According to Walmart, potato chips, tortilla chips, and even Bugles are “healthy snacks.” In fact, the retailer is so confused about what’s healthy and what’s not that they feature a variety pack titled, “Healthy Snacks and Junk Food for Kids.” Of course, these variety snack packs are all junk and no health, filled with fruit snacks, chips and cookies.
Contrast that with Walmart’s promise in 2011, alongside Michelle Obama, to reduce sodium 25 percent and sugar 10 percent in its packaged foods by 2015. Dig a little deeper and suppliers were merely asked to voluntarily fill out a scorecard so that Walmart could track progress. Thinly veiled initiatives like this make sense considering Walmart, like other large retailers, profits greatly from the sale of refined carbohydrates.
According to the American Academy of Pedriatics, “as much as 40% of the daily energy consumed by 2- to 18-year-olds is in the form of ‘empty calories’ (energy-dense, nutrient-poor).”
“It’s so simple,” says South African scientist and researcher Tim Noakes. “People get fat because they overeat calories. They overeat calories because they’re hungry. They’re hungry because carbohydrates—particularly sugar—do not satiate you.”
“The economy of refining carbohydrates is the central nervous system of chronic disease,” says Crossfit CEO and Founder Greg Glassman.
Market research shows that as consumer demand continues to shift away from refined carbohydrates, Big Food and Big Soda are focused on reformulation, a term they use to describe changes such as substituting whole grains for refined wheat.
A prime example of this is Pepsico’s push to sell Doritos, Lays, and Cheetos that lack “artificial” ingredients in Amazon’s recently acquired Whole Foods stores.
“The notion of clean and simple is very important to a segment of consumers,” says Frito-Lay Chief Marketing Officer Jennifer Saenz. One would think “the notion” is important considering approximately 1.8 million Americans died from chronic disease last year.
In the UK however, Coca-Cola is digging in its heels as a sugar tax is set to take effect in March. The company is opting to sell smaller bottles at higher prices instead of reducing the sugar content of its drinks even when its largest competitor has chosen to reduce the sugar content of its drinks by 50%.
So while marketing tactics may change to reflect consumer behavior and legal developments Big Food and Big Soda’s core business of selling refined carbohydrates remains the same. And as Crossfit CEO Greg Glassman likes to remind audiences, “If its got a food label on it it’s not food.”