Food Industry Ads – It’s A Parallel Universe!

You may think that, after trawling food industry websites for many years to earn my crust, by now I’d be desensitised to how these folks conduct their advertising, much like a seasoned undertaker, who has long since stopped flinching at the sight of the mangled corpses that pass through his premises. After all, it’s business-to-business communication replete with technical details aimed at food technologists rather than at the end consumer. However, since I’m also a consumer of food, I can’t completely switch off that part of my brain, and I thought it might be fun to share a few precious examples with you…

I bet you’ve always wanted one of these:


Those operators really can’t be trusted, can they? And hidden depths are clearly NOT appreciated….

Oh, what could be more heavenly than the smell of freshly baked bread or the buttery doughiness of croissants still warm from the oven… And isn’t comforting to know that there’s somebody behind the scenes, who worries about all this stuff:

Bakery IngredientsIgnorance is bliss, as they say. We definitely DON’T want to know the secret. EVER! Regarding the “friendly labelling”, there’s an explanatory rant coming up. Hold on to your seats. And your queasy stomachs.

But before we get to that, let me ask you this: what makes marshmallow so delectably fluffy and chewy at the same time? Sugar mixed with beaten egg whites in optimum proportions, right? Trouble is, them eggs is expensive – we desperately need something… erm… “innovative” to please our cost-conscious clientele.  Ingredients supplier Wacko Wacker has just the ticket:

Let me guess... Polyfilla? Polystyrene? Recycled upholstery!

Let me guess… Polyfilla? Polystyrene with a dash of added plasticiser? Recycled upholstery!


What the heck is a “Clean Label”, I hear you ponder…? Does it involve some hapless trainee scouring the ketchup splodges off the front of the bottle with a soft toothbrush before he puts it on the shelf…? Not quite. The “clean label trend”, as it’s known to industry insiders, is a topic that could probably fill the British Library twice over. I shall attempt to illustrate briefly.

The whole shenanigans started nearly two decades ago, when it slowly dawned on the industry that consumers didn’t find terms like “dioctyl sodium sulphosuccinate” and “butylated hydroxyanisole” on food packages all that appetising.

Essentially, the mission was (and still is!) to replace anything that sounds remotely like a “chemical” with something that Martha Stewart would keep in her pantry.

Sometimes, ingredient substitutions are required to produce a sparkling clean label, but a lot of the time, it’s simply a word game. I mean, why call something “hydrolysed starch” when “potato starch” will do nicely? Or is it “Monosodium glutamate” (MSG) that’s scaring the punters off your products in droves? No worries, just switch to “yeast extract”, which is virtually identical and does the same job.

RadiationSign“E-numbers”, in particular, are known for striking fear into European consumers’ hearts. They’ve been suspected of giving kids autism and poor ol’ granny pancreatic cancer, not to mention throttling the life out of strutting Frenchmen’s sperm… the list of their E-vil doings is endless. Thing is, most E-numbers are, in fact, harmless substances, and so manufactures have simply reverted to calling them by their first names, like vitamin C (instead of E300) and calcium (aka E170). Label space on food packages is at a premium and E-numbers provided a convenient short hand, but the mood has turned, and if, as a food manufacturer, you’re still bent on sticking to them, you may as well be slapping the radiation warning sign on your chocolate biscuit packets for all the good it’ll do your sales.

As for colourings and flavourings, a great big slew of them can just be referred to as “natural”, no need to give an E-number or a long-winded chemical name. The label will be clean, and everybody will be happy. Luckily, the average shopper doesn’t realise that you can make strawberry flavouring out of wood chips and still call it “natural” without breaking any laws. Nobody needs to know that the flavours don’t come from actual fruits.

Yum! Some days, my pee looks like this first thing in the morning...

Just as natural as the first slosh of morning pee…

You may be left with the impression that the food industry views you, the consumer, very much like this:


Trusting, infantile and clueless.

But at least they’ve a sense of humour about it…

And there was me thinking I was the Queen Of Sad Puns! I think I've been well and truly usurped...

And there was me thinking I was the Queen Of Sad Puns! I think I’ve been well and truly usurped…





53 thoughts on “Food Industry Ads – It’s A Parallel Universe!

  1. Anna

    My mother fears E-ingredients more than the nuclear holocaust. That means I have to consume all the REALLY good smoked sausages in secret.


  2. Wendy Kate

    As a vegan, I am always reading labels but I am not afraid of chemicals, after all, we are all made of them, aren’t we?!I I recently saw a list of the chemicals that make up a humble apple, wish I could find it….


  3. pollyheath

    Did not want to read this, but I did anyway. Regretted it immediately. I don’t want to know *lalalalala*


  4. camparigirl

    I am horrified at what the food industry gets away with, especially in the US. Still, the majority of people don’t give a damn or are just plain uninformed or ignorant – how else to explain the measure that would have forced manufacturers to label their food GMO in, of all places, California??


      1. ladyofthecakes Post author

        She has a real knack for conveying complex information in a way that’s not too difficult to follow. Also, she’s not a scaremonger – there are just so many nutsos writing inflammatory nonsense, sigh.


  5. June

    And that’s why I make everything from scratch, using real foods (as opposed to “natural ingredients”). That banana thing is great. It reminds me of food manufacturers’ failed attempts to synthesise baby milk. If you don’t full understand what’s in it you can’t recreate it, and certainly can’t make it better. I can’t understand why you would want to try – nature’s bounty has sufficed for millennia! I didn’t know Marion Nestlé had a blog – now following.


  6. ksfinblog

    Local sourcing and produce that you can trust is way better than the junk that is in processed and flavored food…………the trouble is people are harassed enough in their daily lives to just go with the flow and take what they can fit in their budget


    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Yes, cooking from scratch and sourcing locally takes a lot of preparation and planning. I’m not sure I could do it consistently… and some processed stuff, I really like 😉


      1. ksfinblog

        yes it is
        and full of sacrifices…….
        I gave up fast food, sugar rich sodas and sugar coz diabetes runs in the family……. better to prevent than suffer


      2. ksfinblog

        Until I can implant genetically modified perpetually insulin producing pancreatic cells in my pancreas (Scientists re working on it), I am holding up on the junk;

        It is an effort (big one) but the one which I am willing to make for the sake of living longer and without doing a blood test every morning….


    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      In the US, manufacturers are trying to get rid of HFCS, which poses quite a challenge. The corn industry over there is so heavily subsidised that it’s simply the cheapest sweetener around.

      Gluten-free foods are booming over there, as you may have noticed. Great for people like your daughter 🙂


  7. linnetmoss

    Amazing how looking at the ad for the bread device killed my desire to eat bread instantly. Guess I’ll have to make my own, so I know it hasn’t been probed by aliens!



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