The other day I read a long and interesting article in the online version of The New York Times called "The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food". It is a really interesting look on how some of our well known junk foods have been developed and well worth a read.
Here are some of the better quotes from the article:
“What do University of Wisconsin M.B.A.’s learn about how to succeed in marketing?” his presentation to the med students asks. “Discover what consumers want to buy and give it to them with both barrels. Sell more, keep your job! How do marketers often translate these ‘rules’ into action on food? Our limbic brains love sugar, fat, salt. . . . So formulate products to deliver these. Perhaps add low-cost ingredients to boost profit margins. Then ‘supersize’ to sell more. . . . And advertise/promote to lock in ‘heavy users.’ Plenty of guilt to go around here!”
Bob Drane, who was V.P. for new business strategy and development at Oscar Mayer, and the man behind lunchables
“This,” Witherly said, “is one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure.” He ticked off a dozen attributes of the Cheetos that make the brain say more. But the one he focused on most was the puff’s uncanny ability to melt in the mouth. “It’s called vanishing caloric density,” Witherly said. “If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there’s no calories in it . . . you can just keep eating it forever.”
The coating of salt, the fat content that rewards the brain with instant feelings of pleasure, the sugar that exists not as an additive but in the starch of the potato itself — all of this combines to make it the perfect addictive food.
Steven Witherly, a food scientist and author of “Why Humans Like Junk Food.”
The development of the perfect snack is also treated. As an example Frito-Lay's Robert Lin reveals that their tools included a $40,000 device that simulated a chewing mouth to test and perfect the chips, discovering things like the perfect break point: people like a chip that snaps with about four pounds of pressure per square inch.
The article doesn't really take a stance on whether the so called obesity epidemic is entirely the fault of producers of junk food, but maybe the point is that both we as consumers and the companies producing the food are at fault?