The need of food has evolved into a love of food over time. Ancient history states on several occasions that people strived hard to get access to adequate food enough for the entire family, however with the passage of time the way food is acquired, how it is cooked and how much is consumed have all changed. A very famous quote “you are what you eat” is often used commonly to restrain people from eating unhealthy and too much but the roots of this quote suggest that the way our body and mind develop have strong impact from the type of food that we eat.
In the modern era, food industry is among one of the most profitable business sector in almost every country around the world. Only in USA a greater percentage of its GDP is associated with its fast food industry. More and more people today prefer processed and packaged food over organic, homemade food considering it to be an economical and easy way of cooking or eating. At this stage the question arises what are the factors that have changed the lifelong food myths and believes that people had and has managed to revolutionize the food consumption worldwide.
This paper will focus briefly on the earlier concepts and beliefs regarding food and its consumption and then would analyze the influences that have changed the way food is cooked and eaten in the modern times.
Food Industry & Consumerism
The earlier studies on food consumption and eating behavior suggested that the culture, religion, household income status and the nutritional beliefs played the most significant role in designing what a family eats and how much they eat. The lack of social pressure allowed people to eat according to their lifestyles and body needs.
The revolutionary changes to the consumption and trends of food are associated with the era of consumerism in the late nineteenth century. The combination of industrialization and consumerism opened new options and attraction for the common people as during that time people usually produced and grew the food they used. The ready made and easily cooked options were welcomed by the people and thus the food industry grew at a faster pace than predicted. By 1930s the food industry was facing huge competition as well as demand and thus the advertising and marketing of food started to bloom. The advent of advertising urged the production and manufacturing companies to find newer and better ways to attract and sell their products.
The changing face of advertising
In the initial years of advertising the core purpose was to introduce the product into the targeted market that is the house wives or to women in general, the ads were presented through print media and intended to generate an awareness of their products. With the time and the realization of the benefits of this mean of selling the advertising industry started to change its norms and rules and newer ways were discovered to market the products. The advertising of the modern times has all the required means to attract and lure the consumers by publicizing the products in ways that force these consumers to take the action.
- The new era of advertising is said to be driven by consumer’s need and choices however an analysis of the advertising industry and the ad campaigns related to food industry suggest that these campaigns and promotions are driving the consumers and somewhat confusing them to differentiate between right and wrong.
It is interesting to observe that a big chunk of these ad campaigns are now not limited towards women, in fact these ads are more targeted towards children and teenagers who are vulnerable and susceptible to get attracted easily. Additionally, these food companies have presented their products as a way to entertain and have fun, some companies also provide toys or have packaged their products in such ways that attract children. Even though it is a known fact that fast food and junk snacks are a source of serious health issues and especially for children who get addicted to the flavor at early ages. Childhood obesity is also associated with huge intake of such food products, still a large chunk of food related ads are now targeted towards children and teenagers. McDonalds’ is considered as a pioneer in this field as it is among the first ones to include give away with their ”happy meals “and provided play areas at its outlets. Most of these companies also always show happy and healthy looking families suggesting that these food items are the source of happiness and well being for the families. The young and innocent minds are the best target to send these messages. .
Figure 1 shows a recent brand promotion targeted towards kids especially, as discussed earlier the campaigns include happy and healthy families, encouraging them kids and the families to use their products in order to be like these families.
Similarly several food companies selling cereals and cookies or biscuits market their products by associating them with some favorite cartoon characters and showing the kids using their product as bold, smart and a hero. This is probably the most common advertising tactic not only used for kids but also heavily employed for targeting teenagers, young adults and women as all these consumers are easily impressed by looks and attitudes. The target market for most of the family fast food chains, sweetened cereals, dairy products and confectionaries are mostly the children in the age range of 5-12 years and the mothers. These ads especially portray the mothers to be very careful of their child’s health and nutrition and the child to be very active physically and mentally.
Pepsi Co and Coca Cola are the perfect example of companies that have utilized all the hyped icons from films, sports or fashion or music to be their brand ambassador in order to attract more and more consumers towards their products. From Michael Jackson and Brittney Spears to David Beckham the companies have often used the icons according to the different marketing regions by involving the most favorite icon of that region. The region and culture oriented marketing and promotion activities as employed by these leading companies also added a local flare to the entire campaign. The target audience for the beverage companies are the widest but the most focused groups of consumers for advertising is the teenagers, young adults and men. Most of the campaigns of these beverage companies portray their models to be not only cool and bold but as a masculine icon engaged in extreme sports, adventure or hard work in any form. The basic reason to feature icons or stars is to attract these young consumers who would follow their iconic heroes.
While most of the food companies selling junk food ,fast food or processed food ensure best deals and happier eating hours the alternate food companies are offering functional food with a promise of making it even better than the nature. These ads use the most attractive and smart models sending the target audience that are the women in the age bracket of 25-40 years that this product can help them achieve the model’s look. As a result (depicted by the chart in figure 2), more and more women are turning towards these high fiber, organic functional foods to maintain their healthy diet. As the media is promoting these functional food groups more and people are getting weight and diet conscious these ads have also impacted men and women equally in maintaining a smart body.
All the above examples have different target audience and the messages delivered are according to their psyche however it is interesting to notice that almost across all the food products marketed the families and people used as models represent the upper social class, this stirs a social pressure on people to match up their life styles with these model families. Also, in most cases the food products excluding drinks and beverages, perfect families are depicted where husband comes home smiling, mother is a superwoman doing all the housework, caring for children while looking as beautiful as a model and the children always happy while eating this particular product. In psychological terms, these images might have effects on the children and often women to have a perfect family as portrayed by the ads. These social and cultural pressures invoked by the ad campaigns have urged families and people to use the food products out of the their inherent needs regarding themselves or their families. More and more people now prefer packaged and processed food or fast food instead of homemade food, similarly the consumption of high sugar, fat and salt diet is on the rise in almost all the countries as a result of extreme marketing. Today the eating habits of families are less culture oriented and more driven by the media as people have access to more options thanks to the globalization and consumerism. The attractive and catchy ads are manipulating the minds of people in buying the food publicized by these campaigns.
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