August 5, 2008

In The (80's) News: Wonder Bread

I came across a fascinating article from the November 25, 1984 issue of The Washington Post Magazine this weekend.

The title: How Wonder Bread Survived the Whole-Grain Revolution.

The article mentions how that fluffy white thing almost ceased to exist in 1980 after sales plummeted as a result of the "whole grain trendiness" in the 1970s (nutrition, like fashion, is all about repeating cycles) and the emergence of artisan breads that cast white bread in the most boring of lights.

In the author's opinion, "no matter how much stone-ground whole grain bread a person eats, nothing compares to a slice of gummy white bread oozing peanut butter and dripping jelly."

Meanwhile, the Wheat Industry council published the results of a most interesting study in the early '80s which concluded that the two types of "regular white bread users... are 'Overweight Snackers' and 'Unconcerned Food Lovers'... who tend to have average to low incomes, snack between meals, miss meals, eat at hamburger joints, let their children eat sweets and candy, don't worry too much about sugar, salt or cholesterol, don't worry much about exercise, and believe a person can lose weight without eating less."

And if you think deception in food advertising is a new thing, think again.

In 1971, the Federal Trade Commission accused Wonder Bread of making false nutritional claims in a TV advertisement that credited the product with helping children grow to "90 percent of adult height".

Ten years later, Wonder Bread was in hot water again, this time for a TV ad with the slogan "nutrition whole wheat can't be beat." False advertising, much?

The company quickly made amends by changing the tagline to "With Wonder in a balanced diet, good nutrition doesn't have to be whole wheat."

Desperate times call for desperate measures, I suppose.

We end with this "prediction" from Wonder Bread truck driver Vito Mazzoli: "People are worried about calories and carbohydrates, breads with no preservatives. More people are going to natural breads. People's eating habits are changing. By the year 2000, you're gonna see a whole different market."

He is partially right. Wonder Bread's parent company (Interstate Bakeries) declared bankruptcy in 2004 and quickly 100% whole wheat loaves to its line.

Although today's market may have more variety, deceptive sales tactics -- particularly with non whole grain breads advertised as such -- unfortunately still abound.

I think Mr. Mazzoli would be more surprised to learn that from 1984 to 2008 the obesity rate in the United States doubled...

1 comment:

Norma said...

With gummy white bread, you eat less of it. Doesn't taste as good as bread with texture and heft and has thinner slices. Unintended consequences?