Donde Esta Betty Crocker?
You’re probably wondering why I’m looking for Betty? Ironically the story starts at a grocery store run with my adorable niece. She is seven years old and very smart. She runs to me with a package of food and says “Auntie, this is healthy, it says natural and it was made on a farm.” Indeed the packaging said natural and there was a picturesque farm with a popular TV character on the cover. This is where our first lesson about food marketing began. How do you explain to a child that the food industry is trying to trick you so you have to be extra careful about what you purchase. I told her, “honey, don’t look at the front of anything you buy, flip it over and look at the ingredients, ALWAYS.” Be an explorer. These kids are victim to billions of dollars of food marketing and we have to teach them while they’re young. Five minutes after our conversation of food marketing I saw a packet of Betty Crocker cake mix and thought, wow, adults are just as easily blindsided by these marketing moguls.
If you’re wondering where Betty Crocker is, or who she was I have some earth shattering news to deliver…Betty Crocker isn’t real. According to Fortune Magazine in April 1945, Betty Crocker was the second most known woman in America next to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. That’s quite a feat for not being a real human being. She was known as the First Lady of Food, but she wasn’t a lady, she was a brand. A brand created by General Mills. They felt “Betty” sounded warm and friendly. She underwent several makeovers from the 1920’s to the 1990’s. By 1996 she had become slightly darker with a more “ethnic” look. This my friends, is marketing at its finest.
Not only was she a brand, she was one that sold more than 250 cookbooks, magazines, and products. She was in kitchens all over America, and her trusted recipes and products were something nearly every American has sunk their teeth into. Her “Big Red” cookbook sold nearly as many copies as The Bible itself. Yup. It’s okay to reread that last sentence if you need to. Eight decades of home invasion from an invisible yet charming woman called Betty. All in all Betty was created by a man named Sam Gale, an advertiser who felt that women wouldn’t take cooking advice from a man, and he was right about that. She was the ‘Dear Alice’ to women all over America. They flooded her with cooking questions, and very much believed her to be real.
Let’s focus on what we can do to safeguard our kids and ourselves. By simply creating awareness around food marketing and labeling, we teach children to be curious early on and make informed decisions. Let’s teach them to be mindful every time they purchase something that they are about to put into their body. I encourage all of you to take a second and think before you buy anything for that matter. Let’s start paying more attention to what’s inside the package, as opposed to outside the package.
Real food doesn’t need advertising.
There are no commercials out there with apples screaming, buy me buy me! Bananas don’t come with Yellow No. 5 aka tartrazine, and strawberries don’t have Red No. 3 aka carmoisine in them. Keep it simple. Keep it whole.
If America’s Sweetheart is a lie, then what else is?
Aunt Jemima and Sara Lee. Yup. You guessed it.