Here’s a little something about something that bugs the hell out of me. Actually, it’s really long (as this is such a “weighty” subject) but I hope you make it to the end – if you do, I salute you in advance.
I’ve mentioned in a previous post how much I loath marketing that cons people – despite being a marketer by trade. I can’t abide it. So cynical, so deceitful. Obviously I know that marketing is ultimately about selling stuff, but there should be limits to the level of disingenuity – or outright lying – allowed. But, it seems, there aren’t; not when it comes to profit.
Top of my hit list are the sugar pushers – the Pennywises of the food production world, who use their obscenely massive marketing budgets to knowingly peddle poison to children. For money. At least Pennywise did it for reasons other than sheer greed (ie he was a psycho demon killer clown who needed to terrify and then devour kids in order to survive).
He’s a pussy cat compared to this lot. I’m talking about the likes of Kelloggs and Nestle, two of the biggest cereal companies in the world, with brands such as Frosties, Cheerios and Coco Pops. Pure sugar, all of them (save some added vitamins – for marketing purposes, obvs) yet allowed to be marketed as breakfast.
But that’s not the worst of it. Oh no. Nestle also sells Cookie Crisp and Brownie Crisp cereal – which are exactly as right/wrong as they sound. Cookies and brownies are great as an occasional treat, if that’s what you like, but not as a child’s first meal of the day. Unless you’re a really, really terrible parent.
And then it takes a really fucked-up turn……ladies and gentlemen….I give you….Toffee Crisp Cereal!
What’s that, you say? That’s a chocolate bar? Yes it is. Sorry, must be seeing things – all this processed sugar is making me hallucinate. Oh hold on, I’m right after all. Nestle really does sell a breakfast cereal that’s basically chopped up Toffee Crisps. Yes it does. And that’s not all. By some sly markety jiggery pokery they are allowed to put a very prominent, wide green band at the top of even this “meal”, complete with an image of a grain and a massive tick.
Which, I don’t know about you, signifies to me that this breakfast food is healthy and wholesome and despite all appearances to the contrary – actually good for us. A product that is essentially bite size pieces of confectionery. Which will – despite Nestle claiming that its market is adults – be consumed primarily by small, still forming children as what is considered by most to be the most important meal of the day. I’m pretty much unshockable. Not much renders me speechless, but this horror, lurking seductively on a popular supermarket’s breakfast cereal shelf, did. Just dreadful. Confused? You will be…
The bright colours and engaging graphics on Nestle’s cereal boxes are in sharp contrast to its website, which is curiously bland and earnest; corporate, even. It almost looks like a good health information site – which is, I’m pretty sure, the idea. Very strange messages here, almost as if they’re trying to play something down. Surely not.
And over at Kellogg’s, it’s a lot brighter and cuddlier but rather contradictory: apparently it all begins healthily enough with sunshine and grains but then goes downhill rapidly into Just. Eating. Chocolate. At breakfast time. Healthy, sunshiny, natural and innocent CHOCOLATE. Oh, and they call it Krave. Hardy fuckin’ har.
I once wrote a letter to Kellogg's' Marketing Director about the abomination that was Coco Straws (now defunct, thankfully) and the first line said simply "How do you sleep at night?". I wasn't being clever, or sarky. I really wanted to know. Because I couldn't. I wouldn't get a wink, not knowing that I was wilfully getting kids hooked on sugar for life, adding to the cause of childhood diabetes and ongoing, lifelong ill-health, disability and blighted lives. Never heard a dicky bird in return; funny, that.
Now, I do appreciate that people have a responsibility to feed their offspring properly. But this constant onslaught of cheap, easy, high-profit crap and its clever, cynical marketing clearly has an effect on busy, stressed parents and their limited time – mainly by easing their guilty consciences with the marketing devices they use: ie the green visuals that signify health, and the wholegrain and vitamins (often negligible) in the cereal itself. All seemingly good for you.
But I’m sorry – you may as well serve your kids a bowl of hundreds and thousands, with a splash of milk.
It’s not our fault. We are programmed to crave sugar because it’s high-energy, and was scarce in nature when we humans were evolving. But the problem is it’s not scarce any more. Quite the opposite: it’s cheap, easy to produce and is all around us. And has an obscenely high profit margin. Sugar has been made an acceptable – healthy, even – breakfast choice for countless millions of adults and children via sly, clever marketing by ruthless food companies and their lobbyists. And new sugar addicts are made constantly, helpless in the face of so many variations of the drug they just can’t live without.
Protein’s where it’s at.
A couple of cheesy scrambled eggs on toast (buttered, of course!) and our kids are laughing all the way to school dinnertime. Just as cheap, almost as quick, and more tasty and nutritious than any manufactured sugar-crap.