Dear Food Companies, I've Got A Bone To Pick With You

by Kristen Mae
Originally Published: 
iStock / saturated

Dear Food Companies,

I have a bone to pick with you. But first, let me tell you a story.

At the grocery store the other day, I was shopping for a yogurt that had some flavor but wasn’t so loaded with sugar that we might as well just eat ice cream. These were my options:

– Plain (like eating sour cream, unless you buy the fat-free version, which tastes like chilled snot, and besides, recent studies show it’s actually beneficial to have certain types of fat in your diet)

– Loaded with obscene amounts of sugar

– “Sugar-free!” (loaded with artificial sweeteners)

– A couple of healthy brands that were cost prohibitive for a family of four

So I was left to choose between tons of sugar, no sugar at all, or artificial sweetener. Annoyed, I bought a few of the more expensive brand, knowing that we would quickly run out of yogurt since I bought fewer cups than I would have if a less-expensive big-name brand made a version with less sugar (without adding artificial sweetener to make up for the cane sugar they removed).

I occasionally get ambitious and buy plain, whole-fat yogurt, then add my own berries or vanilla extract and a small amount of sugar or honey. I don’t really want to do that though. I’m crunchy, but I’ve got shit to do.

I face similar predicaments when shopping for cereal, oatmeal, granola bars, or any other prepackaged food. I check the ingredients on salsa, marinara sauce, sausage, canned soup, fruit cups. Sadly, most of these products have added sugar.

Here’s where the bone-picking comes in. Food companies: Why the hell are you pumping your products full of unnecessary sugar? I love a Nutty Bar as much as the next gal, but I’m getting sick and tired of how difficult it is to find ordinary food products that aren’t swimming in syrup. I mean, we know added sugar is bad for us, right? This is not breaking news.

According to some theories, you guys know exactly how sweet to make foods in order to addict us dumb Americans into submission and make us buy your products forever and ever, and that’s why you add a lot of sugar to some things and a little sugar to everything — even things that don’t really need sugar, like salsa. I’m inclined to believe it, since I make a homemade salsa that kicks all store-bought brands’ asses and has zero sugar in it.

So if you’re not adding sugar for flavor, why are you adding it? And don’t tell me it helps with color and preservation. I have a feeling there are other, safer ways to achieve those goals.

Many moms who buy your foods with way too much added sugar do so only because it’s the cheapest option. We’re feeding a lot of mouths, and we are on a tight budget, and we know our kids won’t eat the plain option, and we don’t have time to make our own damn healthy version, so we just cave and buy your horrible, sugary bullshit.

But moms don’t really want to give their families all that added sugar. What you food company guys don’t understand is that the same moms who cave week after week would still buy your products if you took out some of the sugar. And by the way, that does not mean you should remove cane sugar and replace it with sucralose. We don’t want that shit either.

Just remove some of the fucking sugar. Consumers will still enjoy your yogurt if it doesn’t taste like a Jolly Rancher.

I feel like food companies are missing out on a major opportunity here. There is a large and ever-expanding market that is being completely overlooked: the moms who refuse to buy sugary products no matter how convenient or cheap they are. It’s moms like me who, while we may cave some weeks, mostly avoid your products. We’re out here pursing our lips and shaking our heads “no” at your ingredient labels, eating flax crackers, and making our own oatmeal mixes while secretly wishing we could just throw $2.99 at a box of granola bars and call it a day. But dammit, those things have almost as much sugar as a Snickers bar, and we are just not going there.

And by the way, the 25%-less-sugar option doesn’t count, because the subtracted sugar was simply replaced by sucralose! You have underestimated mothers, and we are on to your lies.

What a great marketing campaign this could be if only one of you big food companies had the guts to take it on. Imagine your slogan! Something like, “Less sugar, but NO artificial sweeteners!”

You could make a sappy commercial about a mom giving her kid a healthy option and feeling grateful that one of the food giants finally listened to her — finally heard her — and gave her a decent option to feed her kids without her going completely broke or worrying that she’s setting them up for a lifetime of sugar addiction and the accompanying myriad health problems.

We are hungry for health, so give it to us!

If one of you big food companies (you know who you are) made a concerted and widely publicized effort to remove as much sugar as possible from your products — if the message was something like, “We know moms are smart and informed and read labels, and we want to give them what they want so they can feel good about what they feed their families” — I would buy your products in a heartbeat.

So, food companies, what are you waiting for? We want less-sugary options for the same price as the usual crap. We want you to remove some of the sugar from products like oatmeal, granola bars, cereal, and yogurt, and we want you to remove all sugar from products that shouldn’t contain sugar to begin with.

We do not want you to replace that sugar with sucralose or any other sweetener, be it natural or artificial. Just make your products slightly less sweet. That’s what we’re asking.

We consumers aren’t as stupid as you think, especially not us moms — the ones who typically do most of the food shopping. Every day we’re getting smarter, learning to read labels more carefully, and we’re tired of feeling trapped between grocery store convenience and hippie homesteading. Please, meet us in the middle. Take some of the damn sugar out of your products.

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