Creating Addiction: Food Company Strategies

food addict

Bruce Bradly, who “worked for over 15 years as a food marketer at companies like General Mills, Pillsbury, and Nabisco,” wrote a pretty interesting piece recently on the way food companies try to make their food addictive.

The piece was piggy-backing on a 60 Minutes episode on this topic — “The Flavorists: Tweaking Tastes and Creating Cravings.” It is an interview with employees from the world’s largest flavoring and fragrance manufacturer, Givaudan. The bottom line of it all? If you’re battling a food addiction, it’s very likely an addiction the food company is doing everything it can to create. (Full text available at the link above; video here.)

Here’s a bit of that interview, via Bradley’s piece, which I ran across on Grist:

Givaudan [Dawn Streich]: In our fruit flavors we’re talking about, we want a burst in the beginning. And maybe a finish that doesn’t linger too much so that you want more of it.

Givaudan [Jim Hassel]: And you don’t want a long linger, because you’re not going to eat more of it if it lingers.

Morley Safer: Aha. So I see, it’s going to be a quick fix. And then …

Givaudan [Hassel]: Have more.

Safer: And then have more. But that suggests something else?

Givaudan [Hassel]: Exactly.

Safer: Which is called addiction?

Givaudan [Hassel]: Exactly.

Safer: You’re tryin’ to create an addictive taste?

Givaudan [Hassel]: That’s a good word.

Bradley has more to add that I think does even better at hitting the true, or biggest, problems of processed food:

Beyond its tendency to wear through our will power, what’s so bad about processed food? Well, as I explained in my blog post “All Food is NOT Created Equal,” flavorings are just one of the ingredients in the processed food pantry. Fats, salt, and sugars are all layered on top of cheap, nutrition-poor ingredients to give the appearance and taste of real food. Over time our bodies eat more and get less nutrition, creating a downward spiral that can be disastrous for our health.

Luckily, the solution is pretty clear — eat whole foods and drink water and real juices.

It might just be an issue of building up the will power to eat for your body & mind, not only your taste buds.

Food Addict photo via shutterstock