WBEZ | food industry http://www.wbez.org/tags/food-industry Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en How the Food Industry Helps Engineer Our Cravings http://www.wbez.org/news/how-food-industry-helps-engineer-our-cravings-114199 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/sugargraph.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="The food industry has processed lots of foods to hit that &quot;bliss point&quot; — that perfect amount of sweetness that would send eaters over the moon. In doing so, it's added sweetness in plenty of unexpected places – like bread and pasta sauce, says investigative reporter Michael Moss." class="img" src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/12/16/sugargraph_custom-9b4b159cf8de858ae0b5715776a3981c57a91989-s800-c85.jpg" style="box-sizing: border-box; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 14px; line-height: 15.5556px; font-family: Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; vertical-align: baseline; max-width: none; display: block; height: 412px; width: 620px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);" title="The food industry has processed lots of foods to hit that &quot;bliss point&quot; — that perfect amount of sweetness that would send eaters over the moon. In doing so, it's added sweetness in plenty of unexpected places – like bread and pasta sauce, says investigative reporter Michael Moss." /></p><p>It is no secret that the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-12-07/obesity-rates-rising-threat-public-health-and-welfare-114083" target="_blank">rise in obesity in America</a> has something to do with food. But how much? And what role does the food industry as a whole play?</p><p>As part of&nbsp;<em>Here &amp; Now&#39;s</em> series this week on obesity,<a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/tag/america-on-the-scale" target="_blank">&nbsp;<em>America on the Scale</em></a>, host Jeremy Hobson spoke with investigative reporter&nbsp;Michael Moss of<em>&nbsp;The New York Times</em>.</p><p>For Moss&#39;s book,&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Salt-Sugar-Fat-Giants-Hooked/dp/0812982193?tag=wburorg-20" target="_blank">Salt Sugar Fat</a></em>,&nbsp;he went inside the industry and spoke with food inventors and CEOs about how the industry has shaped what people eat and capitalized on how American eating habits have changed &mdash; for the worse and, maybe now, for the better. Highlights from their conversation follow, edited for brevity and clarity.</p><div><hr /></div><p><strong><span style="font-size:20px;">Interview Highlights</span></strong></p><p><strong>On the food industry&#39;s level of responsibility for the obesity epidemic</strong></p><p>I was really struck by how many people inside the industry itself hold their industry totally accountable, totally culpable for this surge in obesity that we&#39;ve had for the last 30 years now. Clearly, there are other contributing factors. Clearly, there are things like exercise and personal responsibility. But they &mdash; being insiders &mdash; came to believe that all of the effort they put into making their product so irresistible, so tasty, so perfectly engineered to get us to not just like them but to want more and more of them, laid that responsibility directly at their feet.</p><p><strong>On what it means to &quot;perfectly engineer&quot; food</strong></p><p>They would hire people like Howard Moskowitz, trained in high math at Queens College and experimental psychology at Harvard. Howard was one of the people responsible for some of the biggest icons in the grocery store.</p><p>For example, he walked me through his recent creation of a new soda flavor for Dr. Pepper. ... He started with no less than 59 variations of sweetness, each one slightly different than the next, subjected those to 3,000 taste tests around the country, did his high math regression analysis thing, put the data in the computer. And out comes this bell-shaped curve where the perfect amount of sweetness &mdash; not too little, not too much &mdash; is at the very top of the curve.</p><p>And it&#39;s Howard who coined the expression &quot;bliss point&quot; to capture that perfect amount of sweetness that would send us over the moon, their products flying off the shelf.</p><p><strong>On adding a sweetness &quot;bliss point&quot; to foods that didn&#39;t used to be sweet</strong></p><p>It&#39;s not that they engineer bliss points for sweetness in things like soda, ice cream, cookies &mdash; things we know and expect to be sweet. The food companies have marched around the grocery store adding sweetness, engineering bliss points to products that didn&#39;t used to be sweet. So now bread has added sugar and a bliss point for sweetness. Yogurt can be as sweet as ice cream for some brands. And pasta sauce &mdash; my gosh, there are some brands with the equivalent of sugar from a couple of Oreo cookies in one half-cup serving.</p><p>And what this does, nutritionists say, is create this expectation in us that everything should be sweet. And this is especially difficult for kids who are hard-wired to the sweet taste. So when you drag their little butts over to the produce aisle and try to get them to eat some of that stuff we all should be eating more of &mdash; Brussels sprouts and broccoli, which have some of the other basic tastes like sour and bitter &mdash; you get a rebellion on your hands.</p><p><strong>On the backlash the food industry now faces</strong></p><p>One of the fascinating things I came across in my research is that it was none other than Philip Morris &mdash; for years and years, it was the largest food manufacturer in North America through its acquisition of General Foods and then Kraft &mdash; it was none other than the tobacco managers at Philip Morris who turned to their food managers [in] 1999 and warned them that they were going to face as much trouble over salt, sugar, fat, obesity as they were then [facing] over tobacco smoking and health problems. Now we&#39;re starting to see that come home for the food companies.</p><p>Earlier this year, almost all of them stood before investors and reported dismal earnings. And the most forthright among the heads of the food companies attributed that decline to consumers caring more and more about what they put in their bodies, wanting to eat healthier, and acting on those decisions by changing their purchasing habits, which is really hitting the food giants hard.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/12/16/459981099/how-the-food-industry-helps-engineer-our-cravings?ft=nprml&amp;f=459981099" target="_blank"><em> via NPR</em></a></p></p> Thu, 17 Dec 2015 12:08:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/how-food-industry-helps-engineer-our-cravings-114199 Dollar stores are a target for food companies http://www.wbez.org/programs/marketplace/2015-09-08/dollar-stores-are-target-food-companies-112863 <p><p>Food manufacturers have been grappling with Americans&#39; changing preferences. Fresh foods are in, processed foods ... not so much.&nbsp;So it&#39;s no surprise food companies might be very interested in outlets where processed food still thrives and sales are rising: dollar stores.</p><p>According to the consulting firm Kantar Retail, dollar stores are an $80 billion business with tens of thousands of locations.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s got a 6.5 percent compound annual growth rate from the end of the decade, which is well above the 4 percent growth rate the conventional grocery store channel is running,&rdquo; says John Rand, senior vice president of retail insights at Kantar.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cereals.jpg" style="height: 405px; width: 540px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="As food companies deal with American consumers’ shifting preference away from processed food to fresh foods, they’re still getting decent sales at dollar stores with their smaller, cheaper products. (Marketplace/Annie Baxter)" /></p><p>Dollar stores typically offer less expensive and smaller versions of core household items. (Despite the name, not all products are priced at $1, but they&rsquo;re still cheap). Rand says the food products at dollar stores tend to be what experts call &ldquo;center of store&rdquo; items &mdash; the non-perishables that are the hallmark of processed food companies.</p><p>&ldquo;This is a channel that&#39;s been growing in itself and growing for General Mills,&rdquo; says Rick Krichmar, senior manager in Shopper Insights at the food giant General Mills, which enjoyed 8 percent growth in the dollar and drug store channel in 2014.</p><p>Even as General Mills responds to consumers&rsquo; growing health obsessions by cutting artificial flavors and colors from Lucky Charms and offering organic products under its Annie&rsquo;s banner, Krichmar says there&rsquo;s still a market for items like Hamburger Helper and Chex Mix at dollar stores. Consumers who buy the smaller, discount store versions of those brands tend to be older people and those with limited incomes.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://www.marketplace.org/sites/default/files/rick.jpg" style="text-align: center; height: 405px; width: 540px;" title="Rick Krichmar is a senior manager Shopper Insights at the food giant General Mills, in suburban Minneapolis. Krichmar says sales of General Mills items at dollar stores grew 8 percent in 2014, and it’s an important market for the company’s future. (Marketplace/ Annie Baxter)" typeof="foaf:Image" /></p><p>&ldquo;While we see a lot of metrics of the economy improving from depths of recession from 2008, we know lots of people have employment but those jobs pay much less,&rdquo; Krichmar says. &ldquo;And the future growth of the population &mdash; a large part of that is going to be the lower income household.&rdquo;</p><p>Dollar store shopper Shirley Senske sees her own household stuck in neutral. She&rsquo;s a school bus driver and mother of five, and she regularly shops at a Dollar General store in a Minneapolis suburb. She says she and her husband earn so little as to count among the working poor.</p><p>&quot;Your paycheck is gone when you get it because you know you&#39;ve got to pay rent,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Senske knows she might pay more per ounce for the smaller-sized stuff at dollar stores. But she can&#39;t always afford the giant stock-up sizes.</p><p>&ldquo;Sometimes it&#39;s cheaper to buy the little things, and then save up and get the big items,&quot; she says. &quot;It&#39;s a matter of what you can afford that month.&rdquo;</p><div><div><div><div><p>But some analysts question whether food companies can afford to make the smaller dollar store products Senske wants.</p></div></div></div></div><p>&ldquo;Can the production lines handle it, and can you get a decent margin on it?&rdquo; asks Edward Jones stock analyst Brian Yarbrough.</p><p>Yarbrough says those are questions that big food companies will have to figure out. Nevertheless, as Walmart loses grocery shoppers to dollar stores, Yarbrough says it makes sense for food companies to go where the growth is.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.marketplace.org/topics/wealth-poverty/dollar-stores-are-target-food-companies"><em>Marketplace</em></a></p></p> Tue, 08 Sep 2015 14:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/marketplace/2015-09-08/dollar-stores-are-target-food-companies-112863 GMO supporter tells food industry meeting in Chicago to stop opposing GMO labeling http://www.wbez.org/news/gmo-supporter-tells-food-industry-meeting-chicago-stop-opposing-gmo-labeling-108935 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Mark Lynas edited.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Mark Lynas has a knack for dropping bombshells at normally snoozy industry conferences.</p><p>Last January at an agriculture conference, the British environmentalist and writer made international news (and outraged fellow activists) by announcing that, after years of opposing genetically modified crops, he now supported them.</p><p>And Tuesday, <a href="http://www.foodintegrity.org/document_center/download/mediaroom/lynasreleasefinal2.pdf">at a food industry meeting near O&rsquo;Hare</a>, the invited speaker, let loose with another whopper. He told the group&mdash;many from the soybean industry&mdash;<a href="http://www.foodintegrity.org/media-room/audio-video"> that they needed to support federal efforts to label GMOs (GM or GE) in the U.S.</a></p><p>Big food and agriculture groups have long battled labeling efforts, including a pending bill in Illinois and a ballot initiative scheduled for vote next month in Washington state. So Lynas, who changed his presentation late Monday night, knew the statement would ruffle feathers.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not here to tell them what they want to hear,&rdquo; Lynas told WBEZ after his speech at the Food Integrity Summit in Rosemont. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m here to challenge them and provoke them, which is why I told them today that they have to stop opposing GMO labeling. I believe people do have the right to know what&rsquo;s in their food, and they as an industry have a responsibility and a mandate to deliver on that.</p><p>&ldquo;The key issue here is transparency,&rdquo; said Lynas, who <a href="http://www.marklynas.org">posted his reasoning on his website Tuesday</a>. &ldquo;People are scared because they are not told what [food] they are in and it&rsquo;s a ridiculous situation. Because the industry hides behind the fact that these products aren&rsquo;t labeled they can&rsquo;t sell biotechnology on its real merits and its merits are real. There&rsquo;s a big reduction in pesticides and a big increase in productivity. But they can&rsquo;t make that case because they can&rsquo;t tell them that they are being used.&rdquo;</p><p>Several attendees were still digesting Lynas&rsquo; words during a coffee break after his speech.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I understand what he means about familiarity breeding acceptance, and I think it is really compelling and something I&rsquo;m going to need to think about a little bit more before I make a decision,&rdquo; said Susanne Zilberfarb of the Delaware Maryland Soybean Board. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s sort of a reversal of what agriculture and the food companies out there have been working towards and so it&rsquo;s an interesting strategy. It wasn&rsquo;t what I expected. I&rsquo;ll tell you that.&rdquo;</p><p>When asked if this would mean a complete about-face for the food and agriculture industry, Jane Ade Stevens of the Indiana Soybean Alliance said: &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know that the industry has accepted that strategy but that is what he was suggesting we might want to look at. I think everything is on the table as far as the way you look at those things.&rdquo;</p><p>Late Tuesday afternoon Tom Helscher of Monsanto, a major U.S. producer of GM seeds and complementary pesticides, said that he was not familiar enough with Lynas&rsquo; comments to respond. But he added, &ldquo;we respect that people can have different views on this topic.&rdquo;&nbsp; Helscher directed WBEZ to Monsanto&rsquo;s online statement saying, &ldquo;We oppose current initiatives to mandate labeling of ingredients developed from GM seeds in the absence of any demonstrated risk.&rdquo;</p><p>Some GMO labeling supporters seemed pleased by the development.</p><p>&ldquo;I think this goes to show that you can be pro-labeling and pro-GE,&rdquo; said Scott Faber executive director of the national Just Label It campaign which seeks federal GMO labeling. &ldquo;Labeling is not a referendum on the technology but on a consumer&rsquo;s right to know. ...The more industry fights labeling, the more they create the impression that they have something to hide. Denying consumers the right to know does more to stigmatize the technology than anything that any GE opponents could do.&rdquo;</p><p>Faber says that, although Lynas is the highest profile labeling defector in the pro-GMO ranks, he&rsquo;s not alone.</p><p>Faber says that he believes many in the pro-GMO camp &ldquo;figure that the fight against labeling is more costly than labeling. The loss of confidence, brand reputation and consumer loyalty are far more costly to the food industry than simply putting the words &lsquo;may contain GE ingredients.&rsquo; &ldquo;</p><p>He notes that the Just Label It chairman, former Stonyfield yogurt chief, Gary Hirshberg, has frequently noted that his objections to current laws are less about the technology than the right to know.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>David Gumpert, a food policy journalist and author of &ldquo;Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Food Rights,&rdquo; sees Lynas&rsquo; statement as the start of a sea change among industry labeling opponents.</p><p>&quot;GMO labeling laws have already passed in CT and VT, and came close in CA,&rdquo; Gumpert wrote in an emailed statement to WBEZ. &ldquo;Labeling has been proposed in other states, plus Whole Foods Market is committed to labeling all its products. A tidal wave is forming behind labeling and labeling opponents are beginning to see the wave and deciding they should be getting on board. I expect more large food companies (who have been nearly unanimous against labeling) will begin voluntarily labeling as more consumers express the need to be informed.&quot;</p><p>Outspoken farmer Joel Salatin, who was featured in the film &ldquo;Food Inc.&rdquo; and Michael Pollan&rsquo;s &ldquo;The Omnivore&rsquo;s Dilemma,&rdquo; opposes GMOs but also sees federal labeling as government meddling. He was skeptical of Lynas&rsquo; statement.<br /><br />&ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t surprise me,&rdquo; he said to WBEZ Tuesday, &ldquo;because these guys are sharp as can be and they are seeing that they can turn this on its head by saying go ahead and label.&rdquo;</p><p>Less than two hours after Lynas finished his presentation, Center for Food Integrity CEO Charlie Arnot took the floor to report the results of a CFI survey on what causes consumers to lose trust in their food suppliers and even sparks outrage.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;What the public told us was &lsquo;if you want us to trust you, even though you&rsquo;ve changed in size and scale, you need to be more transparent and share more information&rsquo;,&rdquo; Arnot said. &ldquo;...To me those are some good guidelines and we hope that will provide a roadmap for those in the food system to follow.&rdquo;</p><p>On the other side of the spectrum, activists were saying basically the same thing.</p><p>&ldquo;There will be growing support for labeling,&rdquo; Faber predicted. &ldquo;That is not because of concern about the technology necessarily. It is really part of a larger trend&mdash;consumers in general want to know a lot more about their food.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/meng">Monica Eng</a> is a WBEZ producer. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a></p></p> Wed, 16 Oct 2013 09:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/gmo-supporter-tells-food-industry-meeting-chicago-stop-opposing-gmo-labeling-108935