If you've ever fancied yourself the next George Foreman Grill inventor but don't have the cash or engineering know-how to give it a whirl, Quirky could be your ticket to Home Shopping Network fame. The company is a social media-influenced product developer with a wide range of kitchen gadgets. For $10, you can submit your product idea and Quirky's "global community of 220,000 members weighs in and collaborates on every aspect of product creation, from sketch to store," according to a company representative.
Well, presuming your revolutionary new knife sharpener is one of the two products on average that company executives select weekly to undergo the community design process. Founded in 2007 by 20-something Ben Kaufman, the company receives as many as 1,500 idea submissions a week. Product inventors get a sales cut (pretty small when you read the fine print), as do the "community influencers" who had a hand in changes to the final design. Kitchen products include the Mercado Farmers Market Bag ($24.99). Get the review after the jump.
The tag that accompanied our bag says it was invented by Peter Wachtel along with 738 "influencers" (Wachtel also invented the "Stake" BBQ tool). Curiously, the Quirky website says the bag was a direct collaboration with San Francisco food blogger Darya Pino and makes no mention of Wachtel that we could find, even in the PR video -- a blogger-centric sales tactic, we presume. On to more important things: how did a social media-inspired bag measure up to other market bags?
The Competition: We tend to take several cloth bags to the farmers market; enough to insure those 3 pounds of heirloom tomatoes don't suffer a quick demise by Weiser Farm potatoes. Occasionally, we'll take a large, stiff, rectangular-shaped bag with a structured base that does a better job with produce distribution if we're buying more than usual. We've also seen numerous bags promising handy pockets and other perks, as the Mercado does, at shops around town, as well as a growing number of handmade bags on craft sites like Etsy. Or maybe you're more the market cart sort.
The Promises: Those pockets are the main sales pitch here as they promise to "protect" your produce from bruises and help keep your parsley organized. The bag has 6 small interior pockets "for delicates like tomatoes, pears, etc" and 2 medium pockets on the inside. The large interior is rectangular with a structured base and elastic bands on the sides to hold bottles, a bunch of leeks or flowers in place. It also has a wide adjustable strap.
The Pros: The pockets. On a farmers market test run, the pockets came in handy for smaller bunches of produce like green onions and herbs; having a place to stash our keys and sunglasses (or a small camera) was also nice. The structured base of the bag held its own against heavy items like potatoes without sagging, and the wide strap was noticeably more comfortable than those on the average cloth bag. The exterior mesh pockets makes produce visible, a reminder of what you bought six stands ago after one a few too many conversations with passing chefs.
The Cons: The pockets. If your average weekend farmers market haul this time of year includes a week's worth of tomatoes, peppers, butternut squash, fingerling potatoes, salad greens and bitter greens before you even get to the fall fruit drawer staples (apples, citrus, the first persimmons!), all of those handy pockets suddenly take up a lot of prime produce space. Many are also on the rather small side. If you're an avid cook who usually hits one market to stock up for the week, you'll still need to take several bags with the Mercado.
Best For: Those who tend to buy produce in singular terms, not by the pound (i.e. two perfect heirloom tomatoes you want to keep safely guarded). The Mercado would be a great bag for smaller weekday office lunch hour market runs; stash items that need refrigerating like cheese in the front see-through pockets so you don't have to rummage through the bag when you get back to your desk. It's also Hollywood Bowl friendly with the bottle-friendly amenities like straps and -- you guessed it -- pockets.
Check back for a review of a cheese grater from Quirky that has changed our grating perspective.
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