One day nearly 60 years ago, comedian Bert Lahr donned a devil suit, held up a bag of potato chips, and uttered a phrase that became a landmark in food marketing: “You can only eat one Beccha.”
Positioning food as delicious and addictive, as Lay's did with its clever television commercials, became advertising gold. In the decades since, Oreos and freezer waffles (“L'eggo my eggo!”) have been portrayed as so appealing that people fight over them. The popular stoner movie “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” chronicles two friends indulging in fast food sliders.
Ease of eating became a selling point, and Kellogg went all out and named the chocolate-filled cereal Crave. High-class chefs were no exception. Christina Tosi, known for Milk Bar's super sweet desserts, named one of her desserts “crack pie.”
But we are now in the Ozempic era. A series of new drugs that eliminate food cravings and a series of new scientific studies are drawing attention to the relationship between addiction and food. Ultra-processed foods, made with cheap industrial ingredients and potentially as addictive as tobacco or gambling, have emerged as a national concern.
What will food marketers do? Some who work or study this nation's trillion-dollar food industry describe this moment as little more than a speed bump. There are some too. Food companies are nimble and riding the cultural wave, finding new ways to keep customers asking for refills.
Others say this is a turning point in how Americans eat and how companies sell food.
“This is an existential threat to the food industry, and it's certainly an existential threat to the processed food industry,” said Roberts, a professor emeritus of nutrition, food research, and public health at New York University who has written extensively on food policy and science. said Marion Nestle. “All of these things are coming together in a way that has never come together before.”
In the 1960s, when Ray's was defying the public, “no one thought asking for more chips could be a bad thing,” says the marketing creative director who worked with the beef industry, Kikkoman, and Hagen. Steve Siegelman says. -Daz.
Although portraying food as appealing or edible is already starting to fall out of favor, it's still perfectly acceptable as a strategy between businesses, he said. For example, Hidden Valley Ranch uses the slogan “Give them the drink they want” in their advertisements in restaurant trade publications.
Mike Costio, vice president of food industry consulting firm Menu Matters, whose clients include brands such as Dunkin' and Del Monte Foods, said overuse is beginning to erode appetite's marketing power. But as an underlying concept, it won't go away, he said.
“This is so central to how we sell so many foods,” he said. “It's an image of oozing cheese and crunchy sounds.”
Kostoyo said some customers have asked how worried they should be about the runaway popularity of drugs like semaglutide (the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wigovy) and tirzepatide (Munjaro). These drugs are thought to have the effect of silencing what people call “meal noises.” ”, or constantly thinking about eating. He tells them it's too early to tell.
If sales of addictive snacks fail, he said, the industry will find something else.
Food companies faced similar challenges in the early 1990s, when fat was considered the devil of the diet. They responded with products such as Snackwells, a line of fat- and cholesterol-free cookies that became extremely popular and often ran out of stock. Bakedraz had fewer calories and fat than the original, and his $50 million ad campaign showed supermodels fishing and playing poker. Their slogan is “Eat like a boy, but look like a girl.” Of course, the commercial ended with Ray's time-tested catchphrase.
Michael Moss, a former New York Times reporter, has written two books explaining how some food companies use science, marketing and political influence to get consumers hooked on their products. But he doesn't expect drugs like Ozempic to make a difference.
“It's part of their business plan to make us lose control,” he said of the processed food industry. “I was talking to an industry lobbyist who told me that vitamin O scares us as much as Michelle Obama's 'Let's Move' campaign.” , to get more exercise.
In its recent annual report on the food and beverage industry, market research firm Mintel posits that consumer demand for minimally processed foods will continue to grow, and that manufacturers will suggested focusing on the benefits of food processing, such as promoting safety.
The report also suggests strategies for selling products that cannot provide nutritional supplements, stating that “Brands that produce food and beverage products that are highly, excessively, or ultra-processed should not be able to provide consumers with these products. They will need to be reminded of the joy and comfort they derive from the product.”
But instead of telling consumers what a product will do for them, many marketers tell them what they want, said Caitlin Reynolds, executive vice president at advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi. They say they are combing through social media to find out.
“It's like an unprompted focus group that operates 24/7,” she said.
In 2021, Ms. Reynolds led her team to create an award-winning ad campaign for Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers, inspired by posts about people eating snacks by the handful while working from home during the shutdown phase of the pandemic. It was created. Multi-platform In his campaign, Boban Marjanovic, the NBA player with the biggest hands, appeared with as many crackers as possible.
Goldfish are a staple food for families with small children, but this snack has become a top seller with grown teenagers eating goldfish. “Gen Z loves nostalgia,” Reynolds says.
And while brand integrity is important to Gen Z members, they're not as health-conscious as Millennials, who prefer grain bowls and nut milks, according to Menu Matters' Kostyo.
“With Gen Z, we're seeing a movement away from that,” he said. “They love candy and Taco Bell and TikTok-style food.”
The strategy to market food to Gen Z and its successor, Alpha (the oldest member is 14), relies more on the clever use of social media than on a single message repeated in traditional advertising. It also includes fun and outrageous collaborations between brands, such as a Nacho Cheese Dorito-flavored liqueur that the snack giant recently developed in collaboration with Empirical, a company started by alumni of Copenhagen's elite restaurant Noma.