[in 1986] Frito-Lay had a formidable research complex near Dallas, where nearly 500 chemists, psychologists and technicians conducted research that cost up to $30 million a year, and the science corps focused intense amounts of resources on questions of crunch, mouth feel and aroma for each of these items. Their tools included a $40,000 device that simulated a chewing mouth to test and perfect the chips, discovering things like the perfect break point: people like a chip that snaps with about four pounds of pressure per square inch.
To get a better feel for their work, I called on Steven Witherly, a food scientist who wrote a fascinating guide for industry insiders titled, “Why Humans Like Junk Food.” I brought him two shopping bags filled with a variety of chips to taste. He zeroed right in on the Cheetos. “This,” Witherly said, “is one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure.” He ticked off a dozen attributes of the Cheetos that make the brain say more. But the one he focused on most was the puff’s uncanny ability to melt in the mouth. “It’s called vanishing caloric density,” Witherly said. “If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there’s no calories in it… you can just keep eating it forever.”
This New York Times piece on junk food is incredible. I’m posting my favorite bits, but the whole thing is worth a read.
In what would prove to be their greatest achievement of all, the Lunchables team would delve into adolescent psychology to discover that it wasn’t the food in the trays that excited the kids; it was the feeling of power it brought to their lives. As Bob Eckert, then the C.E.O. of Kraft, put it in 1999: “Lunchables aren’t about lunch. It’s about kids being able to put together what they want to eat, anytime, anywhere.”
Kraft’s early Lunchables campaign targeted mothers. They might be too distracted by work to make a lunch, but they loved their kids enough to offer them this prepackaged gift. But as the focus swung toward kids, Saturday-morning cartoons started carrying an ad that offered a different message: “All day, you gotta do what they say,” the ads said. “But lunchtime is all yours.”
Man At Very Top Of Food Chain Chooses Bugles
SOUTH BEND, IN - Despite having no natural enemies and belonging to a species that completely dominates its ecosystem, local IT manager Reggie Atkinson opted to consume the processed corn snack Bugles Monday. “I was in the mood for something salty and crunchy, and it’s a little early for dinner,” said the ultimate predator, whose ancestors’ bipedal locomotion, toolmaking abilities, and advanced spatial recognition developments allowed them to hunt animals 10 times their size. “These are original, but the other flavors are pretty good, too.” Acting on an impulse from an incredibly complex forebrain that has evolved over millions of years, Atkinson then took note of the Bugles’ amusing conical shape and placed one on each of his opposable thumbs like little wizard hats.
Here’s a video I made at Metropolis coffee this morning.
The manufacturer of Marmite says its supplies of the yeast-extract product ran out this week, four months after earthquakes forced it to close the only factory that made New Zealand’s version.
"Don’t freak. We will be back soon!" the company, Sanitarium, says on the Marmite website. But there are signs of freaking in this country of 4.4 million people, which eats its way through 640 metric tons of the savory spread every year.
640 metric tons of Marmite would be a great Cards Against Humanity card.
The Atlantic, Chicago’s Booming Beer Scene, Explained
Goose Island brewery in Chicago has a "beer-fed pork" program:
When we finish brewing a batch of beer, farmers come and take our left over spent grain to feed their pigs. We then buy those pigs and serve them to you alongside your beer. Recycling has never been more delicious.
The United States has ended a 30-year tax subsidy for corn-based ethanol that cost taxpayers $6 billion annually, and ended a tariff on imported Brazilian ethanol.
Congress adjourned for the year on Friday, failing to extend the tax break that’s drawn a wide variety of critics on Capitol Hill, including Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. Critics also have included environmentalists, frozen food producers, ranchers and others.
The policies have helped shift millions of tons of corn from feedlots, dinner tables and other products into gas tanks.