Monday, February 2, 2009

Taste Testing Tripe

You gotta hand it to the Special K marketing team. They've established a brand of diet breakfast food that lives large in the North American psyche. Too bad it's bad for the dieter. Why? It's got a glycemic index in the stratosphere. This adult version of "Rice Krispies" is absorbed nearly as fast as sugar. There's no fiber to slow it down. But it's so light and crispy...and thin sounding. I am sure people feel thinner just by buying it.

So you can imagine my excitement when Special K releases a low glycemic version of it's product, called "Satisfaction". (I see that "Satisfaction" is not mentioned on it's national site, . I wonder if this is a Canadian release, to check out it's popularity?)

One bite of "Satisfaction", however, and I was flooded with disappointment. They've loaded it with sugar! I felt my insulin defences rallying to put off the invader. Why, oh why did they add extra sugar?

I'm sensitive to added salt, sugars, and fats now. I've been weeding these tasty extras from the diet, and slowly learning to appreciate the underlying texture and tastes of the foods they are hiding. Of course, as an abstainer of these delightful additives, I now have a heightened awareness of when they are included. And I have a deepening suspicion of why the manufacturer bothers. What are they hiding? Are they masking an inferior product?

I am similarly peeved when a manufacturer removes one "baddie" only to raise another. For instance, "low fat" peanut butter is given an extra dose of sugar. The same with mayonnaise. What? They don't think serious dieters are going to read the label?

Also deceiving is to declare a product "low fat" that never had any, like puffed wheat. Puffed wheat is great. It's a plain cereal, puffed up. No hidden agenda there. Again, how dumb do they think we are?

I wonder as consumers if we are inadvertantly biting the hand that feeds us. I can imagine with any new product that is not loaded with sugars, fat, or salt, the tester is going to notice. Especially if they have not weaned themselves from these three. The first reaction, and I can dearly remember going through it myself, is "yuk". Is this what the food really tastes like? With time, however, the tastes adjust. I now enjoy vivid food flavours, the natural tastes formerly hidden.

I wonder how much time is given for a new tester (consumer) to adjust to a new food? Is it on first taste? After all, a single "yuk" incident might result in the product never being tried again. I would dearly love the manufacturers to re-think their taste testing and allow the testers to try the food over several sessions. Perhaps also their use of other marketing incentives will encourage consumers to stick with a product past the first taste. After all, good is good.