a peek inside the fishbowl

15 Oct, 2007

Marketing, busy moms, and our daily bread

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Yaktivism

(Long post!)

Let’s deconstruct a pizza slice. Or two. Or four.

I received an email extolling the virtues of a new product developed especially for us busy moms. Part of that email was a press release. I’m reproducing it below. I decided to ‘XXX’ out the name of the product, because I’m not sure if it’s entirely relevant here. We could be having the same conversation about practically any processed/ convenience food – Lunchables, TV-dinners, gummy fruit snacks etc. – although in this case, for the sake of this discussion, we’re going to be talking about pizza.

Here is the press release:

[the rest of this post was hacked]


18 Responses to "Marketing, busy moms, and our daily bread"

1 | The Veggie Vixen

October 15th, 2007 at 9:59 am

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Thank you for taking the time to write about a topic that is very close to my heart. Unfortunately many people (including moms) don’t know how “bad” some food can be. Many assume that if it’s on the store shelf then it’s “safe”. Many parents often fall into the guilt trap and feel they need to make gourmet meals for their kids in order for the meal to be healthy. Many basic meal ideas are very healty — homemade soups, dips and bread, fresh veggies, etc. Many parents often give up because our kids don’t eat their veggies but some creativity will go a long way (I puree many veggies in soups, sauces, dips, etc). I hope parents will wake up and stop supporting companies that guilt us into buying unhealthy food.

2 | Tiana

October 15th, 2007 at 10:47 am

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I have never understood people (not just MOMS) who say they do not have the time to cook a meal from ‘scratch’.

I understand being busy but making a yummy meal doesn’t have to take more than 20 minutes.

I do most of the cooking and if I’m feeling rushed, I ask my husband to help out with some of the prep and everything is done before I know it. It allows us to spend some nice time together. We chat, we help each other out, teaching each other little cooking tricks. Kids can also help out with age-appropriate tasks. Many cultures bond over the preparation and consumption of food and I feel like ‘they’ are trying to sell that to us when the best way to accomplish it is to not buy these ‘convenience’ products at all.

I feel much better knowing exactly what is in my meal and I would feel the same way knowing exactly what my kids are eating.

The last thing kids need to eat is junk. You are what you eat and a growing body does not need to me made of sugars and fats.

3 | Anne

October 15th, 2007 at 11:57 am

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I’m not a busy mom yet, but I just wanted to say that we’ve been making pizzas at home with the new PC naan bread. Yummy! I like pizza sauce, chicken (I buy the already warm chickens if I don’t feel like cooking it) fresh basil and cheese. Your girls would probably like the naan.

4 | Ann D

October 15th, 2007 at 1:18 pm

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You did such a great job on making so many points that really matter to me. Last night, I saw an add for brownies in a box that you pop in the microwave or the oven (or maybe both). I asked my husband, incredulously, do you at least add water? Apparently not. You just “bake” them by nuking them for a few seconds to get the illusion of homemade goodness. And for that “privilege” you generate all kinds of garbage and you feed your kids so many more additives and questionable ingredients than you would if you’d either made them yourself or bought them at the local bakery or grocery store from the bakery counter, without all that unnecessary packaging.

Marketers are pushing our “you have to cook” buttons and our “we make it easy” buttons — and then selling us this junk. That leaves us feeling good for about ten seconds — until we think about the real issues — childhood obesity, health, the environment, buying locally, and marketing as manipulation.

Thanks for posting about this.

PS
We also need to teach our kids about this. I put together a short guide on this topic at Amazon.com the other day. Here’s the link:
So You’d Like to Help Your Kids Deal With Food Advertising
http://www.amazon.com/gp/richpub/syltguides/fullview/R244P3X5XOK6AR/ref=cm_sylt_byauthor_title_full_1

5 | DaniGirl

October 15th, 2007 at 1:56 pm

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And you said you didn’t want to talk about marketing and mom blogs tonight!!!

6 | Miss Vicky

October 15th, 2007 at 2:24 pm

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heh. great post. the “all-natural cheeses” line was a big red flag for me. And if I want the “takeout pizza experience”, well, I’ll order takeout!

Wee G doesn’t eat pizza yet, what with the milk allergy and the new-to-toddlerhood and all. But I do like to make my own when I can. I have been known to use naan bread greek pita bread for homemade individual pizzas in the past. It works really well. Harvest Loaf also sells frozen pizza dough, and we usually keep a couple rolls in the freezer.

They also have good meat and veggie pies and quiches – if I am going to keep pre-made meals in the freezer for those “busy mom” moments, I’d rather go for something made fresh locally than some massively processed, overly-packaged product. Plus I CAN recycle the pie tins and the cardboard boxed my Harvest Loaf pies come in.

Don’t be intimidated by stews! They are easy-peasy to make, and if you do it right you have a couple of nights of supper or a frozen meal or two. (I usually skip the dumpling part, though – sorry Mom). Plus they made great homemade baby food that the Webgeek and I could eat as well (in pre-pureed form). Plus you can get great organic and hormone -free meat that is perfect for stewing at Saslove’s – caribou or bison or lamb.

7 | Miss Vicky

October 15th, 2007 at 2:26 pm

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I was going to add – it’s an interesting marketing tactic, emailing releases to mommy bloggers. I occasionally get an email from a local business, but most of my plugs are self-generated. Then again, I’m not a “mommy blogger” (well, I’m a mommy and a blogger, but my blog is more focused on local politics and neighbourhood issues) so I wouldn’t be on anyone’s list. Which is just fine with me!

8 | BeachMama

October 15th, 2007 at 3:36 pm

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I have to admit that this past summer, while I was pregnant and did not want to cook a darn thing we purchased more than our fair share of ready made foods. And it was not because I was a busy Mom, it was just because.

But let me tell you, our darling daughter was a week old and I was back making supper. I am so much happier to be eating from scratch meals and Hubby and the kids seem happier about that too. J will ask once in a while for a pizza from the freezer, but I don’t cave.

There is a time for a quick frozen dinner and there is a time when you need to take the few minutes to prepare supper. There are plenty of quick and easy meals that can come together in twenty minutes or less, I am about to go make one right now.

As for the advertising, yes if people post without trying or researching the product, I think it is bad, but if they are like you and check into it first I don’t mind at all. But, I much prefer the posts with recipes and photos of delicious food.

BeachMama

9 | Dagne

October 15th, 2007 at 7:12 pm

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I share your ire with the pizza pushers and your incredulity at how modern marketers insist on making us feeling even more busy and frazzled than we already are. These “convenience” foods come at the cost of nutrition, health, education (of our children in cooking, etc.) and time spent as a family doing something as simple as enjoying a homecooked meal together. These prepackaged foods also circumvent the natural rhythms of eating food in season – why not pop these in the oven or microwave whenever you’re hungry, and avoid the hassle of preparing a roast chicken with root vegetables in the cold months, a salad bursting with fresh garden vegetables in the summer, or an apple pie in the fall? Why not give up any form of variety in food consumption altogether!

Our older son chooses and cooks (with assistance) a meal on average once a week, and both boys like to bake with me. I find that “the cook” is eating more interesting foods as a result, which is a great side benefit.

Like you Andrea I have my short cuts, particularly for nights when I know we’ll be in a rush or when I hit a wall and feel like I can’t face the kitchen (and that includes dialling our local pizzeria, the ultimate shortcut). I usually make my own pizza dough, because I finally found an easy, foolproof recipe, but wouldn’t dream of making my own pastry or stock at this point in our lives. I love my slow cooker as I am a big fan of stews and chili, but definitely don’t use it enough as I’m just not as organized as I’d like to be!

I don’t find it hard to resist these sorts of products, but can’t help but feel frustration that they fill the aisles in supermarkets, and it contributes this sense that manufacturers and marketers are not on our side (yeah, I know they aren’t).

And a quick PS on other types of convenience foods. When we were in England earlier this year we found fantastic tasty real, organic yoghurt tubes which my kids like and I was happy for them to have when we were going to be out and needed something handy to snack on: http://www.yeovalleyorganic.co.uk/Yeos/index.php. Why don’t we seem to have anything like that here? The yoghurt tubes available in supermarkets here are pretty horrible and I just won’t buy them. Anybody found an alternative?

10 | Jenn

October 15th, 2007 at 8:17 pm

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Dagne, I have not seen any decent yogurts packaged that way around here but I have seen organic applesauce in “tube” form and both Happy Planet and Liberty make great single serving yogurt drinks that are nice and portable.

We shop in a fairly well balance independant grcery store that focuses on combinations of local and organic fair so I thought we had escaped most of that when it comes to our kids. Unfortunately, I have noticed that Sesame Street characters are ending up on those ceral boxes now too! My kids enjoy food for what it is. They may not like everything I put on their plate but they help put things together and have a pretty good idea of the raw products that go into the final product. They see the faces of the farmers who grow much of the produce we use (at least for the next few weeks anyways) and they are learning that cooking isn’t some big mystery and anyone no matter how old can participate in putting it on the table. Cooking is a family event in our house whether it is a 10 minute preperation or a Sunday afternoon in the kitchen but it is a life skill that they learning and they are gaining a confidence in the kitchen that many of my own peers don’t have.

11 | Dagne

October 15th, 2007 at 9:00 pm

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Thanks for the tips Jenn; I’ll look out for those products.

Couldn’t agree more about cooking being a life skill that needs to be nurtured at home from a fairly early age. When my husband was getting his 20-year old daughter settled into university a couple of years ago, they went grocery shopping and came across a group of young guys reading and discussing the cooking instructions on a package of pasta. Oh dear! And I suspect they aren’t unusual. My step-daughter on the other hand shops for and cooks great meals when she’s with us. Young people should be able to go out into the world knowing how to look after themselves (and others) in that way.

Thanks again Andrea for sparking this discussion.

12 | melissa

October 16th, 2007 at 11:49 am

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I too wondered about all natural cheese. We usually have home cooked meals, and I managed to feed our family on homemade bread for about a year and a half (on temporary hiatus these days as I not around as much for all the rising dough) – our kids don’t eat too much processed foods – lunch is often pita and hummous, or whole wheat tortilla and cream cheese and lots of carrots and apples etc, unsweetened apple sauce – but we are sadly a sucker for the yogurt tube. I’m going to check out those organic ones.

In terms of marketing to busy moms – what annoys me about that as well is that it implies that only moms are responsible for family meals, that moms are the ones that should feel guilty if they can’t put good foods on the table, and that moms are the ones who need to embrace pre-sliced pizza as the solution to their problems, as if moms could not come up with any other alternative on their own. Where is the rest of the family in these scenarios?

13 | Yaris

October 16th, 2007 at 2:19 pm

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Kdyz si to spocitas s tuzkou v ruce – doma pripravene jidlo je nejen mnohem lacinejsi, ale i zdravejsi! Profitujes 2x: zdravi i penize. A reklamy v hotovych pozivatin? Ty me osobne neovlivnuji ani dost malo! Kdyby byli zakaznici jako jsem ja, tak by meli supermarkety v mrazicich boxech jen maso, maslo, mleko a vejce…-:)) Kdo to tedy kupuje a podporuje tento prumysl z nejvetsi casti ?

14 | Jen_nifer

October 17th, 2007 at 6:42 am

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Okay. I’m dying to know. Andrea, do you know this Yaris and what he/she is talking about?

15 | andrea

October 17th, 2007 at 8:17 am

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Yes I know her. She’s my mother! :)

Mami, prosim zacinej psat komenty Anglicky. Nebo posly emailem. Jinak to nedela smisl.

16 | Yaris

October 17th, 2007 at 10:39 am

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Yes, I know. Sorry. But this is easy way… and fast. I’m not excellent in English. You now that…

17 | twinmomplusone

October 17th, 2007 at 11:25 am

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hmmm, I’m a little nosey here, and this language would be?

18 | Ryan

October 17th, 2007 at 11:51 pm

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Great write-up Andrea, I was just going to write about this this week, having been back on the continent for a family visit.

A friend on a forum recently brought up a concept from a book that she was reading: every city has one word that describes that city. In the book, Rome was ‘Sex’. For Buenos Aires, the group decided the word was ‘Relationships’. After walking around the supermarket back here a couple of times, I reflected that the word for a lot of North America could be ‘Convenience’.

Being away from all of this and returning has been a bit of a shock. As you said, everything seems geared at the ‘busy’ parent, involved single hard-working person, etc. No one has time to do anything anymore, going by what the TV says! Good thing we have these companies thinking about us…

My brother is one of those boys in the supermarket, Dagne, and I constantly send him easy healthy recipes to help him get out of that rut. One has to have the attitude to do it, I think, and unfortunately, a lot of people will take the convenience route. All we can do is spread the word of good food!

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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