We’ve previously discussed how salty, fatty and especially sugary foods cause our brains to “light up” with chemicals associated with pleasure.
In the food industry, increasing sales often means giving consumers more of what they want. The experience of eating involves more than just taste, and includes appearance, aroma, texture and the way it feels in your mouth. In addition to proving that a food product is safe to eat, these factors all need to fit the consumer profile you’re targeting – after all, if you don’t get the formula right, your competitors will.
It should come as no surprise that “what we want” is often high levels of salt, fat and sugar. While a restaurant may know this from anecdotes and experience, the food beverage and tobacco industry in Australia is worth over $24 billion to our GDP and so the science has been done to find the precise levels.
When it comes to taste, the amounts and proportions of ingredients can be optimised to provide the right flavour hit. Some processed foods like salty potato chips can actually desensitize your tastebuds, and other proportions of different ingredients can be used to encourage you to eat more.
Michael Moss takes a long-winded and in-depth look at how processed foods are engineered, using market research and scientific knowledge from psychology to maths to chemistry, in creating recipes with mass-appeal:
Closer to home, Sam de Brito was recently featured in Fairfax media explaining how this junk food arms race affects our diet, nutrition and food culture:
Once a line of processed food products has been readied for the market, the final step is to use branding as a pre-emptive strike against any guilt or mental restraints you’re likely to have when considering purchasing the product – often resulting in some sort of healthful claim on the packet.
Government regulations are responsible for the standardised nutrition information you see on food labels, although there are controversial loopholes allowing food manufacturers to make them tougher to read. With growing public awareness and interest in healthy food, it’s these regulations that we expect to become more of a battleground in the future.
The threats of new labeling requirements and introduction of “junk-food taxes” have been noted by large stakeholders in the industry, and preparations are already underway – often involving the very same marketing and branding strategies.
As it becomes harder and harder to tell healthy product labels apart from the green ones at the grocery store, so does it become more and more important to learn about healthy food choices. HSG can infuse your organisation’s culture with healthy eating – contact us today on 1300 889 073 to learn about our Nutrition Seminars.