Sunday, 5 December 2010

How to persuade people they don’t have time to cook any more!

‘A kilo of corn costs around 15p, a kilo of Cornflakes, on the high street, costs us £3, that’s a 2000% cost difference.’

The BBC are at present screening a mini series of three documentaries, dealing with the way multi national food companies induce us all to buy their products, last week the focus was on the bottled water industry, this week was the turn of breakfast cereals and next week, yogurt will be in the spot light.

These three programmes are extraordinary in that they expose the cleaver marketing tricks multi national companies use to flog their useless products. The programmes are not being screened by some anti capitalist, revolutionary organisation, but are made, and screened by the BBC for goodness sake!

We thought we knew all about the dark ways employed by global capitalism to sell their products, but these three programme open up a completely new chapter. Here are the producers themselves telling us, in their own words just how they make their billions!

The latest programme dealt with the convenience breakfast cereal market and spoke to insiders from the big players in this highly lucrative market. As the founder and ex chairman of Weetabix said, without a trace of irony, “people buy our cereals because they thrust what you tell them”

This is the fast and easy way to make vast profits, by making so called ‘foods,’ they have no or little nutritional value and convincing customers through the power of marketing that they simply must buy the product.

As the food writer Michael Pollen commented in the programme, “the way you make money is to process food, add convenience, add packaging, add health claims, whatever you can do to complicate it, to get people to buy it.”

A famous and often quoted experiment was carried out in the 1970’s. Rats were fed a range of different cereals. The conclusion being that they would be better off eating the cardboard box then the contents inside.

The cereal companies have always used the trick of targeting children. This ploy ensures brand loyalty from an early age. So kids are blitzed with images of cuddly cartoon characters each one of which is associated with a particular cereal (remember Tony the Tiger)! The children’s cereal market alone is worth over six hundred million pounds.

But in 2006, legislation banned their adverts during children’s television programmes, because of the high sugar and salt contents of their products. The companies were forced to take out much of the sugar and salt.

The companies simply glossed over the fact that they had been forced to alter the contents of their cereals but, instead claimed they were simply giving the customers what they wanted, They’ve asked us to give them more choice, which we are happy to do” Says the head of Kellogg's, UK. We’ve done that, and we feel good about it.”

Breakfast cereals are the epitome of the global markets’ triumph of persuasion! They are the blank space for our aspirations and our neurosis and, in the process they made billions.


  1. What is most worrying John, and I use my experience of teaching here, is that generation after generation is becoming less intellectually capable of discerning advice from nonsense. We are being 'sold' to but people are like sheep, due to lacking the intelligence to understand that they can still, even in the face of mass marketting - use the: off switch, their own opinions, and make the own way. I recycle and don't shop, and even that puts me on the margins of society. The more I see of the world, the more I want to live the most simple and sustainable lifestyle and aspire to own nothing more than one bowl, one spoon, two sets of clothes, a flannel, a towel, a mattress and a couple of blankets! I don't think I need much more than that!

  2. You are someone who has woken up from the illusion Jane. Most people are sucked in by the nonsense. I imagine you look at the kids you teach and sigh, as they walk into class bedecked in the latest 'must have,' clothes and footwear!

    Yep, many times I just want to ditch all of the stuff we have too. Have you come across Mark Boyle (The Moneyless Man), yet?

    I've just done a calculation to check our 'poverty level,' on the Joseph Rowntree foundation site( It tells me that Helen and I need £22,000 as a minimum to exist on :)

    On my, we have a combined income of more then half that!! It's just madness. I'm going to do a blog on that soon

    Good to hear from you again. xx