by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Food-marketing

Apr 27 2020

Tone-deaf ad of the week: Whopper’s Couch Potato Patriots

Q.  If you are running a fast-food place, how to cope with having to close and lose sales during the Coronavirus pandemic?

A.  Run an ad: “Stay Home of the Whopper

Your country needs you to stay on your couch and order in…Do your part. Staying home doesn’t just make us all safer, it makes you a couch potatriot.”

Never mind that couch potatoism puts you at higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and, therefore, higher higher risk for the most damaging effects of this virus.

The company is also offering 250,000 free sandwiches to health care workers.

Thanks to a reader, who wished to remain anonymous, for alerting me to this one.

Sep 17 2019

Natural Products Expo: all boxes checked

I was fortunate to be able to attend the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore on Saturday and worth the trip it was.

Here is where to see—and taste—what’s happening in health foods: ultra-processed (drinks, crackers, puffs) and not (nut butters, smoked fish).

Impressions

This is a huge market: the exhibits took up three full floors of two buildings in the convention center.  I think I only managed to wander through about half of them.

The big news is hemp.  An entire section of one of the floors was devoted to CBD oils, pills, and balms, but hemp booths were also scattered throughout.  I didn’t see many edibles—just a few gummy bears.

The buzz words are “all boxes checked.”  I heard this many times.  My favorite example: hemp water (“hydrate your body to the fullest”).  Here’s its list:

  • All natural
  • No artificial flavors
  • No THC
  • No preservatives
  • Gluten free
  • Dairy free
  • Sugar free
  • Sodium free
  • Zero calories
  • Non-GMO
  • Vegan

Everyone wants to get into Whole Foods.  When I asked small producers where I could find their products, one after another said this.

Plant-based products are on the move.  I tried oat- and coconut-based ice creams (not bad, but still can’t compete with the 17% fat dairy versions, alas).

Jul 12 2019

Weekend shopping: “Golden Sugar”

I’m indebted to Mimi Griffith for telling me about an article in Food Dive about a new product Domino must think you can’t live without: Golden Sugar.

It’s “Less Processed” !

And, “bakes and dissolves like white sugar.”  Of course it does.  It’s sugar.

OK, so it hasn’t gone through the last stage of refinement to white sugar and has a slight taste of molasses.  But it’s still sugar.

Less processed or not, Golden Sugar is sugar; it is not a health food.

Domino is taking advantage of current advice to avoid “ultra-processed” junk foods.  The company must believe that you will think this is healthier than white sugar.  Not a chance.

I”m curious to know:  Is Golden Sugar any different from the Turbinado sugar Domino currently sells?  Does Domino think you will relate this to Golden Rice, the poster child for GMO’s?  What was Domino’s marketing team thinking?

White, tan, or brown, sugar is sugar—50% glucose, 50% fructose, 4 calories per gram.

Most of us would be better off eating less of it, unprocessed or processed.

Feb 8 2019

Weekend reading: food marketing to minorities

The Rudd Center at the University of Connecticut and the Council on Black Health have produced a fascinating (to me, at least) report on food marketing deliberately targeted to Hispanics and Blacks.

The report finds overall targeted marketing to have declined in the last few years, but fast food and junk food companies are still pushing their products more heavily to minority customers.

It identifies the extent of marketing by company and target.

If you were wondering why minority groups consume more fast food and junk food and display higher levels of obesity, take a look at the targeted marketing data.

Dec 19 2018

Indexes: Ranking Systems for Sustainability and Nutrition

Two new Index Systems rank countries for sustainability and corporations for promoting health.

I.  Sustainability Index.

The Economist and Barilla have devised a new, interactive Index that ranks countries on the basis of food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture, and the ability to meet nutritional challenges.  Its scoring system goes from 0 (terrible) to 100 (perfect).

The top ten scoring countries are:

None of the scores is exemplary.  The US rank is #26.

II.  Access to Nutrition Index

The Access to Nutrition Foundation (Netherlands) ranks corporations on their strategies, policies, and actions to address obesity and diet-related diseases in the US.

The overall rankings, shown here, are relatively low.  Some do better than others on governance, products, accessibility, marketing, lifestyles, labeling, and engagement.

The highest scores are for labeling.  The lowest scores are for accessibility.

Indexes like these are useful for understanding where we are.  They should inspire us to action.

Sep 6 2018

Corporate profits v. public health: Campbell’s as a case in point

Campbell’s has just announced that it will divest its portfolio of healthier foods: Bolthouse Farms carrots, organics, salsa, hummus and dips, fresh soups.
Why? Activist shareholder pressure to make more money, faster.
These healthier-for-you products only generated $2.1 billion in sales last year, not nearly enough apparently.
While waiting for someone to buy them, or the entire company, the company’s new CEO plans to concentrate on “operational discipline,” which I assume is a euphemism for firing lots of people.
The CEO plans to focus on the money-making “core” products: Campbell Soups, Prego, V8, SpaghettiOs, Kettle Chips, Mlano, Goldfish and other such things.

As I keep saying, food corporations cannot be expected to be agents of public health as long as Wall Street investors call the shots.

Remember when Jeffrey Dunn’s Bolthouse aimed to make carrots “cool?”  And kids would eat them if they were marketed like junk food?

I guess this strategy didn’t work, alas.

Dec 27 2017

Planet Fat: The New York Times series on global obesity

Since September, the New York Times has been investigating how the food industry markets its products in the developing world, and how this marketing is encouraging a rising prevalence of obesity and its health consequences. The series is called Planet Fat.   This is the complete set to date, in reverse chronological order.

If you haven’t read them, this week is a good time to catch up.  Enjoy!

One Man’s Stand Against Junk Food as Diabetes Climbs Across India

India is “sitting on a volcano” of diabetes. A father’s effort to ban junk food sales in and near schools aims to change what children eat.

Dec. 26, 2017

 

Dec. 23, 2017

 

Dec. 11, 2017

 

Nov. 13, 2017

 

Oct. 2, 2017

 

Oct. 2, 2017

 

Sept. 16, 2017

 

Sept. 17, 2017

 

Sep 19 2017

The NY Times’ blockbuster investigation: Big Food in Brazil

The article, which starts on the front page and continues to another two full pages and more, is headlined How Big Business got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food.

It’s mostly about how Nestlé (no relation) recruits women in low-income countries to sell the company’s products from small mobile carts.

Here are a few quotes:

  • Nestlé’s direct-sales army in Brazil is part of a broader transformation of the food system that is delivering Western-style processed food and sugary drinks to the most isolated pockets of Latin America, Africa and Asia. As their growth slows in the wealthiest countries, multinational food companies like Nestlé, PepsiCo and General Mills have been aggressively expanding their presence in developing nations, unleashing a marketing juggernaut that is upending traditional diets from Brazil to Ghana to India.
  • Sean Westcott, head of food research and development at Nestlé, conceded obesity has been an unexpected side effect of making inexpensive processed food more widely available.  “We didn’t expect what the impact would be,” he said.
  • Ahmet Bozer, president of Coca-Cola International, described to investors in 2014.  “Half of the world’s population has not had a coke in the last 30 days.  There’s 600 million teenagers who have not had a coke in the last week. So the opportunity for that is huge.”
  • “What we have is a war between two food systems, a traditional diet of real food once produced by the farmers around you and the producers of ultra-processed food designed to be over-consumed and which in some cases are addictive,” said Carlos A. Monteiro, a professor of nutrition and public health at the University of São Paulo.  “It’s a war,” he said, “but one food system has disproportionately more power than the other.”
  • [From Felipe Barbosa, a  Nestlé supervisor:] “The essence of our program is to reach the poor,” Mr. Barbosa said. “What makes it work is the personal connection between the vendor and the customer.”
  • But of the 800 products that Nestlé says are available through its vendors, Mrs. da Silva says her customers are mostly interested in only about two dozen of them, virtually all sugar-sweetened items like Kit-Kats; Nestlé Greek Red Berry, a 3.5-ounce cup of yogurt with 17 grams of sugar; and Chandelle Pacoca, a peanut-flavored pudding in a container the same size as the yogurt that has 20 grams of sugar — nearly the entire World Health Organization’s recommended daily limit.

The article is worth the read.  Or see the 3-minute video for a quick summary.  It also comes with a nifty interactive map of world obesity.

Politico Pro Agriculture asked Nestlé for a comment (this may be behind a paywall):

A Nestlé spokesperson defended the company while acknowledging the deeper childhood obesity problems currently plaguing Brazil. “We are disappointed by the New York Times’ biased approach in this article, which we believe does not accurately reflect the breadth and reality of our product portfolio in the context of the public health issues impacting the people of Brazil,” the spokesperson said. “However, we do agree that the real and serious issues raised in the article should be discussed in a balanced and constructive way that focuses on practical solutions.”

Resources

Here’s the article en Español.

And here it is em Português.

Take a look at Center for Science in the Public Interest’s report on Carbonating the World, which covers much of the same territory for Coca-Cola.  In the meantime, subsequent articles in this series are promised for soft drinks and fast food.