Monday, August 6, 2012


I haven't had a good rant in a while, so here goes. A few months ago a marketing firm must have collected data on every publication with the word food in it, and assumed these were food and cooking magazines. They then sold this data to every marketing firm in the country who then sold it to every company selling a new food product. As Co-Editor of Food Culture and Society, I am apparently on their radar. It began as a trickle of emails, then soon a deluge. New restaurants, food tourism, everything from gourmet foods to Peeps. (Yes, just this afternoon.) I started by politely explaining that I edit a peer reviewed academic journal. We don't feature new products, have a holiday gift ideas section, or do restaurant reviews. I don't blame anyone for misunderstanding, and most wrote back to me immediately, saying of course, sorry, we'll happily remove you from our mailing list.

A few didn't. A few insisted on offering products even after I'd explained it all. And sometimes it was just too hard to resist. PEEPS? By all means, send me all you like, I will eat them with glee. (You know I will share with you someday the recipe for peep floaters in chicken broth, chili and lime. Delicious.) So after one offer to send samples too many, I just said sure. I'd love to try your new product. That was being honest. And then this morning an envelope appeared containing promotional material and five little packets of candy. (The company selling sardines never send me a dozen cases as requested.)

This is not just any candy, but "supercandy" and it is designed especially for those with healthy active lifestyles who love candy but don't want to eat mass produced junk. OK. It has B vitamins, antioxidants and electrolytes. I am already worried about eating it. And you have to wonder, people who lead active lifestyles can eat candy every now and then without worrying, no? And doesn't it also strike you as oddly oxymoronic? Health-Conscious Candy? So sort of like Probiotic Alcohol. Or Cigarettes for Children? I'd buy those. Regardless, the family was very excited when I brought it home. My wife scrutinized the ingredients and scoffed. (OF which I am very proud - it's still all industrial mass produced crap and vitamins in chemical form.)

But the kids and I tasted it all. From the gummies (not bad) to the caramel (too gooey to be pleasantly chewy) to tarts (which I liked the best - though they did make everything else, even water, taste really sweet) to the beans (salty and revolting like gatorade) to the gum (which tasted like breakfast cereal, froot loops in particular, which makes NO sense to me). None was actually good enough to purchase. I don't know how much they cost, but if I want a sweet tart, that's what I'll eat, once in a blue moon. Likewise gum, more often, but only if it tastes good. As for the rest, is any of the conventional candy that much worse for you that this? If you need vitamins and electrolyte balance, eat fruits and vegetables - maybe even liver for B12. But pharmaceutical candy? I honestly don't get it. And I'm sure it will sell in health food stores, then you'll see it on grocery store shelves. All because people just believe anything. Slap a label on a bag of cheetos saying "this is organic, all natural, probiotic, neutraceutical, functional, fair trade, local with NO glutens" and then people feel good and pay more so they can tell other people they ate it.

At time the imagination strains to comprehend the ways of man.


Deana Sidney said...

I often find it remarkable what people want to send you. They write a little bit of something like, "found your blog and love it" and then they are off to the races and offer you products. I am usually polite about it but wonder, did they see what I write about? have they ever found a recipe that uses processed food on my blog (ok, just once I fell for a salad dressing promotion...)?
I don't think they do. Kind of like super-trawlers, they cast the net and EVERYTHING ends up on their decks.
Oh well, at least you got some free candy... probably didn't write the review they hoped for though!

Ken Albala said...

Deana, This had nothing at all to do with blogging. Those people never send me stuff anymore, precisely because I'll trash it. I think they expect me to write a feature article as editor of a glossy food zine.