Survivor Bias: Why Big Food Isn't As Evil As You Think

Readers, thanks for indulging me while I take a break from writing to work on other projects. In the meantime, enjoy this post from CK's archives.
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Lots of food writers and bloggers, myself included, love to criticize Big Food. It's such an easy target. After all, shouldn't everyone be against an industry that earns billions by force-feeding us unhealthy foods?

Of course, you can only make a statement like that (and keep a straight face) if you view the world with a conspiracy-theory mentality. If that's your primary mindset, stop reading this post right now. Because I am about to suggest an alternate explanation for the realities of the food industry--one that doesn't involve the a priori assumption that our destiny is under the control of an evil cabal of greedy food lords.

A warning though: this explanation involves a quick detour to statistics class, and a quicker detour through my former career on Wall Street. But in just a short few minutes, you'll see that someone else is behind the curtain selecting the foods on our grocery store shelves.

My quick detour starts with a financial question: what happens to a mutual fund that really sucks? (Don't worry, this will be brief. I promise.)

Well, a mutual fund can get away with suckola performance for a few years, but if it significantly underperforms its peer group for much longer, it will be closed down and killed off. It gets pulled from the newspapers, its performance record vanishes, and it gets washed down the memory hole as if it never existed.

Here's the point: this regular mercy-killing of bad mutual funds creates a deeply misleading picture of past performance. Since the worst-performing funds are regularly removed from the data set, the past performance of mutual funds in general looks better than it actually was. What you see isn't really a true picture of past performance--it's just the past performance of the survivors.

Statisticians call this phenomenon survivor bias, and it gives a whole new meaning to the expression "past performance does not guarantee future returns." (Even though I left Wall Street more than a year [edit: 10 years!] ago, I still throw up in my mouth a little bit whenever I hear that awful, awful phrase.)

Okay. The point of this article isn't to tell you to be suspicious of the mutual fund industry, that's just a freebie side benefit you get from reading a food blog written by a retired Wall Street analyst. The point is to apply this concept of survivor bias to the food industry, and specifically to the foods sitting on our grocery store shelves.

Many of us like to think that all the deliciously unhealthy foods in our grocery stores are there because evil food companies engineer them that way on purpose. What we don't see, and what few of us think about, are all the foods that weren't quite popular enough with consumers, and were therefore killed off. The food industry is littered with the corpses of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of foods that have come and gone. Just like underperforming mutual funds, these unpopular or ill-conceived food products die off because they didn't perform well.

If you were to look over the thousands of foods that came and went over the past 50-75 years, you'd find foods of all types. Some would be healthy, some extremely unhealthy. Some would be terrible and tasteless, some would be delicious but for whatever reason unpopular. Some of these foods never made it past regional test markets or focus group testing. Some had huge ad budgets behind them, while some quietly came and went with no ad spending at all.

In every case, however, what really mattered was this: consumer demand was insufficient to support the products that didn't survive. And so they died. The remaining foods on our grocery stores shelves, however unhealthy they may be, are the product of survivor bias. It's quite simple: the foods most heavily demanded by consumers always survive.

So, who's really behind the curtain choosing the foods on our grocery store shelves?

It's us. We are behind the curtain. That's right: fattening and unhealthy foods are on our store shelves because we put them there.

This is why consumers have such a critical role in deciding what is available to us in our stores and markets. Exercise your power by spending your money accordingly.

Readers, share your thoughts!

Note: I owe a debt of gratitude to two exceptional books by Nicholas Taleb: Fooled By Randomness and The Black Swan. Both were instrumental in helping me think through issues raised in this post. Things are not always as they seem.





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You can help support the work I do here at Casual Kitchen by visiting Amazon via any link on this site. Amazon pays a small commission to me based on whatever purchase you make on that visit, and it's at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

And, if you are interested at all in cryptocurrencies, yet another way you can help support my work here is to use this link to open up your own cryptocurrency account at Coinbase. I will receive a small affiliate commission with each opened account. Once again, thank you for your support!

Psychological Hunger... Compared to the Real Thing

Readers, thanks for indulging me while I take a break from writing to work on other projects. In the meantime, enjoy this post from CK's archives.
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If you've ever heard someone say "I'm starving!" take three minutes to watch this monologue by comedian Louis C.K.

Let's start off by just spitting out the truth: Hardly anyone is ever really "hungry" in the genuine sense of experiencing starvation. Like Louis C.K. says, if you ate today, you really shouldn't say you're hungry.

But then again, we do feel hungry. It's a feeling, and it feels real. In fact, it feels so real that we almost always obey it by eating! Come to think of it, one way to think about obesity is to see it as an unlucky intersection of three things: wide food availability, our survival instinct, and the strong emotional experience of the "feeling" of hunger.

So, if you want to really learn about the feeling of hunger, if you want to learn how to sit with the feeling--even to get comfortable with it, instead of reacting to it or fearing it--I urge you to experiment, gradually, with intermittent fasting techniques.

We all know, in the logical part of our brains, that humans can easily go days without eating. Days. Now, we're finding mounting evidence that occasional fasting is actually healthy for the human body. And the entire discipline of intermittent fasting is built around this steadily growing body of evidence.

What I've found surprising in my experiences practicing intermittent fasting is how fasting helps you explore the emotional side of hunger. Over the past several months I've felt a lot more around the edges of the "feeling" of hunger. I've learned it simply isn't what I thought it was, and I've learned to differentiate it from true hunger. The two are most definitely not the same.

Even when I've really pushed myself and attempted fasting windows of twenty or twenty-one hours, the psychological feeling of hunger has become an interesting experience for me, and not something I react to with fear or panic, like I most certainly would have in the past. (For more context on this subject see this post.)

I've encouraged readers here to experiment with intermittent fasting, and I want to encourage it again. It doesn't just offer health benefits, and it doesn't just help you burn body fat. It teaches you not to fear the feeling of hunger. That alone makes it worth it.

Now, instead of saying, "I haven't eaten since 2:00. I'm STARVING," you might find yourself merely thinking, "I haven't eaten since 2:00." You won’t feel the need to tack on the (attention-getting?) phrase I'm STARVING at the end, because it doesn't merit being said.


READ NEXT: Book Review: The New Evolution Diet by Arthur De Vany


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You can help support the work I do here at Casual Kitchen by visiting Amazon via any link on this site. Amazon pays a small commission to me based on whatever purchase you make on that visit, and it's at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

And, if you are interested at all in cryptocurrencies, yet another way you can help support my work here is to use this link to open up your own cryptocurrency account at Coinbase. I will receive a small affiliate commission with each opened account. Once again, thank you for your support!

Techniques and Practices of Voluntary Discomfort

Readers, thanks for indulging me while I take a(n increasingly long!) break from writing. In the meantime, enjoy this post from CK's archives.
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I thought I would articulate in a post some of the techniques and habits I use to embrace the important Stoic concept of "voluntary discomfort."

If you recall from our other discussions of various aspects of Stoicism: voluntary discomfort is a tool of enjoyment, as counterintuitive as that may sound. The idea is simple: if you (temporarily) give up a pleasure, or (temporarily) deny yourself a comfortable experience, you'll appreciate and enjoy that experience far more--and far more profoundly--when you resume it.

Short-circuiting hedonic adaptation
We humans adapt quickly to pleasures and comforts. Honestly, it's rather disturbing to see how things that once gave us immense pleasure rapidly become expected, required, even "needed." Worse, our minds quickly redraw a pleasure baseline from any new pleasure or comfort, which means in order to experience the same level of pleasure or comfort in the future, we constantly need more. We can see easily how this drives various insane societal behaviors such as consumerism, the constant pursuit of the new, status-signaling and Veblen-esque conspicuous consumption.

If you think about it, the Stoic practice of voluntary discomfort is essentially a lifehack for short circuiting hedonic adaptation. A two-thousand year old hack!

So, here are a few examples of how I "do" voluntary discomfort, ranging from the seemingly silly to the significant. I'd be grateful if readers would share their ideas in the comments… I'm always on the lookout for new ways to apply this incredibly useful Stoic tool.

Going without my usual near-daily glass of wine for a few days in a row:
Once again, we very quickly adapt, hedonically speaking, to any situation. I've discovered that when I consume alcohol daily, I deaden the very pleasure I chase.

Intermittent fasting/delaying a meal:
I wrote briefly about this concept in my post Waiting Until We Are Hungry Before We Eat. Few things heighten the satisfaction of a meal like genuine hunger.

Taking a cold shower:
Nothing--and I mean nothing--better enhances your appreciation of a nice hot shower the next day. When I wake up and realize "Hey! I don't have to take a cold shower today!!" it's the start of a very good day.

30-day trials of giving up something pleasurable or comfort-inducing:
I've given up chocolate, alcohol, sugar and junk food on various 30-day trials over the years. These are both tests of will (that I derive pleasure from, interestingly) and they deepen my appreciation of the thing I give up.

Turning off the air conditioning on a hot day/Leaving the heat off on a cold day:
On a really hot day, have you ever left the AC off until you can hardly stand it, and then turned it on late in the day? This is a silly--yet not silly--example, but it just shows how a comfort briefly withheld becomes a comfort we stop taking for granted.

Days/weeks of spending very little money:
Here at Casual Kitchen, we generally make a point of reducing our spending during the summers. We cook simple, low-cost food at home, we avoid meals out, and we try to do less.

Other possible examples:
Eating the same meal several days in a row
Wearing uncomfortable clothing
Walking instead of driving
Waking up early/not sleeping in
Going a period of time without social media


Readers, I'm always looking for new ideas to exercise voluntary discomfort--what ideas can you share?


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You can help support the work I do here at Casual Kitchen by visiting Amazon via any link on this site. Amazon pays a small commission to me based on whatever purchase you make on that visit, and it's at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

And, if you are interested at all in cryptocurrencies, yet another way you can help support my work here is to use this link to open up your own cryptocurrency account at Coinbase. I will receive a small affiliate commission with each opened account. Once again, thank you for your support!

When It Comes To Banning Soda, Marion Nestle Fights Dirty

Readers, thanks for indulging me while I take a break from writing to work on other projects. In the meantime, enjoy this (highly controversial) post from deep in CK's archives.
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I don't have a dog in the fight on the proposed New York City large-soda ban. But what I do care about, deeply, is using sound reasoning to think through important public policy issues. I believe it's offensive and unethical for pundits, leaders and public policy experts to employ fallacious logic and base appeals to emotion in their attempts to persuade us. I guess I'm just naive that way.

And this is why, in today's post here at CK, I'm going to break down and deconstruct Marion Nestle's latest defense of New York City's large-soda ban. First, I ask readers to read her post on its own, which ran both at the San Francisco Chronicle and on Nestle's own blog, Food Politics.

Next, read below, where you'll find her article combined with my parenthetical notes (in bold text) on each of Nestle's various fallacies and logic holes. I'll say up front: this article is one of the most dubious, illogical and unethically argued things I've seen in seven years of writing Casual Kitchen. My goal today is to give Marion Nestle's article a thorough Fisking, and expose, systematically, all of its questionable logic and tactics. What she's done here, as you will soon see, is misleading and wrong.

I have always respected Marion Nestle. I read her regularly. I look up to her for reasoned food industry analysis. But when I see a respected and admired food expert argue an important issue almost entirely based on appeals to emotion, innuendo, conspiracy theories, proof by vigorous assertion and conflicting logic, I simply cannot let it go uncriticized--even if I might actually agree with her position.

And when I see her strongly imply that important minority organizations acted against their own members' interests in this debate, I had to call Nestle out. Read on and you'll see what I mean.

Warning: Today's post is long--more than 2,000 words. But if you care whether our public policy issues are discussed fairly, reasonably and rationally, I encourage you to read the entire thing.

Once again, I don't have a dog in the fight over large sodas. I have a dog in the fight over honest debate.

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Soda-Cap Size Is a Public Health Issue by Marion Nestle

Here’s my monthly Food Matters column from the San Francisco Chronicle. The question (edited) came from a reader of this blog.

Q: You view New York City’s cap on any soda larger than 16 ounces as good for public health. I don’t care if sodas are bad for us. The question is “Whose choice is it?” And what role should the nanny state play in this issue?

A: Your question comes up at a time when the New York State Supreme Court is hearing arguments about whether New York City’s health department has the right to establish a limit on soda sizes.

As an advocate for public health, I think a soda cap makes sense. Sixteen ounces provides two full servings, about 50 grams of sugars, and 200 calories – 10 percent of daily calories for someone who consumes 2,000 calories a day (This reason--that there's lots of sugar and calories in soda--actually doesn't make sense unless you ban all large sizes of all high-sugar and high-calorie drinks. A sixteen ounce glass of orange juice provides almost exactly the same amount of sugar and even MORE calories than soda. Calorie and sugar content therefore can't be a rationale for a large soda ban unless we ban many other high-calorie drinks too).

That’s a generous amount. In the 1950s, Coca-Cola advertised this size as large enough to serve three people. (This is a convincing appeal to emotion, but logically it's irrelevant. This debate doesn't hinge on what Coca-Cola may have advertised in the past. Heck, in the 1890s, Coke advertised coca leaf extract in its cola).

You may not care whether sodas are bad for health (This is shaming language; it subverts and criticizes the questioner's character and motives. It's an example of the ad hominem fallacy and it is also an appeal to our base emotions), but plenty of other people do (this fallacy, which we're about to see in the next sentence, is called the False Authority fallacy). These include, among others, officials who must spend taxpayer dollars to care for the health of people with obesity-related chronic illnesses, employers dealing with a chronically ill workforce, the parents and teachers of overweight children, dentists who treat tooth decay, and a military desperate for recruits who can meet fitness standards (While these are all groups that we all care deeply about, none--with the possible exception of dentists treating tooth decay--is relevant to this argument. In order to have logical justification for a soda ban, you must at least show some evidence that soda is a key cause of the problems each of these groups face. But there are countless drivers behind obesity and chronic illness.

Further, why in the world are we including the military on this list of hypothetical groups who care whether sodas are bad for health? A soda ban in New York City plays no role in any issue facing our military. This is just a list of sympathy-inducing groups meant to appeal to our emotions at the expense of rational thought.)

Poor health is much more than an individual, personal problem. If you are ill, your illness has consequences for others (Agreed that my hypothetical illness may have economic consequences for others, however we lack evidence that banning large bottles of soda will have any impact on obesity or on obesity-related illness. This is a poorly substantiated leap of logic.)

That is where public health measures come in. The closest analogy is food fortification. You have to eat vitamins and iron with your bread and cereals whether you want to or not. (Let's set aside the basic tone-deafness of an expert saying you have to eat something "whether you want to or not" and consider that the idea of food fortification is an example of a health policy decision that may not be good for us at all. This isn't evidence to support a soda ban--if anything, it's evidence that public health elites are often wrong in the things they decide for us.) You have to wear seat belts in a car and a helmet on a motorcycle. You can’t drive much over the speed limit or under the influence. You can’t smoke in public places (Readers: are these fair analogies or fallacious ones? Hint: smoking in public directly harms the people around you. Driving over the speed limit directly increases risk to other drivers. Drinking large sodas harms others only if we can swallow the unsubstantiated leap of logic Nestle makes in the prior paragraph.)

Would you leave it up to individuals to do as they please in these instances regardless of the effects of their choices on themselves, other people and society? Haven’t these “nanny state” measures, as you call them, made life healthier and safer for everyone? (I don't want to get into a debate on civil liberties here, but in a free society we actually can do more or less what we want as long as we don't injure others. Thus I can eat food or drink soda whenever I wish, even if might be bad for me. This argument, as definitional as it might be, doesn't concern Nestle.)

All the soda cap is designed to do is to make the default food choice the healthier choice. (But what is stopping people from buying two, three or ten 16-ounce sodas?) This isn’t about denial of choice. If you want more than 16 ounces, no government official is stopping you from ordering as many of those sizes as you like. (This is an incoherent contradiction. Is this a ban or not? If it won't impact our choices, then why have it? This is where a citizen should begin to suspect that things are not as they seem: Don't worry about our ban, it won't impact anything, really. It won't.)

What troubles me about the freedom-to-choose, nanny-state argument is that it deflects attention from the real issue: the ferocious efforts of the soda industry to protect sales of its products at any monetary or social cost. (Here's where Nestle shifts the argument onto even more tenuous logical ground with a neat sleight of hand. She dismisses the issue of civil-liberties as irrelevant, when it quite obviously is an incredibly important issue to many. In its place we are presented with a rhetorical diversion and a new enemy: greedy corporations. Emotional words and phrases like "ferocious" and "at any monetary or social cost" help lubricate this transition. Most readers will never notice the logical fallacy.)

The lawsuit against the soda cap is a perfect example. It is funded by the American Beverage Association, the trade association for Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and other soft-drink companies, at what must be astronomical expense. (Any organization, person or corporation has full rights to use the court system in an appropriate way under the law. But if you use phrases like "at what must be astronomical expense" you've now framed it up as just another manifestation of corporate greed. Nestle is painting a picture here, not using logic. This is another example of appealing to emotion. PS: If you hate corporations too, you will always fall for this argument technique.)

To confuse the public about corporate profits as a motive, the beverage association enlisted two distinguished civil rights groups – the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation - to file an amicus brief on behalf of its lawsuit. (Here's where Marion Nestle starts making some really big, and really bad, mistakes. Here, she implies--unintentionally, I hope--that the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation were somehow duped into filing friend-of-the-court briefs in an effort "to confuse the public about corporate profits as a motive." Keep reading. Things are about to get very ugly.)

Never mind that the obesity rate for the communities these groups represent is considerably higher than average in New York City, and that these neighborhoods would benefit most from the soda cap. The amicus brief argues that the soda cap discriminates against them. (Hold on: A paragraph ago, Nestle claimed the amicus brief was intended to confuse the public about the beverage association's motive for profits. Now, she's implying that the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation are acting contrary to their own members' interests.)

The brief, however, neglects to mention that both amicus groups received large donations from soda companies and that the NAACP in particular has a long history of partnership with Coca-Cola (Nestle now puts herself on very risky rhetorical ground. She implies that the NAACP and Hispanic Federation wrote an amicus brief to the court in a quid pro quo... for money. I ask readers to reread the prior three paragraphs and decide for themselves whether it is truly ethical, appropriate and relevant to make these allegations. This article is supposed to be a defense of the large-soda ban, yet Nestle strays totally afield, resorting to the oldest rhetorical trick in the book: smear the opposition. This is a sophisticated use of the ad hominem fallacy.)

Financial arrangements between soda companies and ostensibly independent groups demand scrutiny. (This is still more innuendo: an analogy would be to demand to see and scrutinize all the donors--corporate and otherwise--who give money to NYU, where Marion Nestle teaches. That said, if Cadbury-Schweppes or PepsiCo donated money to NYU, would this invalidate all of Marion Nestle's views? Of course not.) National and local reporters – bless them – have done just that. (I'm sorry, but blessing them has nothing to do with anything.)

They report, among other connections, that one of the law firms working for Coca-Cola wrote the amicus brief, and that a former president of the Hispanic Federation just took a job with that company. (That's all? That's all the support Nestle has behind the implication that NAACP and the Hispanic Federation sold out their members by offering an amicus curae brief for a court case?)

Last fall, the East Bay Express exposed how the soda industry exploited race issues to divide the electorate and defeat the Measure N soda tax initiative in Richmond. It revealed that the beverage association not only paid for the successful “grassroots” campaign against Measure N but also encouraged views of the soda tax as racist (And yet it isn't exploiting race issues to imply that the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation were either duped or acted contrary to their members' interests--as Nestle does across the previous six paragraphs. The illogic here is simply astonishing).

Driven by this experience, the soda industry is repeating this tactic in New York City.

Is a cap on soda sizes discriminatory against groups working for civil rights? Not a chance. (Nestle offers no evidence to support this statement. This is the proof by vigorous assertion fallacy).

Public health measures are about alleviating health disparities and giving everyone equal access to healthy diets and lifestyles. (Yet this is a completely different issue. It has nothing whatsoever to do with banning large soda sizes. These are feel-good phrases and emotional appeals; there's no logic here.) This makes public health – and initiatives like the soda cap – broadly inclusive and democratic (Even if you don't have a problem with policy experts deciding what size soda we're allowed to drink, you have to admit that calling it "broadly inclusive and democratic" is egregious doublespeak).

If anything is undemocratic and elitist, it is suing New York City over the soda cap. (On the contrary, eliminating peoples' choices--even if you believe it's for their own good--is undemocratic and elitist. A related thought: when a public policy expert says "I'm not elitist, my opponents are!" immediately after using ad hominem arguments to attack that opposition, consider Shakespeare's quote you doth protest too much.)

In funding this lawsuit, the soda industry has made it clear that it will go to any length to protect its profits (now Nestle launches into pure conspiracy theory in an overt appeal to emotion), even if it means discrediting the groups that would most benefit from this rather benign public health initiative. (No. In reality, it was Marion Nestle who did all the discrediting here by implying that both the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation acted contrary to their members' interests.)

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Final Thoughts
I was afraid to publish today's post. I'm worried readers might interpret it as nothing more than a really long hatchet job. Or that they might think I have nothing better to do than to criticize and take potshots at a perfectly harmless public health professor at NYU. Or that I'm in over my head on issues I have no credibility discussing.

But the reason I hit the publish button on this post boils down to one thing: I believe--strongly and perhaps naively--that debates on important public policy issues should be honest, earnest and fact-based.

If you have to rely on fallacy, appeals to emotion and smearing the opposition to "win" a public health policy debate, can your position really be defensible?

Readers, please share your thoughts.


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You can help support the work I do here at Casual Kitchen by visiting Amazon via any link on this site. Amazon pays a small commission to me based on whatever purchase you make on that visit, and it's at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

And, if you are interested at all in cryptocurrencies, yet another way you can help support my work here is to use this link to open up your own cryptocurrency account at Coinbase. I will receive a small affiliate commission with each opened account. Once again, thank you for your support!

That Man Moved the Sanka!

Readers, thanks for indulging me while I take a break from writing to work on other projects. In the meantime, enjoy this post from CK's archives!
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In Robert Cialdini's exceptionally useful book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, there's a striking anecdote on a topic regularly seen here at Casual Kitchen: advertising and consumer empowerment. Read on:

"Advertisers have frequently harnessed the respect accorded to doctors in our culture by hiring actors to play the roles of doctors speaking on behalf of the product. My favorite example is a TV commercial featuring actor Robert Young counseling people against the dangers of caffeine and recommending caffeine-free Sanka Brand coffee. The commercial was highly successful, selling so much coffee that it was played for years in several versions. But why should this commercial prove so effective? Why on earth would we take Robert Young's word for the health consequences of decaffeinated coffee? Because—as the advertising agency that hired him knew perfectly well—he is associated in the minds of the American public with Marcus Welby, M.D., the role he played in an earlier long-running television series. Objectively it doesn't make sense to be swayed by the comments of a man we know to be just an actor who used to play a doctor. But, as a practical matter, that man moved the Sanka."

If you're even only vaguely interested your own consumer empowerment, Cialdini's book is a must-read. And while many readers today may not recognize the name "Marcus Welby," there are plenty of examples across today's advertising firmament that copy the Marcus Welby model. We all know the common advertising template of using a celebrity character from television or the movies to peddle product. It's just that today, in our post-media era, it's done in a more sophisticated or ironic way. But the effect is the same: it gets us to buy.

The real irony here, of course, was that Sanka tasted awful. It was a truly terrible product. Nowadays, thanks to far better decaffeination techniques, decaf coffee actually tastes like coffee. (You kids these days have no idea how lucky you are!)

But the funny thing about these types of celebrity endorsements is this: Yes, sure, they work--but once you think about why they work... well, all of a sudden they stop working so well.

Cialdini explains:

"From the first time I saw it, the most intriguing feature for me in the Robert Young Sanka commercial was its ability to use the influence of the authority principle without ever providing a real authority. The appearance of authority was enough. This tells us something important about unthinking reactions to authority figures... we are often as vulnerable to the symbols of authority as to the substance."

It wasn't just that this guy wasn't a doctor. He was an actor who played a doctor, who was using his "doctor-ness" to promote a product. On some level it's hilarious to think that this could work at all to sell product. And yet it did. Sanka sales--remember, sales of a product that didn't even taste any good--exploded upwards thanks to these ads.

Sanka print ad, circa 1979

"Okay, okay," you're thinking, “but that was the seventies. People were gullible dumb-asses back then. Today when we hear 'I'm not a doctor but I play one on TV' we laugh. We instantly hear satire. We're way too sophisticated to fall for this silly and transparent marketing trick."

Except we still do fall for it. It happens when Wilford Brimley, spokesman for the diabeetus, uses his trustworthy, old-country persona to promote Liberty Medical. Uh, and Quaker Oats. It happens when TD Ameritrade uses actor Sam Waterston (or more accurately, Waterston's earnest persona as Assistent DA Jack McCoy from Law and Order) to sell discount brokerage services. And yes, it even happens when two generations of Spocks ironically sell us Audis.

It's the same trick. They're still using it on us. And it still works.

Repeat after me: in the food industry and in the consumer products industry, advertising and marketing expenses are the single greatest source of costs, and they are always imputed in the final price of the products you buy. All branding and advertising costs are always passed through to the consumer.

If you buy any heavily-advertised product or service, recognize the role you are playing in the advertising-consumption cycle. You pay for those ads. Including the ones using phony symbols of authority to trick you into buying.

See advertising for what it really is: a destroyer of consumer value. Don't buy.

Read Next: Consumers: Pay For Your Own Brainwashing! (Or Don't)




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You can help support the work I do here at Casual Kitchen by visiting Amazon via any link on this site. Amazon pays a small commission to me based on whatever purchase you make on that visit, and it's at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

And, if you are interested at all in cryptocurrencies, yet another way you can help support my work here is to use this link to open up your own cryptocurrency account at Coinbase. I will receive a small affiliate commission with each opened account. Once again, thank you for your support!

The "Don't Buy" List For A Low-Budget Kitchen

Readers, once again, thank you for indulging me while I take a bit of a break from writing to work on other projects. In the meantime, enjoy this post from CK's archives.
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Everybody has a high-cost/high-quality item in their kitchen that they love and use to death. For us, it's a couple of relatively expensive knives that we've used so many times that we've amortized their per-use cost practically to zero.

But let's be honest: Everybody also has a few high-cost items in their kitchen that they hardly use at all. An expensive device bought in a fit of enthusiasm that now sits solitary, sad and forgotten in some dark, dusty corner of your kitchen.

There's no greater waste than a cooking tool you never use--especially if it's expensive. So my goal with this post is to create a list of "don't buy" items for those newer cooks and homeowners looking to set up their kitchen on a budget. I want to help you avoid the costly mistakes made by the rest of us.

And here's where Casual Kitchen's more experienced readers--those of us who have been cooking for a number of years--can share their mistakes. What items did we buy in the past that seemed like a neat idea at the time, but turned out to be a complete waste of money?

With that in mind, here's a list of items that you can reliably avoid buying when setting up your kitchen. By avoiding (or at least deferring) the purchase of the following items, you can save literally thousands of dollars--without compromising in any way your ability to cook healthy, delicious meals at home. What would you add to this list?

The "Don't Buy" List For a Simple Startup Kitchen

* Fine China
* Silver or silver-plated utensils
* Motorized items that do things that smaller, simpler and cheaper manual items do (electric can openers, electric jar-openers, etc.)
* Fragile glassware
* Costly celebrity chef-endorsed cookware of any sort
* Espresso/Cappuccino makers
* Obscure staple foods (examples: kamut flour, Lebanese couscous, einkorn pasta, etc.)
* Cast-iron cookware
* Unitaskers (items with just one usually obscure function, such as cherry pitters, bagel cutters, egg-prickers, etc.)

Readers, here's where you come in: What cooking tools would you add to this list? What items have you bought or considered buying that are worth avoiding or deferring?


Related Posts:
Mastering Kitchen Setup Costs
How to Tell if a Recipe is Worth Cooking With Five Easy Questions
Six Secrets to Save You from Cooking Burnout
How to Apply the 80/20 Rule to Cooking
Cooking Like the Stars? Don't Waste Your Money
A Recession-Proof Guide to Saving Money on Food


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You can help support the work I do here at Casual Kitchen by visiting Amazon via any link on this site. Amazon pays a small commission to me based on whatever purchase you make on that visit, and it's at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

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How to Make Quickfix: Better than Gatorade or Powerade and Just Pennies a Serving

Readers, I'll be taking (another!) break from writing for the next few weeks to work on other projects. In the meantime, enjoy this updated post from CK's archives.
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Today I want to share an easy and laughably cheap sports drink recipe borrow and modified from the famous 1980's era fitness book Eat to Win. This recipe has served us very well here at Casual Kitchen: it's healthy, contains no HFCS (quite unlike almost all sports drinks), and it replenishes you during and after even the most grueling hot-weather workouts.

You can make this recipe up in seconds for mere pennies, or you can pay as much as $1.50 to $2.50 for a quart-sized plastic jug of heavily advertised, HFCS-laden Gatorade or Powerade. You're welcome.


Quickfix

Combine:
8 ounces orange juice
24 ounces cold water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Shake well and drink during or after workouts.





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You can help support the work I do here at Casual Kitchen by visiting Amazon via any link on this site. Amazon pays a small commission to me based on whatever purchase you make on that visit, and it's at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

And, if you are interested at all in cryptocurrencies, yet another way you can help support my work here is to use this link to open up your own cryptocurrency account at Coinbase. I will receive a small affiliate commission with each opened account. Once again, thank you for your support!