What If Consumers Just Want to Buy Junk Food?

Dec 22, 2016

By Adam Chandler

Earlier this week, the Pew Research Center released a study that analyzed over 40 years of American dietary habits. For the Bittmans, Pollans, and public-health junkies alike, the results were baffling and, by many possible interpretations of the word, disheartening. Using decades of data from the USDA, Pew found that Americans are consuming less milk, but more cheese; much less sugar, but much more high-fructose corn syrup; and 23 percent more calories in 2010 than in 1970. “Americans’ eating habits, in short, are all over the place,” concluded Drew DeSilver, a Pew writer.

To this mirepoix of contradictory news, add another Pew survey from earlier this month, which found that 54 percent of respondents said they believe that Americans are seeking out more-healthy food than they did 20 years ago—even though they are eating less healthfully than they did in that same timeframe. And, they’re convinced that high-protein products are good for them, even if most nutritionists say that Americans, if anything, are eating too much protein. Meanwhile, Americans also remain heavily split on the relative virtues and perils of genetically-modified foods (GMOs) and organic products. Given these contradictions and a general lack of consumer consensus, what are mass-market food manufacturers to do?

Apparently, thread the needle with kitchen twine. Around this time last year, Kraft took an extraordinary gamble with one of its most beloved foodstuffs—the iconic blue box of Mac & Cheese. After several years, Kraft replaced its classic recipe, laden with its fair share of artificial dyes and preservatives, with a new version. To replicate the taste and color of those increasingly unpopular synthetic ingredients, the company incorporated more familiar substitutes, such as paprika, annatto, and turmeric. But, despite all this work, Kraft didn’t publicly announce the change.


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4 comments on “What If Consumers Just Want to Buy Junk Food?

  • @OP – Given these contradictions and a general lack of consumer consensus, what are mass-market food manufacturers to do?

    It seems that looking at health and obesity, the UK government is taking some decisions for them!

    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/soft-drinks-industry-levy/soft-drinks-industry-levy

    This is a new levy that applies to the production and importation of soft drinks containing added sugar.

    The levy will apply to the producers and importers of these types of drinks.
    It will have a lower rate which will apply to
    added sugar drinks with a total sugar content of 5 grams or more per 100 millilitres
    and a higher rate for drinks with 8 grams or more per 100 millilitres.

    It will not apply to any drink where no sugar is added.

    Alcoholic drinks with an Alcohol by volume of up to 1.2% are included in the levy. The government will make provision to exempt certain drinks that fall within this category from the levy.

    A levy on soft drinks will contribute to the government’s plans to reduce childhood obesity by removing added sugar from soft drinks.
    The levy encourages producers of added sugar soft drinks to:

    reformulate their products to reduce the sugar content
    reduce portion sizes for added sugar drinks and importers to import reformulated drinks with low added sugar to encourage consumers of soft drinks to move to healthier choices



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  • What If Consumers Just Want to Buy Junk Food?

    Ah well!!
    I’ve just had one of our nice “health-food” hot desserts:-
    Microwave casseroled home grown apples from the last bucket-full, with a mixture of frozen home grown raspberries and some frozen wild black berries we picked last autumn.
    A little time and effort spent, – but no food purchase required!



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