Salt, sugar and fat. We all know how tempting these ingredients can be, and according to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Moss, this temptation is just what the processed food industry relies on.
“Salt, sugar and fat are the holy trinity of the processed food industry on which they [the industry] rely to deliver low cost utter convenience and incredibly irresistible allure,” says Moss, author of Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. Moss will be in Winnipeg on Thursday, Feb. 27 to discuss his book and give insight into just how for the food industry goes to get you to eat its products.
According to Moss, food giants engineer products to hit our “bliss point” (the exact spot where sugar is most attractive), to have the best “mouthfeel” (by manipulating the chemical structure of fat) or to give a “flavour burst” (which makes salty foods appealing and gives them a longer shelf life).
Companies set us up to eat as much as possible. But are the products addictive?
“I use the ‘A’ word sparingly in the book in part because the language that the food companies use in describing their efforts to maximize the allure of their products is every bit as revealing – they talk about craveability, snackability, moreishness, and you almost don’t need the word addictive.”
In scientific terms, however, there’s a good chance these products can be classified as addictive.
“I [met] some of the top neurological scientists studying addiction, and they’re convinced that for many of us the most highly bad, highly sweet foods will cause what they call ‘patterns of compulsive intake’ as much as some narcotics.”
The marketing power that goes into selling these products is also extremely powerful and contributes to the allure, Moss says.
“Why the research and reporting of this book was like being inside a detective story was the realization – even by the food giants is – that what they were selling wasn’t as much about food as it was about empowerment,” Moss says.
He cites the TV dinner-style lunches made by Kraft, called Lunchables, as an example.
“It was the Kraft officials that said it really isn’t about food, it’s about the kid in the lunchroom getting a real buzz and notoriety for having this cute attractive little tray. Thus they came up with the slogan, ‘All day you gotta do what they say but lunch time is yours.'”
By presenting these findings, Moss is hoping not only to educate people on why products are so ubiquitous and tempting, but also teach them what to look out for.
“I’m hoping that this book is not only a wakeup call to the industry, but it’s empowering to people who read the book because certainly in my own experience knowing everything that the food companies are doing to get you to do their bidding when you walk in the front door of a grocery store I find is an incredible playing field leveler.”
Join Michael Moss on Thursday, Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Masonic Centre. The event includes a public presentation and Q&A, followed by a book signing. Tickets are $30, or $15 for Growing Local Conference attendees. To purchase tickets or for more info go to www.wpgfdn.org/michaelmoss.