Don’t wait: there’s less than 24 hours left to get (almost) any Marketplace thank-you gift.
How food companies keep us coming back for more
Share Now on:
Think about your favorite foods. About how they taste and how they make you feel. A lot of the foods we crave — and we use that word intentionally — are so good because of three main ingredients: Salt, sugar and fat.
When mixed in just the right amounts, they’re an almost irresistible combination. And the food industry knows it.
“Salt, Sugar, Fat” is also the title of Michael Moss‘s new book about how food companies keep us coming back for more. They’ve built a sophisticated system, from food engineers looking for the exact combination of flavors to inspire the deepest craving, to marketing departments that coach kids to beg parents for Lunchables and sugary snacks.
One of the tricks of the trade? Vanishing caloric density. “If you can fool people into a product that melts in their mouth, their brain is less apt to detect that there’s a ton of calories in there.”
But Moss says it’s not quite as black and white as “healthy” or “unhealthy.” Food companies may have goals to provide healthy food, but they’re also sensitive to what shoppers are putting in their carts. And there’s financial pressure. “Every time the companies cut back a bit, Wall Street is there, watching the sales, watching the profits, urging the companies to go back to salt, sugar, fat. And they do.”
As for his own favorite tastes? Moss says he usually craves salty and fat-filled treats.
We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.
Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.
In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.
Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.
Donate now to get almost any thank-you gift.