Friday, March 8, 2013

Food Reward Friday

This week's lucky "winner"... Yoplait Go-Gurt!


While only clocking in at 70 calories per tube, and not boasting as many questionable ingredients as certain other processed snacks, the second ingredient in Go-Gurt is sugar.  In his book Salt Sugar Fat, Michael Moss first brings up Go-Gurt in a chapter appropriately titled "exploiting the biology of the child".  This refers to the facts that a) humans are hard-wired from birth to like sweetness, and b) children like sweetness even more than adults.

Manufacturers use added sugar (in addition to fat, salt, other ingredients, and clever marketing) to maximize the attractiveness of processed foods to children, which results in higher sales and consumption.  Though most of the people reading this probably don't relish the thought of eating a tube of sweet processed goo, I'm sure we can all remember a time in our youth when this sort of thing would have appealed to us.

Moss's book has given me a greater appreciation for marketing as a powerful force that acts in concert with food reward to drive sales and consumption of processed food.  In the case of Go-Gurt, we have a product that is carefully calculated to appeal to children.  Note the brightly-colored familiar characters on the package, and brightly colored yogurt.  Even more importantly, Go-Gurt eliminates the need for a spoon, allowing a child to squeeze the goo directly into his mouth.  This is the ultimate in convenience, and also has the cool factor, which should not be underestimated as a sales tool.  Status is just as important to children as it is to adults, but children measure it differently.

Go-Gurt is a good example of the carefully calculated use of food reward and marketing to target children.


Image credit: www.t-nation.com.

18 comments:

Melissa Mcewen said...

We used to freeze these and then they were like popsicles. I would probably eat like 5 in one sitting Ewww.

Tuck said...

That is horrid stuff. One of the toughest things to wean kids off...

Travis Culp said...

It's interesting how the marketing is carefully calculated to balance being as novel and hyperpalatable to children while still being viewed as at least a psuedo-wholesome food to parents, the people actually buying these things. Same kinda deal with breakfast cereal. No doubt most parents are disgusted by the thought of actually eating that crap. On the other hand, no kid with a fistful of dollars would ever buy this when so many other, worse options exist. Strange tightrope to walk.

Seems like the more "foods" like this that you normalize early on for your kids, the harder it will be for them to escape our sinking food culture ship later on in life.

George Goodall said...

I just finished Salt Sugar Fat and thoroughly enjoyed it. I found the discussion of bliss point particularly interesting. I'm now asking questions like: "How much honey and butter is required to make grass-fed beef liver appealing to my very young children?" I suspect that they will still prefer Go-Gurt...

Earl Cannonbear said...

There should be a law.

The greedy CEOs of these food companies who market crap to our kids should be dragged before a tribunal of the people and be compelled to explain themselves.

Dr. Curmudgeon Gee said...

if you include HFCS, sugar probably becomes #1 ingredient.

insidious!

regards,

Newbie said...

I just started reading your blog last month, and I cannot tell you how I have enjoyed your explanations on hormone and metabolism. I am a physician practicing family medicine for 30 years. I started Paleo myself last year, and have thus far introduced many patients to the concepts. In some lean, fit people, I am seeing a bloodwork pattern for which I have no explanation, I'm hoping you can help me with it.
These people do not have metabolic syndrome – low TGs, high HDL, low waist circumference, normal liver on ultrasound, et cetera. Their fasting insulin is in the very low normal range(say 25-35 range, our lab normal is 13-162). However there fasting sugars are 5.8 - 6.3 and A-1 C in the low 60s, and their LDL's are in the fours, in particular apoB is between 1 and 1.3- considered higher risk in Canadian lipid guidelines.
Can you shed light on the mechanism of low insulin with high sugars in a lean person with out metabolic syndrome?

Billy Oblivion said...

On the other side, having a tube of it means more goes in the mouth and less goes ON the mouth, the shirt, the hands, the table, the car seat the...

Looking at several ingredient lists around the web we find that in most of them sugar or some sort of sweetener is the second ingredient:
* Yoplait Original
* Brown Cow Creamtop (the one I often get) & Creamtop Greek flavored varieties (the plain is not sweetened).
* Chobani Low Fat (some varieties the fruit is the 2nd and sugar (aka "Evaporated Cane Juice) is third. On others it's ECJ 2nd and fruit 3rd.
* noosa (which is some *tasty* stuff) has it as the second or third depending on the flavor

The goghurt is made by Yoplait, and has 10grams of sugars for every 70 calories. The "Original" has 26 grams of sugars for every 170 calories (comparing blueberry flavors). That looks to me like maybe the kids version is slightly LESS sweet than the "adult" version.

I don't think this is an issue of "big milk" seeking to make it hyper palatable, I think it's just that the regular stuff isn't very palatable at all to kids OR adults.

We don't get the stuff because it uses low fat milk, and frankly with milk and milk products that's mostly where the micro-nutrients are hiding.

I can barely stand the "plain" or unsweetened stuff. I guess I should get it more and make myself used to it.

Billy Oblivion said...

George: My kid will, sometimes, eat braunschweiger.

Don! said...

"Though most of the people reading this probably don't relish the thought of eating a tube of sweet processed goo, I'm sure we can all remember a time in our youth when this sort of thing would have appealed to us."

Actually, I don't remember such a time. I didn't grow up eating this kind of food. When I had yogurt, it was homemade with fresh fruit, or maybe a bit of homemade jam. In my family we ate mostly "real food," and the kids ate the same food as the adults.

This idea that kids need special "kid food" is so bizarre to me, and these "kid foods" almost always seem to be highly processed garbage foods that nobody should be eating on a regular basis. I agree with Travis Culp that giving this type of food to children will make things more difficult for them later on.

Robert said...

I do not think food should be shameful but I do think that the processed food industry's efforts at "exploiting the biology of the child," one of Moss's chapter titles, is shameful (Go-Gurt is the epitome of this shameful endeavor).

One particularly shameful action covered by Moss was Kellog's dishonest effort to trick mothers across the nation into believing that Frosted Mini-wheats was "brain food" for their children. Kellog spent millions to persuade parents that the cereal "improved focus by 20%." This ludicrous claim was based on the biased interpretation of a likely biased (though undisclosed) in-house study, and likely led thousands, if not millions, of mothers nationwide to buy the cereal thinking they were improving their child's mental health and school performance...

THAT is shameful.

dbk_999 said...

Hi,
I'd be interested in a discussion of the latest "Mummies had heart disease" story that's making headlines this week. Apparently the study in question included Aleutian Islanders who were called "hunter-gatherers", at least according to the story I read.

Here's a money quote from the LA Times:
"We want to believe that we can prevent heart disease, that we don't have to get it if we do the right things and go back to nature," said Thomas, who is also a clinical professor of cardiology at UC Irvine. "I believed it too, until we scanned these people."

Robert said...

Regarding overcoming processed food's power over kids, this book outlines an interesting, nation-wide effort in France to teach kids to eat whole, freshly-cooked foods. This nutritional education program likely prevents kids from consuming excessive processed foods as most, like Go-Gurt, would be considered too sweet by kids adapted to the French method.

http://www.amazon.com/French-Kids-Eat-Everything-ebook/dp/B00655ZNSI/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1363022875&sr=8-3&keywords=french+kids+eat+everything

Helen said...

My preschool kids ask me why I don't pack this stuff in their lunch....

Gabriella Kadar said...

Newbie, I'm pretty surprised at the liver ultrasounds, unless there is some sort of reason to do them, they are not done. Be that as it may. I live in Ontario.

Have you ordered up sleep studies for these patients? Hypopnea and apnea are not restricted to fat people. Anatomical issues (facial development), tonsils and adenoids, nasal problems will result in restricted airway especially during sleep. Upramping of SNS during sleep will result in higher blood sugars.

I'm a dentist and it's incredible how many people can't breathe through their noses. Just for example. Sometimes it's nasal polyps, sometimes it's the soft palate being too close to the back of the throat. Etc. etc. I do Malampatti classifications. Most physicians today don't even look into the throat unless the patient complains of something.

One patient had an AHI of 34. Literally he was only breathing for 30 minutes of every hour. Enlarged tonsils, long soft palate, airway at that level was 13square mm. Like a milkshake straw when he was awake! Didn't stop him from playing sports, being fit and finishing a BSc. But he was clearly having problems. And a 23 year old doesn't want to use a CPAP. Tonsillectomy wasn't given to him as one option until I pushed things. He's got a short mandible and as the ENT and I both agree, removing the tonsils won't solve all the airway issues.

Just one example.

TanyaL said...

Travis said: "Seems like the more "foods" like this that you normalize early on for your kids, the harder it will be for them to escape our sinking food culture ship later on in life."

I did grow up on manufactured "foods" like this, and yes, it's a bitch to change these habits as an adult. Frankly, I'm not sure if I would've even made the effort without serious health problems as an adult. How many people who just have a slow, steady decline in health will connect it to diet, or be willing to make significant dietary changes?

I don't think I'm that unusual in my generation--born in the 70s (in the US)--to have hyper sugary and highly processed foods regularly as a kid. And I'm not sure how (or if) our society can go back to when eating real food was the norm. My kids eat homemade real food every day, but we do not seem typical.

Newbie said...

Hey Gabriella,
Good thought, but being a thin CPAP user myself, it is something for which I am always on the lookout.
The ultrasounds were done at various times for unrelated issues, I just had access to them. Thanks for your input.

Newbie said...

I know this is late input, but it took me a while to dig this out of my inbox - thought it adds to the current topic -
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&