If you want to compete in the fast-food biz, you must source cheap foods. The problem is cheap food tastes bad. To make it appealing you must then add ingredients that all of us are hard wired to crave, namely, bad fat, high fructose sugar, and industrialized salt. Then you must promote these unhealthy products with aggressive and relentless marketing. If you want your brand to endure, you must target children with such marketing, as the MacDonald’s and Burger King Corporations have done.
Tim Hortons took another more inclusive marketing tack. Building on the fact that their eponymous co-founder was one of the best defencemen to put on a Toronto Maple Leaf uniform, and an icon himself, the corporation set out to make their brand an integral part of Canadian culture. The allure of the corporation’s folksy marketing even suckered the some otherwise intelligent, perceptive Canadians.
The famous Canadian historian, author, and TV personality, Pierre Berton naively bought into the doughnut corporation’s marketing agenda when he wrote that,
“In so many ways the story of Tim Hortons is the essential Canadian story. It is a story of success and tragedy, of big dreams and small towns, of old-fashioned values and tough-fisted business, of hard work and of hockey.”
“There’s nothing better than a box of Timbits for the kids in the back of the car,” Toronto philosopher Mark Kingwell wrote. “Nothing better to pick up spirits during a grim winter morning at the office, either.”
That the fast food chain’s sales pitch, which included the saccharine and disingenuous “True Stories” ad campaign, and the litter promoting “Roll Up the Rim” campaign, resonated with us, can be measured by the fact that Canadians consume more doughnuts than any other nation in the world. We are, collectively, the Timbit Nation.
While the Tim Horton Corporation was promoting its wholesome Canuckish image, it was metastasizing into a global fast food monolith through mergers with Wendy’s and, latterly, Burger King. The ascendancy of fast food parallels the staggering rise in obesity in general and childhood obesity in particular. I’d be surprised to find one medical professional who did not think there was a positive correlation between the rise in consumption of food and the growing number of fat kids, and the scary rise in the diseases attending this obesity. Considering the danger of gluten laden, heavily sugared fast food, every fast food outlet should be made to have a health warning on their doors cautioning prospective customers that the consumption of the products sold within will likely cause diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and have been linked to cancer. We make tobacco companies use cautionary labelling after all.
The fast food industry makes a staggering amount of money, yet fast food isn’t the largest consumer commodity in North America. Pharmaceutical corporations are the second most profitable corporations in the history of the globe, second only to BIG OIL. Yet Health Care spending in North America, if considered as a commodity in its own right, is in fact the most consumed of all.
Remember the term “symbiosis” from high school biology? If you weren’t paying attention, that’s a relationship between two living entities that’s mutually beneficial. The fast food industry and the pharmaceutical industry have a symbiotic relationship. People develop all the debilitating side effects of fast food consumption. They seek medical help and wind up consuming expensive, powerful drugs, almost all of which have a list of harmful side effects, prescribed by overworked doctors who themselves are susceptible to marketing campaigns by a pharmaceutical industry that has time and again been caught making false and misleading claims about its products.
The most egregious example of exploiting the biomedical paradigm to create a new market and increase profits happened recently when the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer launched a campaign to address childhood obesity with a chewable form of their billion dollar statin Lipitor. Statins are powerful drugs that mess with liver function so as to damp down the organ’s ability to produce cholesterol. Despite its bad rap, cholesterol is a wonderful substance that every cell in your body needs and is especially important to your brain.
Of course, there is a place for pharmaceuticals. They save lives, but in so many instances, the adoption of a healthy diet – and no healthy diet contains fast foods – and exercise has been shown to be much more effective than drugs in preventing and combatting disease of all kinds. There is no profit for fast food giants in exercise and eating well, in fact the promotion of those two healthful habits cuts into their profits.
Now, more than ever we have to wean our children off processed foods and get them exercising. Organized sports are good for this but they are not enough. Children need to be outside and exercising whenever daylight is available. Our town is replete with playgrounds, most of which are vacant in the afternoons. Another thing Terrace is blessed with is wilderness. We spent most of our history in the woods. We are hard wired for it. Kids should be encouraged to hike, climb, canoe, camp, fish and hunt, the last two activities containing a big bonus insofar as it provides access to healthful food.