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Posts Tagged ‘Trickery

Scary Food Science: designed to be irresistible

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By Catherine Guthrie, Experience Life   July 2, 2011            Care2

Show me a chicken nugget and I will show you the world. The world, that is, of highly palatable foods engineered by the food industry to go down easily — in some cases, to quite literally “melt in the mouth” — while also stimulating us to crave more.

Commercial foods like chicken nuggets, French fries, chips, crackers, cookies and pastries are designed to be virtually irresistible. And, for a lot of reasons most of us don’t fully understand, they are.

There’s a “biological basis for why it’s so hard for millions of Americans to resist food,” former FDA commissioner David Kessler, MD, explained in a recent National Public Radio (NPR) interview. “We are all wired to focus on the most salient stimuli in our environment,” he says. “For some of us, it could be alcohol; it could be illegal drugs; it could be gambling, sex or tobacco. For many of us, though, one of the most salient stimuli in our environment is food. And how do you make food even more salient? Fat, sugar and salt.”

Of course, fat, sugar and salt have been around as kitchen staples for centuries, but it wasn’t until the past few decades that they became as abundant and cheap as they are now. And during the course of those same few decades, food manufacturers have been busily leveraging science and technology to enhance their products — manipulating food in ways that not only play on our innate fondness for sugar, salt and fat, but also dramatically boost their overall taste, texture, aroma and appearance.

Think about the flavor of beef infused into McDonald’s signature French fries, the creamy filling injected into a Twinkie or the fake crosshatched grill marks stamped onto a KFC grilled chicken breast, and you begin to get the idea. The stuff regularly served up at every chain restaurant, gas station and food court amounts to an edible — and irresistible — amusement park. And it’s all fueled by food science and technology we’d have a hard time imitating at home.

“It’s the multisensory combinations that provide the roller coaster in your mouth,” says Kessler, a professor at the University of California–San Francisco and author of The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite (Rodale, 2009). And over the past 30 years, food manufacturers have been coming up with increasingly wild rides.

“When we were kids,” recalls Kessler, “it was enough to put sugar in water, add a little coloring and get a relatively simple sensory experience called Kool-Aid. Since then, food makers have upped the ante.”  Today we’ve got Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and Double Chocolate Strawberry Cake Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Doritos brand snacks come in more than a dozen different varieties (including “Late Night All Nighter Cheeseburger”), all of which promise to “deliver a powerful crunch that unlocks the bold and unique flavors you crave.”

If we’re going to stand any chance of resisting this new breed of consumables, we need to have a better understanding about what we’re up against. That starts with a brief lesson in food technology.

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Why Facts No Longer Matter

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by Anne Landman   April 28, 2010   PRWatch.org

A recent PRWatch blog discussed how corporations are increasingly turning to cause marketing to get around people’s ability to tune out their daily deluge of advertising. Cause marketing, or “affinity marketing,” is a sophisticated PR strategy in which a corporation allies itself with a cause that evokes strong emotions in targeted consumers, like curing cancer, alleviating poverty, feeding the hungry, helping the environment or saving helpless animals. The relationship avails the company of a more effective way to grab the attention of their audience, by telling them compelling stories linked to the cause, for example tales of survival, loss, strength, good works, etc. Once the company gets your attention, it links its name and brands to the positive emotions generates by the cause. The company then leverages that emotion to get you to buy the stuff they’ve linked to the cause — and improve its corporate image.

Cause marketing works, which is why its use is spreading like wildfire. The operative word that the whole idea turns on is “emotion,” because the ability to manipulate people depends completely on generating an emotional connection that the company can exploit.

Emotional Exploitation and Public Policy

Entire industries exploit emotions not just to sell goods, but also to influence public policy. Tobacco industry documents provide an excellent example:

In 1998, California’s Proposition 10, a measure to raise cigarette taxes, made it onto the ballot was headed for a statewide vote. Naturally, the tobacco industry opposed it.

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