The Power of Food Marketing

by Amber Muranko

I was in Whistler the other day with the kids and we had just finished lunch and were about to head over to the swimming pool. Just as I got everyone loaded in the truck, I get a text from my husband who was off to work for the week; “Could you please pick me up some groceries. Attached a list and Thanks!!!”

My first thought was, “great, now I have to go to the grocery store with the kids”, not my favourite activity. But I responded to him with an “Of Course!” And off we went to the store. The kids ran straight for the gummy candies displayed right at my 3-year-olds eye level. They started the famous whine and I realised then that my kids have been targeted by the mega food industry. As I felt the need to get on with the shop in somewhat of a peaceful manner, I caved into their demands. At least they chose Organic Fruit Chews ...

 Photo Credit: Rakicevic Nenad via Unsplash

Photo Credit: Rakicevic Nenad via Unsplash

Advertising and marketing companies are targeting children as their major market force because “of their spending power, their purchasing influence and as future adult consumers”. They start at a toddlers age through commercials and TV ads to foster brand building.

Kids don’t know what foods are good and bad. What they are offered at home is usually what they know in terms of nutrition. While doing some research I was educated on a new term: Food Insecurity in the Home. I realized that there are many factors into how we are educated on food from a young age. Financial limitations, on the go schedules and habits, are some of those factors we pass on as parents.

 Photo Credit: Caroline Attwood via Unsplash

Photo Credit: Caroline Attwood via Unsplash

We may think we are being led by example at community events and gatherings, getting served hot chocolate, sodas, cakes, cookies and hot dogs. It is all fun and games until all the kids get a sugar rush.

I recently read that California is urging the government to add hot dogs and cold cuts (lunch meat) to Proposition 65 which is a list of known foods/chemicals to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. What messages are we sending the kids from “standing” members/businesses of the community in the food and beverages they are providing? What about all the vending machines in places like community centers, swimming pools, schools, and sports arenas, where the message is supposed to be health?

We need to educate ourselves, our children and our community. We need to start being our children’s voice and demand changes in what is put out there as food choices. A beautiful initiative and example of what I'm envisioning is the Green Moustache's food vending machine at the Whistler Meadow Park Sports Centre.

Our food has become bombarded with sugars/glucose, artificial colourings, and preservatives. These are all known to cause unhealthy reactions in our body that can wreak havoc on our moods and behaviours.

 Photo Credit: Canva

Photo Credit: Canva

It is a challenging debate as food is an important part of our culture. And in the western world, we tend to do a lot of “celebratory eating”. We tend to celebrate with food; cakes, pies, chocolates, and sugar-laden drinks.

We have related feelings about food cravings:
Feel tired? Grab a coffee.
Need an energy boost? Eat something sweet.
Suffering from PMS? Have some chocolate. All to find out soon after, that these foods really were not helping.

An interesting thought to think about is to treat your body how you should treat your car. Both need proper “fuels” and regular maintenance to run optimally. Imagine what happens when you put gas in your diesel vehicle? It simply would not run. The same goes for your body. If you feed your body crappy food, you will feel crappy too.

 Photo Credit: Brooke Cagle via Unsplash

Photo Credit: Brooke Cagle via Unsplash

Some people feel it is unaffordable to eat organic, but if you stick with a simple diet of whole, plant-based foods, you will actually spend less. As parents, and the ones who are making food choices for our children, we have the power. Although our family might be bombarded with brainwashing marketing messages, we decide what we spend our dollars on. And every single dollar is a vote. A way to support the business you are buying from.

Another tip is to shop on the outer perimeter of the store: the produce section. Because all those centre aisles in the grocery store are filled with processed, pre-packaged foods merely tempting you. But they lack the nutrients we need.

It wasn't a super-smooth transition, but it only took me and my family a few days to get rid of the cravings to processed foods. And if we can do it, you can too!

Within days of quitting salt, my tastebuds were healed and I started to taste the true flavour of the food I was eating. I started craving salads, vegetables and, fruit.
I also enjoyed spending more time in the kitchen. Overall I was in a way more positive mindset, I had a ton of energy and certain body pains disappeared.

I don't think, but I know, Hippocrates was onto something back in the 4th Century BC, saying:

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.

 

 

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RESOURCES

1) Food advertising on British children’s television: a content analysis and experimental study with nine-year olds, MK Lewis and AJ Hill, International Journal of Obesity, 1998

2) Food Advertising and Marketing Directed at Children and Adolescents in the US, Mary Story, International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, 2004

3) Food Insecurity Affects School Children's Academic Performance, Weight Gain, and Social Skills, Diana F. Jyoti, et al. The Journal of Nutrition, 2005

 

Author Amber Muranko
Edit by Stephie Hennekam