I will be discussing Let’s Ask Marion with Clark Wolf as part of the Fales Library Critical Topics Series at 5:00 p.m., via Zoom. It’s free but registration is required—here.
Annals of food marketing: pistachios have amino acids (duh)!
I was fascinated to see this ad in the June 8 & 15 issue of the New Yorker inside the back cover:
I like pistacchios, but never thought of them as a protein source and in any case so what? Protein is anything but lacking in American diets.
I went right to the website, AmericanPistachios.org: “Breaking News: Pistachios are a complete protein.” I read more: A study shows that pistachios have all 9 essential amino acids.
Here’s the study:
I assumed that the study was paid for by the pistachio association, but if so, the funding was well laundered. The disclosure statement says: “This study was funded by a Specialty Crop Grant from the US Department of Agriculture.” The USDA supports pistachio marketing.
OK. Here’s why I think this ad is absurd.
- Americans consume roughly twice the amount of protein needed.
- Most food proteins, even those from plants, contain all 9 essential amino acids.
- Pistachios are already known to contain the essential amino acids (see the USDA food composition data base).
- 100 grams of pistachios contain 21 grams of protein BUT also 572 calories.
- Other nuts have all those amino acids too (see composition data for walnuts, for example).
I suppose it’s good to educate New Yorker readers about how plants have protein—they do!—but the emphasis on protein makes no nutritional sense.
The Pistachio trade association must think whatever this ad costs is worth the expense.* Let’s hear it for marketing!
*What does it cost? This depends on the size of the market—the circulation in a particular area—which can vary from one borough of New York to the whole country, and must be highly negotiable.