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Cycling sponsorship is a strange and varied thing, with teams backed by everything from despotic regimes to laminate flooring, many of them shilling strange and sometimes funny things. But out of all of the WorldTour team sponsors, I’d never considered that DSM might be the funniest of the lot. Until now.
DSM – a Dutch title sponsor for a Dutch-registered team – is a many-headed hydra. First founded in 1902 to mine coal, it now operates across three business areas: nutrition (vitamins, yeast extracts, etc.), materials (food packaging, resins, plastics) and innovation (‘Emerging businesses’, including solar technology). Somewhere in there, they also find the time to make sunscreen. It is what sharper business minds than mine would call a Diversified Portfolio. A boring diversification, but diverse nonetheless.
There’s one surprise perk of a company spreading its wings as widely as DSM has – there is gold down the product list.
You know when you go to a hardware store and there are sample cards for different paint colours? Good; hold onto that thought. Next step: ever heard of eggs?
Presenting the DSM YolkFanTM.
The stoke for yolk
We’ve alI been there, cracking an egg into a bowl of flour to mix up a cake. What type of cake? Not important. Cake’s cake. The real question is, what type of yolk?
You’re not a monster so it’s a free range eggy number, but because you’re busy you’ve only given the most cursory glance to the number of hens per square hectare metric on the side of the carton. Besides, the real litmus test of an egg’s egginess is the colour of the egg yolk. A happy hen is a golden yolk hen, an old saying (probably) goes, but how happy, exactly? Do we dare put a number on that?
Of course we dare. You reach your eggy fingers into the eggy pocket of your eggy apron, your probing digits hunting for a little flipchart from a cycling sponsor. Triumphantly you produce your DSM YolkFanTM. You spread out the little flip-cards like Edward bloody Scissorhands, placing card after card next to the yolk, looking for the right shade of marigold. This yolk is an 11. Not bad, you mutter to yourself aloud like an absolute maniac. Not bad. But it’s not a 12.
12’s the magic number – you remember this from the DSM website. The company has “studied consumer preferences in many parts of the world and found that, while preferences vary, consumers in most countries prefer an egg yolk color with a DSM YolkFanTM value of 12 or more.” You are, if nothing else, ‘in most countries’. You like a 12 coloured yolk, 13 if you’re feeling flashy. Single digit coloured yolks? What are we even here for? Truly a fate worse than death. Get it low enough and an egg yolk is merely more egg white.
The thing about the YolkFanTM – the reason you splashed out on one at all – is that it’s not so much an egg yolk measurement device as it is a communal scientific adventure. There’s so much set-up, so much statistical rigour to the process. You need a “white, non-reflective surface, in order to eliminate the influence of adjacent colors”, which sounds to me like you really, actually, need a YolkFanTM micro-studio. You also need an assistant to independently record the number. You, the YolkFanTM Reader, should view the egg yolk “vertically from above, with the blade numbers facing down and the yolk positioned between the tips of the blade.” You should then “show the number to the assistant for recording” with “the fan… closed from one egg to the next to ensure the independence of every measurement.” As a way to spend an afternoon with a friend it sounds a bit dry, perhaps, but HMS Friendship sails on water and water is wet, so I beg to differ.
It’s not all upside, owning a YolkFanTM. In your darker moments, the nights when your YolkFanTM Assistant is not around to cheer you out of your eggy funk, you sometimes find yourself asking difficult questions. Questions like: what is the point of a YolkFanTM? Is this a consumer product that needs to exist, actually? What’s wrong with Pantone shades? What’s wrong with an egg being a colour lottery, and why do you feel the need to so precisely identify a specific shade of yellow for your egg yolk? How long was DSM working on this, and how proud were they about it?
There’s the other big thing underpinning your ennui, too – the waste. Egg ownership is really, when you get down to it, a one-way street. You crack a fragile alabaster shell, reveal the albumen and the yolk, and then it’s either into the mixing bowl or into the bin. If the yolk’s the most tepid washed-out shade of lemon (YolkFanTM shade 1) or a clotted, bloody red-orange (YolkFanTM shade 16) doesn’t fundamentally change anything. The deed has been done. Your egg’s journey has reached its end.
You, the owner of a DSM YolkFanTM, are the very definition of a yolk fan – but even you, in those darkest nights of your soul, have a nagging worry that the cart has been put before the horse by DSM. Is the pursuit of a single perfect omelette worth sacrificing an “experimental series” of eggs comprising “anything between 4 and 15 eggs (depending on variability) … evaluated individually”? When does an egg – a faint yellow-yolked egg, a garish orange-yolked egg, an egg with a tiny preserved chicken fetus(TM) inside it – stop being merely an egg and start becoming an unnatural obsession?
Like your 4 to 15 eggs from earlier that day, you have suddenly cracked. The reality hits you like an egg to the head. You need a new hobby. But what? What can possibly recreate the giddy high of looking at some yolks and then comparing them to strips of cardboard, the tantric jolt of seeing a 12-coloured yolk, guessing it’s a 12-coloured yolk, and empirically confirming it with a perfect tool?
You log on to the DSM website hunting the next hit. You scroll through the product offering. And then – then – you see it. A gorgeous fan of shades of pink, another gorgeous strip stirringly photographed next to the gorgeous naked flesh of a gorgeous flank of gorgeous pink fish. You shake your fist at the ceiling, let out a wry chuckle, flick your eyes heavenward in a mock prayer to the divine craftsmen of DSM. Instantaneously you are shaken free from your funk.
With a frenzy of taps you fire off an email to your regular DSM representative, near-breathless at the knowledge that with the company’s ingenious SalmoFanTM Fan, the cruelty of this world might just be a little more tolerable.