Friday, May 15, 2009

Lay's and Local Potato Chips

As I’ve often mentioned, we should take marketing claims about food products with a grain (or truckload) of salt.

The other day I saw a “Tri-Fun Pack” of Kellogg's Froot Loops, Corn Pops and Apple Jacks festooned with a logo stating the product “can be used in child nutrition programs.” (I’ll write more about this next week.)

And earlier this week, the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange was rung by five potato farmers, part of a PepsiCo (symbol: PEP) strategy to brand Lay’s potato chips as local food.

When I think of local food, I think of food from a farmers market or a roadside farm stand, not a plastic bag of mass-produced, heavily-processed potato chips. However, Frito-Lay (a division of PepsiCo) and other big food companies are trying to cash in on the locavore movement.

An article in The New York Times this week discussed the issue. Jessica Prentice, the writer who coined the term “locavore,” had a great quote:

"The local foods movement is about an ethic of food that values reviving small scale, ecological, place-based, and relationship-based food systems. Large corporations peddling junk food are the exact opposite of what this is about."
If you have some time, skim through the readers’ comments. There are some quality points, including my favorite (I had no idea who Herbert Mancuse was):
"How serendipitous that I should be reading Herbert Marcuse this morning. The sign of a successful totalitarian system is when the corporations co-opt the language of dissent as a means to increase profit, then the mass media reports it, cleansed of the language's original intent. Thanks PepsiCo for assuming I'm entirely too stupid to know the difference. — Melissa, Denver"

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