by Marion Nestle
Aug 11 2010

More about imaginative food marketing

The Pop-Tarts store in Times Square (see yesterday’s post) is only the loudest example of innovative food marketing to come out recently.  I’ve been collecting more subtle examples:

Using social media (and getting customers to pay for it): For 99 cents to I-tunes, you can buy an app that gives nutritional information for products at Jack-in-the-Box or at McDonald’s.   As Mark Douglas of Culinate explains: “They want $0.99 to tell you what you probably already know… Watch Out!”

Co-opting health professionals: Michele Simon (author of Appetite for Profit) writes on AlterNet about how PepsiCo hires distinguished health professionals and experts to give a company that sells snack foods and soft drinks an aura of health and wellness.

Co-opting professional organizations: Lisa Young (the Portion Teller) points me to a Webinar on August 25 run by the industry-sponsored School Nutrition Foundation and the Milk Processor Education Program on what is surely an urgent issue for sellers of chocolate (sugar-added) milk: “Keep flavored milk from dropping out of school!”

Deflecting attention from diet: Lisa sends another Webinar notice for September 14, this one for “skills & tools to enhance change in physical activity behavior.”  Its sponsor?

The Coca-Cola Company’s Beverage Institute For Health & Wellness is a Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Accredited Provider with the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) – provider number BF001.

Plain, old-fashioned lobbying: Food Safety News has a nifty report on food company lobbying expenditures (huge), mainly on the food safety bill but also on many other bills that might affect labeling or sales of food products.

I reviewed these methods in my book, Food Politics. A revised edition came out in 2007.  Not much change, alas.

Addition: Attracting school kids: Michele Simon sends this Pepsi partnership with Hy-Vee stores in Iowa.  Parents buy five Pepsi products; Pepsi buys backpacks for their kids.

  • Lyn

    I’d happily pay 99 cents to have that app on my kids’ phones, just to make them more aware, but I’m pretty sure they’d never use it! I’ll just keep telling them, some of it’s bound to sink in…

  • Pete

    There is a huge Spongebob kids section in that Pop Tart store that is truly disturbing.

    On another note, I noticed something interesting about the Pepsi Refresh Everything Project. As we are all aware, soft drink manufacturers have come under increased scrutiny for their marketing efforts targeting children is schools. In a recent effort to smokescreen their deeds, the beverage companies of america has “reduced sugary drinks in schools by 80%”. Point being the public is more aware than ever that soda in school is a problem and are paying closer attention. PepsiCo, and thier brilliant marketing partners, then give us the Refresh Everything Project – which is truly the work of an evil genius. This campaign hits on all levels – philanthropy (which is more or less PR-proof), targets kids (through sponsoring school “Refresh” projects – like starting an organic garden for the ultimate irony – as well as heavy sports sponsorships) and finally community social interaction (through engaging consumers to take action OTHER than drinking Pepsi and leveraging social media). Of course, if you want to support their philanthropic “better community” project all you need to do is “drink Pepsi”.

    What I found particularly horrifying about this was that Pepsi found a way to get their logo into the schools without having to put it there themselves. In one commercial the kids themselves make a big Pepsi Refresh project banner and hold it up for the camera with glee. Complete with the Pepsi logo and even font!

    BTW – I am about 3 blocks from the Pot Tart store and its all people in my office can talk about – when they aren’t deciding what to buy from the vending machine. “Oh a cereal bar – that looks healthy” 🙁

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Food Politics » More about imaginative food marketing --

  • Cathy Richards

    It’s embaressing that this story is out at the same time that 14.5 million people are living in flooded villages in Pakistan, with hardly a trickle of support from the rest of the world.

    Imagine 14.5 million people being affected in the states. Or in Canada, it would be almost half of our population.

    But hey, Pop Tarts! The quintessential symbol of the North American food system. Hopefully NOT a symbol of our value system.

  • @Cathy: Fortunately for us, who are actually concerned about the flood victims in Pakistan, support and aid parcels are given out. So no need to worry. Even Gordon Brown is appealing to the British public to donate more.
    I think what’s really is embarrassing is the fact that these food companies actually market their products as somewhat “healthy”. Although, I am a fan of these “junk” foods, I think that it would be proper to market and advertise themselves accordingly. And, I think we are all aware that food companies that were aforementioned, are far from defining the word “healthy”. They are the number 1 reason, or maybe 2nd, for obesity, especially for kids. Nowadays, since we are surrounded by junk, processed foods, we need to make it a point to eat healthily so as to prevent sickness and being overweight. I want to share a very good article that guides parents when it comes to child obesity at

  • DennisP

    A for-profit corporation will never push healthy food because that works against its own profit-maximizing self-interest. They may tinker with their junk food at the margin to satisfy public demands, but making the food a little less unhealthy will NOT make it healthy. And corporations are getting much better at trying to co-op public discourse and write the regulatory legislation.

    What it comes down to is that we live increasingly in a corporate plutocracy – ruled by the wealthy (including corporations) for the sake of the wealthy, no matter what the damages to public health or that the planet is heating up rapidly.

    I’m increasingly of the opinion that Homo sapiens is an evolutionary disaster.

  • Pingback: {Weekend} Reading « FROM SCRATCH club()

  • Dear Dr. Nestle: Inspired by you I created my own blog in Spanish and English, where from time to time either I write or translate health or nutrition news. Regarding this article, in NJ, in June, a one day seminar was offered on Peruvian foods sponsored by Goya (their cans were found with BPA and Sazon has MSG) a Spanish (from Spain) company that dominates the latino market in USA, Inka Kola a yellow “soda” with HFCS (no longer Peruvian) and other small Peruvian food companies that sell goodies from Peru with horrible and unhealthy ingredients. The goal at the end is to promote Peruvian imports…..that I would never buy despite being Peruvian myself, neither helps my original country neither my adopted one….only some food companies interest as usual.

  • Pingback: El Tramposo Mercadeo de los Gigantes « AnaMariaQuispe's Blog()

  • This website was… how do you say it? Relevant!

    ! Finally I’ve found something that helped me. Cheers!

  • Does your site have a contact page? I’m having problems locating it but, I’d like to
    shoot you an e-mail. I’ve got some creative ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great website and I look forward to seeing it develop over time.