaat zou exploderen. In de buurt waar de A4 bij Delft ophoudt, is de granaat tot ontploffing gebracht.

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