Lunch Tray Friday Buffet: January 7, 2011

by Bettina Elias Siegel on January 7, 2011

For the first Friday Buffet in 2011, I’ll leave you with one story to make you fear our species’ demise, and one to give you hope.

One Step Closer to Wall-E

Remember the future humans in the movie Wall-E, so obese they had to move around in electric chairs, and so lazy they consumed all their food through straws?  

Well, here comes PepsiCo’s latest venture: Tropolis, a fruit puree that’s somewhere between drink and snack (it’s called a “snackified” beverage) and which will be marketed to moms and kids.  When I first heard about this product on American Public Media’s Marketplace, here’s what the expert commentator had to say about it:

If you are in this business, you want to get something into a consumer’s hand and get them put it down as fast as possible. And these products, it’s a whole lot easier if you have something that is, say, a combination of drink and a beverage where you don’t have to peel the banana or literally chew the apple. So you get the same kind of satisfaction from getting fruit or a dairy sort of product in a form that’s sort of between a food and a beverage. It’s convenience. The American consumer’s too lazy to chew, so you have find something where they can have their apple or their pear in a semi-liquid form.

Investment tip:  put your money in companies that manufacture electric wheelchairs.

But Maybe There’s Hope . . .

I got a tweet today from Andy Berndt, alerting me to a group called Catalyst.  It’s a statewide organization in Minnesota in which young adults are using hands-on activism and advocacy to fight the tobacco industry and spread the word to their peers about  healthful eating.  Unlike this middle-aged blogger, these kids clearly understand and are making full use of every social networking avenue out there to spread their critical messages, from Facebook to Flickr to Vimeo.  Watch their video and feel a whole lot better about our future:

Have a great weekend, everyone!  More Lunch Tray on Monday . . .

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanne Roach January 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm

In fairness, we have a lot of fruit puree / smoothie / mixed dairy and fruit drinks here and they are not universally awful. They show up a lot in lunchboxes and if they are the only fruit or calcium a child will tolerate they are not to be sniffed at entirely. What is a worry, though, is the assumption put forward in all the marketing that it must be healthy if it has fruit in it. They generally have spoons and spoons of sugar, both natural and otherwise in them. And if they replace any other attempts to inject fruit and veg into the diet they do a disservice.
As with a lot of things the quality and marketing of these products has the integrity of the company producing it. Some of the smaller and more ethical food companies here are producing some decent products if used in their proper context. Some of the less scrupulous are producing Sunny Delight Mark Two dressed as fruit and convincing parents they can fix all their five-a-day worries with one tube.
The question therefore with Tropolis is how much you trust PepsiCo to put quality before sugar-appeal, and integrity before spin in their marketing. Ahem.

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bettina elias siegel January 7, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Joanne: Fair point. I guess what got me was the “too lazy to chew” to comment, plus the fact that, as a society, we seem to be moving ever further away from whole foods . . .

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Joanne Roach January 8, 2011 at 9:23 am

Hi Bettina,
Don’t get me wrong, while I don’t think they are all awful in principle, I do find the whole thing a bit disturbing. Baby food for grown-ups really. And the blending doesn’t do much to widen the palate into accepting new individual flavours. But my main objection to all of this stuff is, like you, that is turns basic, cheap items which are available to all from nature into expensive, processed commodities with loads of packaging to dispose of. And gives the impression that if we want to eat fruit we should have someone process it for us first. So I am with you on that!
I do wonder how much this product is in response to Coca-Cola’s purchase of Innocent smoothies a year or so ago?

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Andy Berndt January 7, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Thanks for the mention Bettina, I got turned on to your blog recently, and love what you’ve done. Besides looking beautiful, you cover issues in an interesting, accessible way. Keep up the good work!

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bettina elias siegel January 8, 2011 at 9:30 am

Andy – thank you! BTW, do you know of organizations like Catalyst in other states?

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Andy Berndt January 9, 2011 at 9:36 am

You know, there aren’t many. There are two national movements that I’m aware of, EmpowerMe – http://www.empowerme2b.org/, from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, and Students Taking Charge – http://www.studentstakingcharge.org/ from Action for Healthy Kids.

My background is actually in tobacco prevention. Our program transitioned to start working on food issues, and I think more groups will start sprouting up as they did in tobacco. I think this issue is gaining a lot of traction and I think people are realizing more and more that students really have a voice in this issue and can get involved.

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June January 7, 2011 at 6:51 pm

The” too lazy to chew” is just plain weird. And while I am a big fan of smoothies and figure that drinking a banana and peaches that ere mushed up my blender is just as healthy as eating them whole (am I right? I mean it all gets mushed up before it hits my stomach anyway), I also am very skeptical that Pepsi is going to make a healthy smoothie.

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bettina elias siegel January 8, 2011 at 9:35 am

June – well, some would say that mushing in the blender is not as quite healthy as eating whole, because we can consume so many more calories that way. E.g., I’m unlikely to sit and eat an orange, apple and 2 bananas in one sitting, but could easily do so if they’re all blended together in juice form. That said, I personally have no issue with the homemade smoothie. But when Pepsi gets involved, the results are predictable. Marion Nestle, NYU Prof and food expert, has said that “the product was simply sugar. She said: ‘They start out with real food, so let’s give them credit for apple sauce and mashed-up bananas. ‘The rest of it is sugar. Kids would be better off eating an apple or a banana.'”

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Mary January 7, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Thank you for sharing Catalyst, WOW! I am going to share that video with as many people as I can, it’s so uplifting.

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