Food Companies Are Becoming Increasingly Interested in Creating a Nation of Addicts
Information and Theories 2/20/13
By: Sarah Wilson
When you think of an addict, thoughts of someone with a dependency concerning alcohol or drugs may first come to mind. However, food is becoming the source of an increasingly powerful addiction sweeping the nation. Obesity statistics are reaching critical levels, as more people become addicted to food, and companies, such as Coke Cola and Frito Lay, have been deliberately zeroing in on your weaknesses to make you buy junk food. According to an investigative piece printed in the latest New York Times Magazine â€“ they've even turned towards science to get an extra edge.
With headlines comparing junk food makers to the tobacco industry, an article appearing in the latest New York Times Magazine will shed light on some of the tactics that food companies use to hook consumers onto their products. Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Michael Moss (who has written "Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us") wrote a piece called "The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food" to highlight key points.
Moss knows all too well the lengthy (almost borderline scandalous) history associated with snack food and beverage makers, who are known to combine science and persuasive marketing as a way to tempt the masses with their salty, sugary treats. It is no coincidence that people consume heaps of potato chips and guzzle glass after glass of carbonated sodas. Many processed foods have an addicting quality, and there is a clear reason why, including the addition of chemicals and ingredients with addictive qualities.
Moss interviewed more than 300 current or former employees belonging to the processed-food industry, and he learned that companies make a conscious effort to get people addicted to inexpensive, convenience foods. Backed by four years of research and reporting, Moss spoke to a range of sources, including marketers, CEOs, and even scientists.
Moss' article reveals a great deal of intriguing information about the food industry. They're definitely not playing fair when it comes to your health and well-being. They are well aware that choosing to indulge in their foods can have detrimental effects to your health, but they continue to embrace more relentless advertising ploys and produce newer products with hidden agendas.
Whatever the latest health craze is, marketers craft advertisements to fall in line to mentally trick you into thinking you'll eating healthier â€“ think items with lower sugar or offering whole grains. As long as the profits continue to roll in, they will support the products that are most lucrative. Along the way, employees who do not fall in line and speak against the unhealthiness are dismissed.
Some of the points made in the New York Times Magazine article include the following companies:
Kraft Lunchables provide pre-packed lunches that are also packed with sodium and sugar. Over the years, Oscar Meyer has raked in nearly $1 billion with this product line. Despite criticism for being unhealthy for children, former CEO of Philip Morris, Geoffrey Bible said, "Well, that's what the consumer wants, and we're not putting a gun to their head to eat it." Even the daughter of Lunchables creator Bob Drane doesnâ€™t let her children eat the product â€“ she says, "They know they exist and that Grandpa Bob invented them. But we eat very healthfully."
Early Lunchables campaigns targeted mothers who may have been too busy to make lunches for their kids, and referred to the product as a "prepackaged gift." In 1990, the marketing strategy shifted to a brainwashing tactic saying that kids were 'in charge' of the lunches â€“ not parents. The commercials were shown during commercial break for cartoons.
When Frito-Lay needed a way to dig themselves out of the backlash associated with reports that their salty snacks led to cardiovascular disease, researchers came up with a new plan. Nearly 500 chemists, psychologists and technicians were hired to conduct research to solidify their position in the food market.
They spent up to $30 million a year to learn the ins and outs of their consumers. The company became more aware of their vulnerabilities and what piqued the interest of their senses.
For instance, one food scientist noted that the melt-in-your-mouth quality of the puffed Cheeto sends a signal to the brain that the food contains no calories, which produces a bodily response to keep eating the Cheetos without consequence. This occurrence was dubbed the 'vanishing caloric density.' The chief scientist for Frito-Lay from 1974 to 1982 (Robert I-San Lin) wanted to push for healthier snacks and lamented that scientists were not hired to learn about way to ease the addiction to salt, sugar and fat.
As for Coca-Cola, the manufacturers focused on marketing its sugary drink to poorer communities after anti-obesity campaigns and other health initiatives started to gain steam during the late 1990s. The proof was in the statistics. Cities such as New Orleans were drinking three times as many Cokes as other regions. Coke also made an effort to target Brazil and its extremely poor favelas by repackaging the soda in smaller, more inexpensive bottles. A former president and chief operating officer for the North and South American markets wanted the company to take a more health-conscious direction, and found himself fired instead.
To read more about Moss' article, you can find it here.