Fast Food in America: The cheap but dangerous cost of advertising and the American appetite
Americans, in general, have become one of the biggest groups of consumers on the planet; wanting everything bigger and better than anyone else – apparently including waistlines, with over half of all Americans being overweight. Americans are also working more and on the move more than ever, making our reliance on a quick and cheap meal bigger and bigger – and in turn it has created a huge business for fast food companies. Why are so many people willing to eat this food that they know is bad for them? It could possibly be marketing; companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars blasting us with advertisements and marketing gimmicks to eat their food. Or do we eat the food simply because we want instant gratification and don’t care at what cost it may come? America has become synonymous with fast food, turn on any TV or radio or walk down the street, virtually everywhere advertisements can be seen marketing fast and processed food.
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One reason Fast Food is wreaking havoc is that food items without any nutritional value are so widely and easily available; there are vending machines in workplaces and schools that dish out high-sugar and high-fat foods; you can even pick up a burger, fried chicken or a piece of pizza along with some sugary soda at a Gas station!
This food is also usually considerably cheaper than healthier food, making it that much more attractive. Fast Food companies are even forming contracts with schools so that the school will only carry one brand of food, the school sees an advantage in receiving the much-needed funds but apparently don’t see the problem of exposing kids to a barrage of junk food and advertising all day long. And for the working class, instead of making breakfast at home, maybe some fruit, milk and cereal or something healthy – people will simply stop at their local McDonalds and order an egg, bacon and cheese ‘McMuffin’ – more or less a truckload of fat for a breakfast. This is happening because Americans are working far more than they have in the past – longer than ‘average’ 40 hour workweek and also taking their work home with them.
Employers want more productivity out of their workers and are even going as far as having kitchens and or food brought in so that workers can eat and work at the same time, instead of taking a lunch break out of the office. The culmination of people working more and resting less and the fact that its quicker and cheaper to get fast food on the run than prepare your own meals is taking its toll on the American waistline; with more Americans caring less about how bad the food for them is and more about getting a quick fix.
Another factor in the fast-food problem is the fact that the sizes of these items are constantly increasing. Almost every fast food place now has an option to make your food bigger – McDonald’s allows you to supersize any meal, Wendy’s offers burgers with not only two but three patties in it and you can go to any 7-11 and get 64 ounces, half a gallon, of soda. Watch any fast food ad on Television or listen to a radio ad and you will hear companies pushing their product explaining how it’s bigger, has more ingredients and is more filling. Included in this problem is that companies try and make their products look more attractive by packaging it individually and using bright colors – things that people don’t immediately look for but their subconscious does find more appealing.
Americans lifestyles have changed drastically in the last few decades. Looking back, the United States was primarily agricultural, most people lived in rural areas usually living off the land and spending their day farming. Fast forward to now and Americans now have a heavy reliance on technology and jobs situations have changed. Americans have now shifted to considerably more sedentary jobs, working more than the average 40-hour workweek behind a desk and also because of this, free time becomes less active; watching TV or doing other sedentary activities, just getting to work or school has changed with most people relying on their cars as opposed to walking or riding a bicycle.
Fast food companies are obviously realizing that Americans are seeing the problems of eating fast food; take a look at the latest craze that many fast-food restaurants are using, the ‘wrap’. Instead of the usual burger and a bun, companies are taking the same vegetables they use in their burgers, putting them in a tortilla or something similar and advertising it as a healthy product. The problem with this ‘healthy idea’ is that most of the time the fried chicken or meat that companies put in it is usually just as bad as its hamburger counterpart. Its almost sickening that instead of a fast-food company actually developing something healthy to eat, they just change the appearance of an unhealthy product and then market it as healthy and fine to eat every day.
Another marketing strategy that fast food companies have been using is getting their customers to start out at a young age. Almost all of the larger burger restaurants are offering kids toys with meals, especially toys that are part of a collection so that the children will insist on keep going back to the restaurant to get more toys, and in turn – buy more food. This is somewhat frightening as it is extremely similar to what Cigarette companies were doing just a few years ago by using cartoon characters – such as Joe Camel — to sell their product.
They knew that the product they were selling was not healthy, but also knew that children out there were the next huge wave of consumers and wanted to get to them earlier. Even now when it seems like America wants to be more health-conscious, few Americans see through the fast-food marketing guise and realize what they are exposing their children to. Whereas years ago parents would take their children to fast-food restaurants as a special occasion, parents now will stop at a fast-food restaurant after picking the kids up from school so that they can save time by not preparing dinner at home. The latest slew of McDonald’s advertisements even show kids wanting to eat McDonald’s instead of their father’s food because he has no idea how to cook a decent meal, reinforcing the idea that it’s ok to replace a home-prepared meal with processed food.
What will change first, Americans or the Corporations that market this food to them? Possibly the corporations; out of all the business’ out there, Subway is one of the only large corporations that is marketing healthy food and a healthy lifestyle. Other companies are slowly adopting this idea of selling healthier food. On the other hand, it appears that Americans are starting to realize that their love for fast food is a dangerous relationship.
There have been a few lawsuits to fast food companies for marketing their food and the media is really starting to bring up the fact that American waistlines are increasing on a daily basis. Right now, unfortunately, it is a vicious circle – as long as Americans keep eating more and more fast food, the more these companies will keep marketing adults and children and the worse the health of Americans will get. Maybe the government should step in and force lower costs for healthy food and higher costs for junk food, or maybe, like Tobacco in the USA – Americans will wise up to the fact that by consuming these products they are only destroying themselves, and change.
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