Big food’s short term thinking on sugar
Every day there seems to be more and more information surfacing about the activities of major food brands in response to the obesity epidemic the western world is facing. There’s little doubt they’re using their financial muscle and political influence worldwide to effect perception of the issue. While they are doing nothing illegal, they are in an ethical grey area that will get darker by the day.
What they’re doing isn’t anything new. We’ve seen the same playbook used by the tobacco brands. Publicly advocating activity on health issues, while funding research that muddies the waters. Focusing the conversation on the individuals rights to choose while obfuscating their corporate and social responsibilities. While this tactic will shore up short to medium term sales and viability for the companies they are burning brand value.
As with big tobacco, big food will loose. They may think they have learned lessons from the mistakes tobacco made but customer sentiment will change quicker than it did tobacco. We knew for years that cigarets caused cancer, they new longer. Still it took generations for smoking to excorsised from everyday life and it still clings on in poorer demographics. But we’re only getting an idea of the damage sugar does to us today. Multiply these emerging findings and the speed of the internet, social media and you can imagine how rapidly things can change. It’s only a matter of time till the tipping point occurs, then the big food brands will find themselves on the wrong end of consumer sentiment.
Big food brands should be thinking of the long game here and focusing on solutions rather then spending financial and brand capital sandbagging. What are their solution for a post sugar society? They followed big tobacco’s play book to date, are they going to follow big tobacco to becoming pariah brands?