by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Food-marketing

Jul 13 2020

Food marketing trick of the week: Burger King and Swedish passports

A reader, Max Hultberg, sends this amazing item, which I thought was a joke but apparently is not:

Hey Marion!

I’d like to pitch this news tip from Burger King Sweden.

Repurpose your Swedish passport as a stamp card at Burger King

Sweden’s been criticized for their relaxed COVID-19 strategy, which has made it difficult for citizens to travel abroad. Even when some countries start open up, Swedes in particular are not welcome.

So Burger King Sweden now offers another use for dust collecting passports – by letting you repurpose them and use them as stamp cards. Instead of a regular passport stamp, you’ll get a BK stamp. Each new stamp equals one free burger from their new ”World Gourmet”-series.

As I keep saying, when it comes to food marketing, you can’t make this stuff up.

You can even watch a film of how this works.

Jul 6 2020

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.

Jun 26 2020

Weekend reading: marketing of sugary drinks to minorities

The COVID-19 pandemic has pointed out how the higher risk of complications and death among members of minority groups.  The reasons are fairly well established.  Members of minority groups are more likely to:

  • Be overweight
  • Have diet-related risk factors: hypertension, type-2 diabetes, multiple metabolic problens
  • Live in high-pollution areas
  • Have asthma
  • Suffer from the daily stress of discrimination
  • Lack sick leave benefits
  • Have poor health care

The .latest report from Rudd Center on Food and Obesity Policy, Sugary Drinks FACTS 2020, highlights how sellers of sugary drinks target their products to minority populations.  The press release says that the report found:

  • In 2018, companies spent $84 million to advertise regular soda, sports drinks, and energy drinks on Spanish-language TV, an increase of 8% versus 2013 and 80% versus 2010.
  • Sports drink brands disproportionately advertised on Spanish-language TV, dedicating 21% of their TV advertising budgets to Spanish-language TV, compared to 10% on average for all sugary drinks.
  • Compared to White children and teens, Black children saw 2.1 times as many sugary drink ads and Black teens saw 2.3 times as many. Black youth exposure was particularly high for sports drinks, regular soda, and energy drinks.

Click here for the full report. 

The report’s main finding:

CNN has an excellent account of this, in which I am quoted.

Experts say soda companies have also taken a page out of the tobacco industry’s marketing playbook, by providing funding for many Black communities and endeavors “in ways that don’t look like advertising, like funding playgrounds in minority neighborhoods, minority community groups, and sponsorship of Black and Hispanic sports figures,” said Marion Nestle, who also authored “Eat, Drink, Vote: An Illustrated Guide to Food Politics.”  “These work,” Nestle said. “Minority kids identify soda brands with sports figures, and minority community groups find it hard to oppose soda company marketing when the companies have been so generous.”
The account refers to the CEO of Pepsi’s statement on the company’s efforts to address race.  I am quoted again:
“The great irony of Ramon Laguarta’s promises to counter PepsiCo’s conscious or unconscious racist practices in the company, its business, and communities is that none of them addresses targeted marketing,” said Nestle.
“The best thing Pepsi could do to improve the health of its customers would be to stop advertising and marketing to children and teenagers, especially those of color,” Nestle added.
Addition, June 29
US Right to Know also has an excellent article on this topic.
Jun 23 2020

Food companies respond to #BlackLivesMatter—and about time!

Here’s progress, and about time too.  This long called for, and long overdue decision has been covered by CNN (6/17), New York Times (6/17), Food Dive (6/17), USA Today (6/18), and Reuters (6/18).

CPG firms review, overhaul black brand mascots:  Following Quaker Oat’s decision to rebrand its Aunt Jemima line, the parent companies of brands Uncle Ben’s, Mrs. Butterworth’s and Cream of Wheat — all of which have black mascots — have plans to change or review the brands’ logos and packaging. “[W]e are committed to evaluating our packaging and will proactively take steps to ensure that we and our brands do not inadvertently contribute to systemic racism,” B&G Foods said about Cream of Wheat’s chef image in a statement.

PepsiCo’s CEO promises a complete overhaul:

So today, I am announcing the next step in PepsiCo’s journey for racial equality: a more than $400 million set of initiatives over five years to lift up Black communities and increase Black representation at PepsiCo. These initiatives make up a holistic effort for PepsiCo to walk the talk of a leading corporation and help address the need for systemic change.

These changes are steps in the right direction.  To make them meaningful, companies must push for a cultural transformation and be willing to openly confront deeply embedded but sometimes unconscious attitudes and behavior.

Let’s hope these promises result in real change.

For some context, take a look at Toni Tipton-Martin’s, The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cooking, and her article about the retirement of the image in Sunday’s New York Times.

And then there’s this perfect image for food politics (source unknown, alas):

Addition

A reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, writes: “The removal of the Aunt Jemima image reminds me of artist Betye Saar’s 1972 assemblage, “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima.”  I see that Betye Saar has responded: “She’s liberated! Finally at long last!”

Jun 22 2020

The NCD Alliance has a map of industry marketing responses to Covid-19

The NCD [non-communicable disease] Alliance is a network of more than 2000 organizations in 170 countries.  Its purpose to to raise awareness of NCDs—type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and the like—among international agencies and to develop civil society capacity to prevent these conditions.

It has produced an interactive world map of examples of unhealthy industry responses to Covid-19.

Here’s an example from Jamaica.

This is an easy, one-stop shopping place to find out how food companies are exploiting Covid-19 to market products.

Make a note of it.

Jun 15 2020

Food brands making political statements

On Mondays, I like to start the week by highlighting ways that food companies are exploiting Covid-19 for marketing purposes.  But here’s Tejal Rao in the New York Times on exploitation of Black Lives Matter: “Food Brands Tweet #BlackLivesMatter, but What’s Behind the Words?”

She collected a group of examples on Twitter, from which she concludes:

As she explains, “All brand statements require some suspension of disbelief from the viewer, but particularly when they’re issued by fast-food companies during the coronavirus pandemic.”

My thought: If food companies really want to promote black lives, they can start with recruiting more employees of color, paying them higher wages, offering better sick leave and health care benefits, and supporting them with child care, education, training, and opportunities for career advancement.

Corporations did this for their employees at one time.  They can do it again.

May 28 2020

Tone deaf food company ads of the week: Are these for real? So it seems.

Here are two ads sent to me last week.  Both have now been taken down.

This one, according to reader Tony Vassallo (thanks!) comes from the Walmart Supercenter Store 908 at 8101 South John Young Parkway, Orlando FL.  I’m not the only one who thought this was in bad taste (sorry).   After a Twitter storm, Pepsi took it down.

But what about this one?

I looked up Westbrook Mall: Calgary, Alberta.  This too caused an uproar.   The franchise owner apologized, explaining that he was struggling and hoped to generate business, and the sign is now gone, apparently.

May 11 2020

Tone deaf food ad of the week: Kraft Heinz, this time

Thanks to a reader, Tony Vassallo, for sending this Kraft ad: “We Got You America

Given the demographics of who gets hit hardest by this virus, and increasing evidence that crowded food production facilities staffed by low-income workers who often lack sick leave and health care benefits, this unmasked cheerleading seems, well, tone deaf.