by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Food-marketing

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.

Aug 10 2010

The latest in food marketing: Pop-Tarts in Times Square

You have to see New York City’s latest tourist attraction: a Pop-Tarts World Store in Times Square.  OK, M&Ms has a fabulous light display.  OK, Hershey’s has an enormous store filled with chocolate tchotchkes.  But Pop-Tarts?   I think it’s weird to turn Times Square into a food court (with tee shirts) but hey, I’m not in the junk food business.

Kellogg must think it’s worth the exorbitant cost of store frontage in the middle of New York City.  According to the account in the New York Times, a Kellogg spokesman said:

Our long-term hope is to strengthen the bonding between the brand and the consumer, and that has great benefits for the brand.

Others explain that “Just a presence in Times Square can help a company…It [is] a way to project an image of growth and maturity.”

I had no idea that bonds between brands and consumers needed strengthening.  It never occurred to me that Times Square projects an image of maturity.

OK, it’s cute that Kellogg named Pop-Tarts after Pop Art, but Pop-Tarts as a tourist destination?

Check it out and let me know!

Update, August 12: Here is Mark Bittman’s review.

Update, August 16: And here is CNN’s take on it (I’m interviewed, briefly).

Feb 11 2010

What Mrs. Obama’s campaign does not do: food marketing to kids

Mrs. Obama’s campaign to prevent childhood obesity did not mention food marketing to kids.  But check the latest research.

Researchers at UCLA took a careful look at the correlation between watching commercials on TV and childhood obesity (Their paper is in the February 2010 American Journal of Public Health).  Kids who watch commercials on TV are more likely to be obese than kids who watch non-commercial TV.  Commercials, of course, are largely for junk food and kids see a lot of them.  The authors conclude:

steering children away from commercial television may have a meaningful effect in reducing childhood obesity…The existence of many high-quality, enjoyable, and educational programs available on DVD for all ages should make it relatively easy for health educators and care providers to nudge children’s viewing toward less obesogenic television content [my emphasis].

Relatively easy?  They have to be kidding.  Food commercials are ubiquitous in kids’ lives.

For example, Lisa Sutherland and her colleagues at Dartmouth took a look at the prevalence of food brands (mostly junk foods) in movies from 1996 to 2005 (Pediatrics, February 2010).  There are loads of such placements, and movies aimed at younger kids tend to have the most.

As for industry self-regulation, Kelly Brownell and his colleagues at Yale have plenty to say about how it’s not working and what would be needed to make it work (also in the February American Journal of Public Health).

Michelle Obama may not be able to touch this one, but Congress can.  And it should.

Nov 10 2009

Raise your hand for chocolate milk?

Thanks to Marlene Schwartz of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale for alerting me to this Associated Press report about the new dairy industry campaign to rescue chocolate milk from the food police.  This, you will not be surprised to hear, is the latest activity funded by the milk checkoff program, a USDA-administered program that requires certain commodity producers to contribute funds to a kitty to be used for generic marketing.  One such program is MilkPep, the incredibly well funded marketing group that together with the Dairy Council invented the “Got Milk” mustache campaign.

MilkPep is now the proud defender of chocolate milk against efforts to get it out of schools.  Why would anyone be so mean as to want to do that?  Maybe because chocolate milk has more sugar and calories than plain milk?  No matter.  MilkPet is stepping up to the plate.  Its $500,000 to $1,000,000 “raise your hand for chocolate milk” campaign takes on those pesky nutrition advocates who think that kids ought to be eating something other than sweets in schools.

The rationale for the campaign?  If you get rid of chocolate milk, kids won’t drink milk.  You will deprive kids of the nutrients in milk and contribute to the “milk deficit.”   After all, this rationale goes, chocolate milk is better than soda (Oops.  Didn’t we just hear something like this relative to the Smart Choices fiasco?).

OK.  Let’s look at what this is really about:

  • Schools represent sales of 460 million gallons of milk – more than 7% of total milk sales
  • More than half (54%) of flavored milk is sold in schools
  • Chocolate milk is a key growth area for milk processors

MilkPep has produced a slide show to help companies take action (I apologize for not linking to it but I have not yet succeeded in uploading a large file, despite many attempts).  The slides advise allies to go on a “chocolate milk offensive”:

  • Do public relations
  • Get bloggers on board
  • Engage moms through social media
  • Take advantage of SuperBowl ads – the campaign intends to fund one
  • Reach out to media

Doesn’t this sound like something ripe for satire?  Colbert!  We need you!

Additions:  Do not miss the YouTube version.  And here’s theofficial MilkPep press release.  Note the testimonials to the benefits of chocolate milk.  It’s a health food!

Mar 3 2009

Equal-opportunity product placement: Splenda

The creativity of marketers never ceases to amaze.  Johnson & Johnson, maker of the artificial sweetener, Splenda, has a product-placement partnership with Harlem Heights, the BET reality show aimed at the black hip and fabulous. As the New York Times puts it, the partnership is about integration – this time of products into the daily business of cast members.  The Times quotes BET’s vice-president for integrated marketing:  “You need to…understand exactly where some of the natural, organic places for integrations are, so things don’t feel staged.”

At last, a new meaning to the idea of integration!

Feb 26 2009

Food marketing news II: Baked Lays

Food marketing is on my mind these days.  It clearly is also on the mind of marketers at Pepsi.   What’s wrong with you women.  You aren’t buying enough Baked Lays? Pepsi’s research on your feelings about snacking and guilt reveals that you want foods that are healthier.  Pepsi’s answer to this problem?  New packaging, of course.   This ad is probably too small to read but here’s what it says: First woman: “These things are the best invention since the push-up bra.”  Second woman: “I wouldn’t go that far.”  I wouldn’t either, alas.

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Dec 1 2007

Wonderful new food objects!

This must be the week for wonders of food technology. Michele Simon (Appetite for Profit) sends me this photo of this great new Disney product. And another writer tells me that I must take a look at Arby’s new Cheesecake Poppers. I can’t wait to try them! Care to join me? great new product

Oct 10 2007

Malcolm Gladwell on food marketing

Dennis Whalen, a marketing executive in San Francisco, forwards this link to a speech given in 2004 by Malcolm Gladwell, the New Yorker writer and author of the Tipping Point and other best sellers. How do food marketers decide what sells sodas and spaghetti sauce? Gladwell’s answer: in ways that make people happy. Really?