Showing posts with label food marketing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food marketing. Show all posts

Friday, January 13, 2012

Spoiled and Lazy?

You may think I will be posting about my children, but even though they are spoiled and lazy at times, today I’m thinking about the state of our food industry and our role in creating what it has become. I do believe our food system is a result of us wanting more convenience, and the industry responds. But is it all bad?

It has been one of those extra special weeks at my household. I’m working more hours getting ready for a number of upcoming meetings and events, so the meals available to my family have suffered due to a lack of time. Sunday we had Tuna Helper with added broccoli (dinner in less than 15 minutes). Monday was Taco Bell between trips to office supply stores and the copy shop, Tuesday was soup from a can or whatever else you can find that night which was a medley of cereal, apples, peanut butter and milk, and Wednesday I visited the local Chinese takeout. I better stop now before it gets worse.

But I have come to the realization that even though I have wonderful intentions of providing my family good food, I am exactly the mom our food industry is catering to: one with never enough time on her hands. I am grateful to have these options, but try to be careful not to be sucked into the deep chasm of ready-made meals every evening.

Why, you may ask? There are fewer ingredients, and I want my kids to learn to appreciate raw, unadulterated food. What I don’t want to do, however, is look a gift horse in the mouth. Fast food and pop-in-the-microwave meals may not be best, but I am so glad to have them when I need them on occasion. It’s when these options are abused, the “cheap food is making us fat” complainers definitely get fuel added to their fire.

I recently watched a couple episodes of “Half-Ton Teen.” It was quite apparent that those children were victims of their mamas letting them eat whatever they wanted, most of which came pre-packaged or from a drive-thru. Who is to blame, here: the mamas, the kids, or the industry?

The most compelling argument blaming the industry is that unhealthy food is cheaper. While the price of whole food ingredients may seem formidable to someone trying to feed their family on a budget, I have to disagree that the frozen pizza for $5 or less is “cheaper” than the meals I can cook with a meat and a few vegetables. You have to get creative and opt for the least processed foods (because you pay for that) but it can be done. I would also encourage everyone to look beyond the cost per food volume or cost per calories; figure your cost per nutrients.

The real reason fast food is compelling to most of us moms is because it’s EASY.

I’m afraid I’m digging a big “do what I say, not what I do” hole here, because this week I needed “easy.” My daughter is loving it right now and is quick to suggest, “Let’s just go get a pizza,” when I start wondering how I’m going to get dinner made before 8 p.m. I may cave 10% of the time, but try to balance it out by allowing only one piece paired with some raw fruits and veggies, which are also easy.

The absolute best food marketing campaign of 2011 was for Cutie mandarin oranges. They didn’t try to sell the fact that their product was a better option than a cookie, but they said their product was easy for a kid to peel and eat. I was sold… I’ve bought about 3 bags of them this winter, and they don’t stay in the refrigerator long at all.

In the end, I guess I’m trying to say it’s okay to be spoiled and lazy some of the time and it’s okay to rejoice the food industry that has allowed it to become easy to do so. I also want to stress that you will never hear me complain about having access to cheap, easy food. BUT, just remember to treat it as a special gift when the going gets tough, or your kids won’t let you get back to the meals that you know are best.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Food Day & Learning to Say “NO”

While I appreciate the efforts of FOOD DAY organizers, I have a few issues and will attempt to address them in time. (Initially I wanted to tackle one each day this week, but I am a busy mom.)

Food Day Principle #5 - Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing aimed at kids

Food, Mommy Principle #1 - Promote health by providing your kids better food choices and teach them to say "No" to poor food choices

I think it is very ironic that everyone is pointing their fingers at “junk-food” producers and marketers for making our kids fat, when they don’t have any real buying power. Who buys it for them? WE DO!

“No” may be the most important word you ever teach your child. My kids hear it at least 50 times a day, and at least half of those “no’s” are aimed at their food choices.

“Mommy, can I pick a cereal that I want?” And I say, “No, we are not going to get a cereal with that much sugar.”

“Mommy, can I have some ice cream?” Me, “What did you eat today at Nana’s house?” Kid, “Well, we had pancakes for breakfast, macaroni and cheese and a popsicle at lunch.” Me, “No, not today. If we make better food choices tomorrow, then I will consider letting you have some ice cream.”

“Mommy, I’m starving. Can we go by McDonald’s or Taco Bell.” Me, “No, I have something to cook for dinner. Eat an apple when we get home.”

As marketing tactics become increasingly aggressive, we the adults need to put on our fighting gear and quit asking the government to step in or stop filing silly lawsuits against the best food marketers. Slick advertising does not make our kids fat. They may ask for it, but adults are giving in. I will even be so bold to say that parents are worse than the marketers. We get lazy or blame the fact that we just don’t have time to do better.

On more occasions than I can count in the last few months, I have seen adults making very poor food choices for our children. Pizza, hot dogs and sodas were the main fare at a juvenile diabetes research fund raising walk this weekend. Every time my child is sent home with a fundraising form, it is for selling doughnuts or treats or cookie dough. Upcomoing Halloween and fall festivals will be filled with bags of candy and food our kids just do not need. How often do our kids have an extra-curricular activity and pizza, cookies, cupcakes, sodas and sugar-filled drinks aren’t on the menu? The kids aren’t shelling out the cash for these things, and I bet they aren’t even asking for it. We just assume that is what they want to eat and we provide it for them.

I am not opposed to pizza and treats on occassion, but let’s get off our duffs and show our kids that we care about their health. Just say, “NO,” and give them a good meal for a change.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Food Marketing Mayhem

Produced the way God intended.

That was the first thing that popped into my head when Eden was trying to come up with a slogan to put on a carton to sell her eggs. For the chickens are free to go wherever and can eat anything they want.

Or maybe we can say, “all natural” when we sell our eggs; they are of this earth, at least to my knowledge. Free-range, raised with integrity, from a small family-farm, home-grown, gluten-free, sugar free, no high-fructose corn syrup, raised with no added hormones, no steroids, no antibiotics, local, and proceeds from all sales will go to a college fund. Who wouldn’t want to buy Eden’s eggs?

But this is exactly the kind of marketing mayhem that is making my head spin. Food companies are playing on our emotions and lack of knowledge to sell their products.

The tactic I like the least is saying a food is free of some ingredient or additive, when it never had it to begin with. In the late ‘80s and ‘90s, when the newest diet crazes required eating less fat, everything became “fat free.” Remember seeing sugar candies labeled “fat free?” Oh, yea. I can eat all I want!

Fast forward 25 years, fat is no longer the enemy; it’s sugar. Even worse in some minds is high-fructose corn syrup, which is silly. But I admit that I have hopped aboard the “sugar is bad” train. I caught myself looking at several yogurts at the store wanting to find the one that had the least sugar, but without aspartame… because that’s really bad? Oh, trans-fats are still bad. Yes? I haven’t seen a label that says no trans-fats in a while, so do we care anymore? It seems that you now need to know the difference between Omega-3s and Omega-6s. Both are naturally-occurring. Which one am I looking for, again?

The chicken companies have started to add “no added hormones” and “no steroids” to their labels. But just in case you didn’t know, chicken producers have not been allowed to use hormones and steroids since 1954. But would you buy the chicken labeled as such above a brand that is not labeled that way? I also think it is funny that they place “cage free” on packages of chicken cuts. Most all chickens produced for meat are raised cage free. Chickens from cages that have exceeded their maximum egg producing years may end up in a can of chicken noodle soup, but who would eat that anyway? Have you seen the sodium content? Wait, the soup now has “a 1/3 less sodium which is ‘heart healthy’?”

While I have not seen it as much lately, “hormone free” really gets me going. If it has ever been alive, plant or animal, there are hormones. Unless you are eating synthetic food, get used to consuming them.

My next least favorite tactic is food companies trying to make less than healthy foods seem more healthful. Jars of spaghetti sauce and canned pastas contain “two full servings of vegetables.” Wait a minute. I thought tomatoes were technically fruits. We may next be seeing that veggie slogan on a bag of potato chips. If you eat the whole bag, you may be getting several day’s worth of veggies. Yes! And while I do appreciate the breakfast cereal companies using more “whole grains” which many of them have done for years, that does not change the fact that they are still full of sugar. Hmm? Some say that cows fed corn are less healthy than cows only fed grass and hay. Will corn--which is a whole grain--make me unhealthy and fat, too? Suzanne Somers says so. What’s next? “Contains no corn” or “no grains?” Actually, I have seen that on bags of dog and cat food. Those bags also read, “Real meat.”

Since Paleolithic man did not eat grains, they must not be an ideal food choice. However, I just saw a magazine cover that says Dr. Oz swears by eating for your blood type. Since my blood is A-, I am supposedly a perfect candidate to go vegetarian, and I digest grains very well. I expect that very soon we will see frozen meals that will list blood types: “Type A approved!”

Lastly, I have been seeing foods marked, “farm-grown.” Are there so many synthetic food ingredients out there that people honestly think their food was created in a laboratory?

Or better yet, I recently saw bins full of vegetables marked “Home Grown.” I stood there with my mouth open for a few seconds. I really had a hard time believing that this mound of produce came from a local person’s back yard. The logistics alone did not make since for a large grocery chain to buy from small, very local producers.

Then I saw another store chain advertise the same in their weekly flyer and an explanation followed. The produce came from X Farms: they are family-owned, grow produce on 2,500 acres and are located in Ohio. Nothing against Ohio, but that is not close to my home, 2,500 acres is a very large operation requiring lots of labor, and most all the farms I know of are family-owned. Why isn’t the corn bread mix in the next aisle labeled “home grown” then, or the steaks in the meat aisle. I know for a fact that those came from family farmers in Kentucky, even though they are sold at a regional store chain. Maybe I need to put a bug in their marketers’ ears.

The list of food marketing tactics goes on and on. While some can claim it is a better understanding of food and nutrition that makes food companies want to cater to our desires and aim to eat better, I also believe it plays into a lot of people’s lack of understanding and fear. I am also inclined to think that these marketing buzz words give food companies justifiable reason to up the price on our food. Are you willing to pay more for the same food that is perceived as being better? I am not.

We have more information about the food we eat than ever. But while I cannot make claims on the overall health of our population, I know for a fact that we are definitely a heftier nation than we were before we knew the simplest calorie, fat and sugar content of our food. So, what is really making us fat: the food or our tendencies to embrace fancy words and slick packaging? I am still a believer that food with the least amount of frill, plastic, cardboard and ink is still best. Wash the dirt off and enjoy.

You may also enjoy - Hormones, Steroids, and Antibiotics. Oh, My! or Silly Chefs, High Fructose Corn Syrup is not the Enemy.
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