Smell-emitting labels that will release tantalizing (engineered, not real) scents of food as shoppers walk by
His mother must be so proud! After all, her son is about to unleash on unsuspecting consumers yet another way to manipulate them into more processed food, this time through their noses. Of course, it isn’t the first time that artifical means have been used to build cravings and loyalty in consumers. As Eric Schlosser wrote about in Fast Food Nation:
In 1990, amid a barrage of criticism over the amount of cholesterol in its fries, McDonald’s switched to pure vegetable oil. This presented the company with a challenge: how to make fries that subtly taste like beef without cooking them in beef tallow. A look at the ingredients in McDonald’s french fries suggests how the problem was solved. Toward the end of the list is a seemingly innocuous yet oddly mysterious phrase: “natural flavor.” That ingredient helps to explain not only why the fries taste so good but also why most fast food — indeed, most of the food Americans eat today — tastes the way it does.
People usually buy a food item the first time because of its packaging or appearance. Taste usually determines whether they buy it again. About 90 percent of the money that Americans now spend on food goes to buy processed food. The canning, freezing, and dehydrating techniques used in processing destroy most of food’s flavor — and so a vast industry has arisen in the United States to make processed food palatable. Without this flavor industry today’s fast food would not exist. The names of the leading American fast-food chains and their best-selling menu items have become embedded in our popular culture and famous worldwide. But few people can name the companies that manufacture fast food’s taste.
It looks like manufactured smells are about to do for highly processed, edible foodlike substances what “natural flavors” did for fast food. Perhaps I should invent a smell neutralizer (or nose plugs) for anyone trying to eat better.