On a recent of episode of 60 Minutes, reporter Morley Safer visits a company you’ve probably never heard. The company called Givaudan it turns out is the world’s largest flavoring company.
Flavoring is an incredibly important component of creating processed foods, because it allows the industry to create products with the flavors of delicious high-quality ingredients, despite none being present. The better a product tastes, the more likely we will be to buy it, so it’s no wonder that creating these flavors is a big business.
As the 60 Minutes story reveals companies use sugar, fat, salt, and other flavors created in chemistry labs, that human biology craves, to create pleasurable experiences for eaters. Employees of the company, out on a trip to look for the next new flavor for soda, admit to Safer that they are trying to create flavors that are irresistible and addictive.
I doubt however, that many would argue that food companies want consumer to be overweight. Weight gain instead, is simply an unintended consequence of maximizing sales through the creation of cheap, high calorie, hyper-palatable addictive foods. Safer asks Givaudan VP of Global Strategy and Business Development, Bob Pellegrino, about this issue. Referring to obesity, Safer asks if the food industry wants his company to create flavors so that people want more. Pellegrino answered, “I don’t think it’s creating a desire for moreness, as well as it’s a desire for memorability, so that people will repeat the purchase of the product and enjoy them.” Do you see the difference? I don’t either.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the McCormick Company. When you hear the name McCormick, you probably think about the small jars of powdered spices that are permanent residents in your kitchen cabinets. You might be surprised to learn though, as I was, that spices make up only half of McCormick’s business, the other half is devoted to developing flavors for the processed food industry. Our guide was sensitive to criticism of her companies business-after all did we want them to be making foods that taste bad. She was also very upset about rules that were limiting companies’ abilities to use trans-fats and plans for regulations on salts, because they would make her job so much more difficult. We were told that the company also works on creating healthy processed foods and would love to be doing more, but despite what people say they want, they just don’t want to buy them.
Understanding how our biology works and how food companies use this knowledge to create processed foods is an important first step to becoming healthier. By cooking our own foods using real whole ingredients, we can develop flavors and make delicious healthy dishes that can’t be rivaled by all of the food technology in the world. Despite this our society relies heavily on these processed products that are a major contributor to the risk for disease. Unhealthy processed foods are highly prevalent in the food environment and cooking and eating healthy is decidedly more difficult. Certainly companies have the right to make processed fodos taste good, but when they purposefully make unhealthy foods addictive do we need to draw a line? What do you think?
Watch The 60 Minutes Story Below: