How The Food Industry Is Manipulating Us

by Ankush Pahuja on August 11, 2021

How the universe of processed and packaged food is using salt, sugar and fat wittily to get customers hooked.

“They may have salt, sugar, and fat on their side, but we ultimately have the power to make choices. After all, we decide what to buy. We decide how much to eat.”

― Michael Moss, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.

Michael Moss, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, wrote an amazing book named Salt Sugar Fat.

In his work, he reveals the reason behind our addiction to salt, sugar, and fat and how the universe of processed and packaged food is using these three ingredients wittily to get customers hooked.

As a result, you have been consuming so much of it that most of us have developed an eating disorder.

I have come across people who order fast food five times a week as if it’s an addiction. Oh, the taste, the texture! Not to forget the convenience.

What about nutrition and harmful health effects?

They are mostly aware of them but choose to overlook them.

The food industry has completely altered our eating habits. It’s time to reconsider things.

Marketing Strategies and misleading taglines

The Financial Times got access to Nestle’s internal document wherein they found that 60% of its food products are ‘unhealthy’. Most of these beverages (99%) failed to meet a “recognized definition of health” and nutrition. They have also stated in the document that no matter how much they work on their products, some of them will never meet the health standards.

Most of the advertisements linked to the food industry are full of promises and have an added gloss to them. They have a feel-good factor and excite a broad sense of emotions.

On top of everything, you gaze at them and think to yourself, how are they so relatable? (Maggi tapping the emotions of us running to our parents during the evening hunger attack)

Well, the marketing strategies of giant food companies start by researching what will make you clutch their products. They promote the commodities accordingly so that the public is more likely to reach for them. Without these aesthetic marketing drives, the food industry wouldn’t be where it is today. The lovely montage where a group of people sit together and have pizza from their favorite spot does devise an impact on your mind and senses. Agree?

The tagline of Coca-Cola is “Taste the Feeling”, which gives us a sense of emotional belonging. McDonald’s tagline “I’m loving it” is one of the most famous taglines from the food industry. KFC’s “Finger Lickin Good”, Skittles ”Taste the rainbow”, Lipton’s “Drink Positive”, Burger King’s “Have it your way”, and Subway’s “Eat Fresh” are some of the taglines that sound so good and promising that you are instantly drawn to it.

You have been made to believe in lies sold by the food giants. The bitter truth is, none of them will make you feel fresh, happy, positive, or give you the rainbow. Although they taste amazing they are the leading reason for a wide range of health complications that are prevalent worldwide.

Diet Fun Flips, Seriously?

The Use of the three most addictive ingredients

These foods not only spur hunger, stimulate your minds, trigger appetite but also possess serious health hazards.

Why is it so hard to quit?

Your brain is the control hub of an extensive communication system, that is your body and mind. When you provide it with something pleasurable, it wants more of it, food being one of them. Usually when we refer to something indulging, most often it is loaded with sugar, salt and fat.

The three ingredients when combined have the power to stimulate the brain cells(neurons) and make us crave their products. As Moss mentions, “Salt, sugar, and fat are the holy grail for the processed food industry.”

The processed salt, sugar & fat added to the food products enhance flavors and the consumers enter a state of bliss. They trigger the discharge of dopamine, a chemical that prompts us to fasten in rewarding functions.

  • But our body needs sodium, right? Well, our body needs sodium but excessive amounts of the processed kind can cause serious health concerns.
  • Sugar too, of any kind, has nothing good to offer but get us hooked to their artificial recipe.
  • What about fats? Fats used in the processed and packaged food industry are trans fat and unhealthy saturated fats. Good fats are eliminated from such foods because Trans Fat increases the shelf life of boxed and canned products.

Claiming to be Healthy

Digestive Biscuits claims to be healthy with the goodness of seeds, but if you look at the nutritional label the product is made with maida, refined oil, sugar, maltodextrin, preservatives and contains only 6–7% seeds

You have been tricked! A lot of brands in the market have taglines like- “100% Natural”, “Made with real Honey”, “Heart-healthy”, “Fat-free”, “ Sugar-free”, “Excellent source of 10 vitamins and minerals” and many more.

In reality, even though the packaging makes these products seem healthy, they are PROCESSED.

Does the product says “Fat-free”, well most likely it is loaded with sugar and salt. “100% Real Fruits” printed in bold on the package, what’s hidden is “packed with sugar”. “Loaded with fiber” what kind? wood pulp, with zero nutritional value. Do not let these misleading health claims on the box fool you. Most of the food giants aren’t transparent enough to let you know about the actual ingredients they have been using.

In 2012, The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India sent out a notice to the top FMCG companies such as HUL, Dabur India, Marico, Cadbury India, Emami, and others. These companies were said to be making far-fetched claims through advertisements about their products without any scientific backup. They violated the law(section 23 of the FSSAI Act).

HUL’s product Kissan spread claimed that it has three times more nutritional value than normal butter.

Remember when Maggi was banned?

In 2015, Nestle’s Maggi had faced several cases relating to safety issues after tests revealed it had excessive lead content and MSG in it. The product was taken off the shelves and banned for six months straight. However, most people no longer found it as tasty as earlier because of the diminished amount of MSG after its return.

What can We do to help?!

The food industry has changed our eating habits completely over time and so our attitude towards food is different from that of our grandparents.

Practice this

All we need is the awareness and some willpower to let go of our crappy food addiction and make the switch that will change your life forever.