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Fast Food Gone Healthy

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Andrew Karl Boysen
Professor Elmore
English 105
30 October 2006
Writing Assignment 2
Version 2

                                 Fast Food Gone Healthy:
                                  America’s Oxymoron?

       A person is hungry, they need a quick fix, lo and behold they happen to see those

bright golden arches not too far in the distance. The person stops, pulls up to the drive

through, and the speaker box begins asking them for their order. It’s the sad truth about

fast food. The market is chock-full with hungry consumers on extremely tight schedules

with “instant gratification” mindsets. One variable, the fast food market never could have

predicted was a “healthy American”. Everything is now sorted into increments of one

hundred calories conveniently put into separate packages for the new health-conscious

men and women of the twenty first century. In the beginning, fast food markets preyed on

a booming new market hungry of hamburgers and milkshakes- new staples in the

American diet. Companies such as McDonald’s- the founder and leader of the fast food

market- began with ad campaigns that focused on “juicy” burgers and large portions.

Now the same chain displays clean-cut logos and markets salads more often than its

original burgers. Fast food chains are forced to change according to social trends to meet

the new demand of the consumers.

       McDonald’s was and remains a revolutionary idea. Founded outside of the city of

Chicago, McDonald’s has grown into a cultural phenomenon. It began just like the

picture depicts. On North Lee Street in Des Plaines, Illinois, the first McDonald’s

franchise was opened in the 1940’s, marking the beginning of the restaurants amazing

expansion. With large golden arches soaring above opposite sides of the restaurant, it can

be hard to miss while driving along any street. A beautiful, young woman is depicted
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being handed a juicy hamburger. (It is comical to note that America had also begun

worrying about germs around the same time, thus explaining the napkin used to hand

over the burger.) In McDonald’s infancy, the idea of being health conscious was unheard

of in most cases. The hamburger is prominently displayed in the advertisement.




              The phrase “Try this for sighs” demonstrates how portion size did not

matter to Americans. Consumers wanted the satisfaction of being “full” that came with a

“sigh” after finishing a burger from McDonald’s. Consumers did not know how many

calories were sufficient for the meal. “Calories” was a foreign word to most men and

women. The advertisement is very tasteful and gives a positive image to the newborn fast

food chain. As McDonald’s flourished and fast food became increasingly popular, the

chain introduced the innovative new product that will forever hold a place in pop culture

– the Big Mac.
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       The arrival of the Big

Mac marked the beginning of

oversized portions in America.

The burger was enormous-

constituted of three buns, two

meat patties, cheese, lettuce,

tomato, “special sauce”…

McDonald’s was not kidding in

their ad when it said “A Meal

disguised as a sandwich”. The

larger the burger was, the better.

Somehow, Americans associated

size with quality. This picture

vividly shows just how

monstrous the new burger was;

the ad had been designed to

make one salivate. The catch phrase present in the picture also depicts the growing trend

amongst fast food suppliers – promptly supplying the costumer with food. Even if the

product was unhealthy by nature, it still tasted awfully good. Hamburgers represented

America. As a product of the innovative country, hamburgers were a part of the

American identity and even represented the United States when fast food chains went

global. With the expansion came even more fat and calories. Fast food was getting

unhealthier, and marketing agencies were improving their skills in attracting costumers.
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                                                    From past to present, competitors in

                                            the fast food industry have marketed

                                            extremely large sandwiches such as the “BK

                                            Stacker” featured below. These monstrous

                                            sandwiches appealed to men; and marketing

                                            departments realized this at an early stage.

                                            Men inherently have eaten more. Men, on

                                            average, require 2500 calories of daily energy

                                            intake and women require only 2000

(“Calorie”). In fact, these “larger than life” sandwiches have become a part of being

masculine. About two decades ago, Wendy’s found that Americans had become

dependent on fast food. The public craved burgers and Wendy’s would give it to them.

Piled high with three patties, two slices of cheese, all the toppings, and Wendy’s special

ingredients, the “Classic Cheeseburger” faired extremely well on the market until the

health craze hit the United States. Wendy’s and other chains realized their unhealthy

ways and began introducing new healthy options. However,

some fast food chains attempted to find their place in the ever-

consolidating industry by maintaining their original fast food

image.

         The “BK Stacker” is Burger King’s new way of making

up for depleting sales in a market driven by McDonald’s- larger

than twice the combined worth of all major fast food chains

combined. As salads become as popular, Burger King is still

introducing new varieties of burgers to attract sales. Burger

King has become a counterpoint to the healthy trend. Although
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Burger King has not, other fast food chains are targeting salads with a vengeance.

       Looking back at social trends, one cannot ignore the powerful influence of the

media. At the University of Chicago, dieting and food took center stage amongst

researchers in the medical school. Analysts considered many factors until turning to

students for ideas. A poll concluded that the media was to blame. Regardless of when and

where the trend started, the media began focusing on very skinny individuals. The impact

of this can be found in the growing number of diets that began appearing all over the

country. Americans could not ignore that “skinny” was now trendy. Men and women

alike began dieting and their fast food addiction could no longer be a part of their daily

diet (“Student Polls”).

       As trends shifted throughout America, the public became much more health

conscious. Although it was due to a number of factors including an increase in

knowledge concerning the human

body and trends found in the

media, fast food chains were

forced to follow the new trend. A

poll taken in 2004 showed at that

point in time, forty-three percent

of Americans believed fast food

was to blame in the nation’s

obesity problem (Survey by Gallup Organization). In response, chains, such as

McDonald’s and Wendy’s, introduced an innovative new line of healthy options.

Amongst these new options were salads, a now popular meal in America. The goal of the

new marketing campaign was to dissolve the conception that fast food chains were
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unhealthy. As numerous Americans became “calorie counters”, McDonald’s responded

by displaying calorie, fat, and other nutritional facts on the sides of all their products.

        The new advertisements commonly used words and phrases like “garden”,

“fresh”, and “healthy options”. Ads were more streamlined such as McDonald’s new

advertising campaign called “Salads Plus”, a new menu including healthy alternatives.

McDonalds –especially- has introduced many options for the “soccer mom” generation.

Highly targeted is the Happy Meal that now features alternatives like milk, apples, and

yogurt to replace fries and soft drinks. The trend

in America has caused a decrease in marketing

burgers and fries (some may remember the battle

between McDonald’s and Burger King to find

the best new recipe for fries) and an increase in

salads and parfaits. When Americans were asked

if fast food companies offered healthy options

how likely they would be to select them, the majority, 56%, said “yes” (Time Magazine

and ABC News). Typically, fast food chains use their marketing departments to focus on

such surveys and work on incorporating the results into a “better” business.

        One cannot help but notice that as time progressed, fast food chains displayed an

increasingly minimal amount of advertisements featuring their more unhealthy options.

The concept is simple and fundamental to any business. Supply and demand controls the

market. American consumers demanded healthy options and fast food chains responded.

The irony of the whole situation is that fast food is inherently unhealthy. Milkshakes high

in sugar, deep-fried french fries high in saturated fat, and burgers containing high

amounts of fat and calories are the fundamentals of the industry. Even some salads that

are deceivingly healthy contain numerous calories in the dressing or lots of sodium in
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ingredients such as bacon bits. McDonald’s attempt to inform consumers about their

calorie intake through nutritional facts posted on the products ended in a lawsuit when the

fast food giant was caught lying about the saturated fat content. Even health conscious

people feel the need to splurge sometimes, and they immediately think of McDonald’s

and french fries. Little do they know, but a large fry at McDonald’s contains six grams of

saturated fat and the recommended daily intake is four grams. Although the fast food

industry has introduced healthy options to their menus, another trend in food threatens to

counteract the benefits of eating “healthy”.

       Unfortunately, there are two sides to eating healthy. One is eating “healthy

options” like those found in modern fast food chains that are lower in calories and fat.

The second is portion sizes. Portion sizes in America have drastically increased according

to a number of independent research groups over the past few decades. From 1977 to

1998, portion sizes increased in soft drinks by forty-nine calories, hamburgers by ninety-

seven calories, and in french fries by sixty-eight calories – all major staples in fast food

(Nielson).

       Throughout the nation, the biggest battle in college history is underway.

Construction workers, university officials, and benefactors alike have teamed up to fight

the war against obesity; and their biggest enemy is…fast food. The lives of college

students are fast-paced and very demanding. No wonder fast food has become a staple in

the diet of students eager to save a couple of minutes in their daily routine. For some,

especially students who live in dormitories, fast food is the only alternative to the college

cafeteria- that seems to need no explanation when students want to avoid the

establishment. In response, universities have constructed “state of the art” wellness

centers packed with fitness programs, cardiovascular machines, and weights.
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       You will always need that quick fix and that drive-thru will always seem to pull

you in time after time. The fast paced lifestyle preset in America is a breeding ground for

fast food. Americans will always have health on their mind, but at times the temptation

may be too great. McDonald’s will continue to try and create healthy fast food, but they

will never compromise taste. What tastes good usually is not good for you. It’s America’s

“oxymoron”. Fast food gone healthy, we shall see.
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                                     Works Cited


"Calorie." Wikipedia. 28 Oct. 2006 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calorie>.

Nielson, Samara J., and Barry M. Popkin, PhD. "Patterns and Trends in Food Portion
Sizes, 1977-1998." Jama & Archives. University of North Carolina. 27 Oct. 2006
       <http://jama.highwire.org/cgi/content/abstarct/289/4/450>.


"Student Polls" University of Chicago Harper Library. 2002. 26 Oct. 2006
       <http://students.uchicago.edu/pastpolls/weight.html>.

Survey by Gallup Organization, July 7-July 9, 2003. Retrieved October 30, 2006 from the
       iPOLL Databank, The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, University of
       Connecticut. <http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/ipoll.html>.

Survey by Time Magazine and ABC News, May 10-May 16, 2004. Retrieved October 30,
       2006 from the iPOLL Databank, The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research,
       University of Connecticut. <http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/ipoll.html>.

				
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