What do the following slogans have in common (besides the fact that they are still stuck in your limbic brain decades after they were created)?
- “Things go better with Coke”
- “You deserve a break today”
- “I’d love to be an Oscar Meyer Weiner…”
- “They’re grrrrreat!”
- “Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids!”
- “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands”
- “There’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s”
These slogans have several things in common, starting with the fact that they were all designed to target your children. These foods, with their catchy jingles were also created to win the “stomach share” of your tiny consumers by targeting the “bliss point” in their brains. Hold on, this gets really interesting, albeit very annoying.
In the 1970s a mathematician by the name of Howard Moskowitz discovered that in the perfect combination, sugar, salt and fat would optimize the human sensory experience. He coined it the “bliss point.” Fast forward a few decades, and we now know that triggering the bliss point doesn’t only increase the sensory experiences like taste and texture, but it activates the area of the brain associated with pleasure, called the nucleus accumbens. The nucleus accumbens is the same part of the brain that is activated by certain drugs like cocaine and morphine! In other words, the job of food designers is to create foods that make you addicted to them, just like drugs.
Moskowitz became a food engineering rock star, sought after by most major food manufacturers when this little tidbit was discovered. In fact, he became a “game changer” in the food industry, starting a war to win “stomach share,” sort of like market share. The more stomach share that food companies control, the more real estate they dominate in grocery stores… and guess which shelves have the most market value? Yep, the lower 1/3—the ones that have the products your munchkins can reach. You know the ones… When your kids grab those sugary foods in colorful packages, they nag, scream, throw themselves on the floor and hold their breath until they turn blue foods. Turns out, it’s not totally their fault. Their bliss point has been triggered! Think of this as a “long-term investment” on the part of major food companies.
When questioned about his role in the increasing epidemic of childhood obesity and illness, Moskowitz had this to say, “There’s no moral issue for me,” he said. “I did the best science I could. I was struggling to survive and didn’t have the luxury of being a moral creature.” To some degree he’s right. He was just the brain child behind the mega-money machines bidding for his talent. And if it hadn’t been him, eventually it would have been someone else, and eventually it was many others. There was simply too much money at stake for something as minor as health or morality to get in the way of addictive food!
“Lunchables,” created as a way to sell more bologna, and marketed under Kraft, is one of the products in this race to trigger the bliss point, and is unarguably one of the least healthy lunch products on the market for children, topping $1 billion/year in sales at last count. Geoffrey Bible, former C.E.O. of Philip Morris (who previously owned Kraft) was reported to have said that the healthiest part of Lunchables (by Oscar Meyer, a subsidiary of Kraft) is the napkin! He made it clear that there were no plans to change it when according to a 2013 NY Times Magazine article he said, “Well, that’s what the consumer wants, and we’re not putting a gun to their head to eat it. That’s what they want. If we give them less, they’ll buy less, and the competitor will get our market.” This same article quoted Bob Drane, a vice-president of Oscar Meyer at the time saying, “Our limbic brains love sugar, fat, salt. . . So formulate products to deliver these. Perhaps add low-cost ingredients to boost profit margins. Then ‘supersize’ to sell more. . . And advertise/promote to lock in ‘heavy users.’ Plenty of guilt to go around here!”
But Phillip Morris isn’t the only villain; the race was on to find new and creative ways to target the bliss point. Here are a few of the weapons they discovered:
– Vanishing Caloric Density or “Meltiness”: Foods that melt quickly make the brain think there are fewer calories, hence you eat more.
– Sensory Specific Satiety: They discovered how to override the brain’s signal for sensory satiety by not including one distinct, overwhelming flavor (this is why cooking with healthy spices helps you feel satisfied sooner).
– Perfect crunchiness: The perfect break point is four pounds of pressure.
– Texture: Removing fiber increases the ease of food sliding down the throat as well as the sensation of pleasure.
– Aroma: Flavor is enhanced by aroma. In fact, humans only have four major taste sensations (five if you count Umami). Other nuances are created through smell. That’s why Cinnabon places ovens at the front of the store and has a schedule to bake fresh rolls every thirty minutes. Between times they often bake brown sugar and cinnamon just to create the enticing aroma that patrons seem helpless to resist.
This information makes it clear that these companies are after our kids. They are ruthless, devious and unscrupulous when it comes to obtaining stomach share. We’re fighting back! If anyone is going to bribe or brainwash our kids, it’s going to be us! That’s why we have Junior Brain Warriors in training. We began playing games with our daughter and grandkids to teach them about healthy eating. If anyone is going to reward our kids with toys for eating food, it’s going to us—and it’s going to be for eating healthy. We create scavenger hunts, treat games and fun meals as a way to get them excited about nutrition and brain health.
If you’re looking for powerful information and more tools to help you win back the stomach share for you and your kids, check out The Brain Warrior’s Way Course so you can learn mastery over your health.