|Soy to the World|
|Written by Kaayla Daniel, PhD, CCN|
|Wednesday, 06 April 2011 14:40|
SOY TO THE WORLD: HOLIDAY WISHES FROM WHOLE FOODS MARKET
This past holiday season Whole Foods Market offered customers gift boxes and certificates brightly printed with the wish âSoy to the World.â Whole Foods Market, of course, perceives soy foods and soy milkâparticularly modern packaged and processed soy productsâas a major profit center. Soy also fits nicely within CEO John Mackeyâs vegan agenda and his promotion of soy as the ticket to personal and planetary health. Sadly, soy to the world will not bring joy to the world this holiday season or any other.
SIDEBAR: 15th Soy Symposium â Adapting to New Market Forces
November 11, 2010 in Washington, DC
Hosted by the United Soybean Board and the Soyfoods Association of North America, the 15th Soy Symposium included company executives, soy bean farmers, policy influencers (including Dan Glickman former, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and Chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America), journalists (including Sally Squires, former medical and health writer for the Washington Post and Jia Lunn Yang, financial writer for the Washington Post), industry representatives, academics (including Brian Wansink, former Executive Director of the USDAâs Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion), chefs and former Olympic gold-medal gymnast, Dominique Dawes, who was the featured lunch speaker.
The event was billed as a conference to âexamine how food companies are adapting to four primary forcesâhealth, economics, global marketing and sustainability.â The take-away points from the discussion were primarily ideas and strategies to get more consumers eating more soy food products.
To the credit of conference organizers, attendees really did dine on soy foods, rather than salmon and shrimp as in previous conferences. The menu featured mini tacos made with TVP, tofu dip, beef and soy sausage, soy nut cookies, soy yogurt, soy milk, Caesar dressing made with soy milk, black soybean chili, and tofu chocolate almond mousse.
In his opening remarks, Dan Glickman shared the story about how he told the theatre industry to use soybean oil instead of coconut and palm oils in movie popcorn. He praised the âbridge buildersâ like Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern and Bob Dole, who ushered in mega-corporate farming and helped formulate the dietary guidelines, based on the products of commodity agriculture. He stressed the need for more of the same to feed the worldâs growing population and lauded the soybean industryâs role in shaping ânutritionâ policy, especially in public schools.
The keynote address by Brian Wansink, PhD set the context for discussion by clearly defining who the industry should and shouldnât be focusing on with respect to soybean consumers. He gave as an example the success soymilk producers experienced by targeting lactose-intolerant consumers. He further discussed looking at a triangle representing all the people in the United States: At the top of the triangle are âsoy-seekers.â These people love soy, look for soy in products and are huge champions. At the very bottom of the pyramid are the people who are âindifferentâ to soy for whatever reason. It could be they donât care, they are uninformed, or some other reason. The middle segment of the triangle represents the ânutrition pre-disposedâânot towards soy in particular, but towards healthy food in general. Wansink stated this is the segment the industry should focus on, as there is tremendous potential there. One of the problems in the industry, he said, is that people have focused too much on the top part of the pyramid and everyone is trying to get a piece of this tiny pie. The strategy for marketing to the pre-disposed segment is two-fold: Come up with a great idea that works for a lot of people (even if not all), and then after that find a ripple effect that works for others.
In a moment of honest revelation, Wansink spoke about the disappointment throughout the industry when highly anticipated health claims about the benefits of soy did not yield high sales for soy products, with the exception of soy milk. He suggested that the government promote soy products the way it promoted organ meats during World War II, as something good for you and good for the nation. He also suggested that marketing strategies target ânutritional gatekeepers,â that is chefs and family cooks interested in nutrition. Wansink further noted that as health claims failed to convince the population that soy was the magic bullet fifteen years ago, the opportunity for soy today is with the obesity challenge and the new dietary guidelines. Specifically, soy should be promoted as a solution to overweight by marketing it as a healthy substitute to meat and dairy products.
Other speakers discussed how soy products will help meet U.S. dietary guidelines, with its renewed emphasis on plant-based diets; noted that the soy industry is working on production of novel varieties of high oleic soybean oil low in saturated fat; stressed the marketing of soy as a complete protein, perfectly appropriate as the only protein source for infants, children and adults; promoted the use of âstealth healthâ as opposed to âmusclingâ in change to force dietary changes (that is, sneak soy into common food products); speculated on how to remove the allergens from soy; and figure out what to do about the fact that soy doesnât actually taste very good.
One panelist was asked: âHow do you counter negative data from wackos on the internet?â The answer: donât add to the debate with more data because the âdata is irrelevant.â People will believe what they want to believe regardless of truth. Effective marketing is the ultimate solution. The soy industry should âcultivate the root as opposed to fertilize the leavesâ which means targeting children. The panelists agreed that Rachael Ray needs to eat a soy burger!
Interestingly, motivational speaker Dominique Dawes, a Silver Spring, Maryland native, confessed that as a child one of her favorite foods was chitterlingsâwhich she ate by the plateful. It was one of many home-cooked âsoul-foodâ dishes prepared by her mother. She also ate home-cooked foods during her career.
Thus the conference danced around the key problems with immensely profitable, highly fabricated soy foodsâthey are toxic and they taste terrible. A full report of the conference by a WAPF member, who attended and sat quietly in the back of the room, will be posted at the end of this article at westonaprice.org.
Meanwhile, John Mackey, Whole Foods CEO, likes to be seen as just a regular Joe. He earns only fourteen times the salary of his average âteam member,â after all. While other corporate executives doubtless take home far bigger paychecks, Mackeyâs âtalking tofurkyâ here. If he were an executive who âtalks turkey,â he would admit to also earning millions in stock options. He might also be sensitive to the fact that his store is widely mocked as âWhole Paycheck Marketâ because its extreme markups make it soy overpriced for the average consumer.
Whole Foods sells only organic soybeans, right? Thatâs what they say, but it took monthsâand an embarrassing exposĂ© by the Cornucopia Instituteâbefore just some of the Silk products made with commercial soybeans were removed from the shelves. Similarly, Whole Foods has sold a whole lot of veggie burgers, energy bars, and other âorganicâ products made with soy protein isolate and other ingredients processed using hexane solvents. Cornucopia also exposed that, but you read it first in The Whole Soy Story.
Elsewhere in the store, pseudo organic reigns. Consider factory-farmed âorganicâ Horizon brand milk and butter. As for produce, the artful displays conflate organic and commercial. And if the internet postings of disgruntled Whole Foods âteam membersâ can be trusted, muchâif not allâof it is cleaned with non-organic cleaners. Seems the organic cleaners are brought out when the inspectors come in. Shoppers who arenât careful may go home with commercial produce just like that found at the supermarket down the block but at a substantially higher price. Whole Foods Market carefully crafts the illusion that it sells organic, but far more of what it sells is ânaturalââwhatever that meansâor even commercial.
SOYLED HEALTH CLAIMS
Is soy the âmiracle beanâ that can cure everything from cancer to ingrown toe nails? Whole Foods would certainly like us to think so. Similarly, consumers who buy baked and deli goods at Whole Foods are almost always con-oiled, though canola is increasingly replaced by soy oil, which, if anything, is even worse.
Hemp, chocolate, or agave, anyone? Health claims for any of these are very âsoy;â that is, not what they seem. Agave nectar, for instance, is tricked out high fructose corn syrup. Chocolate-covered soy nuts are surely the âtofurkyâ of snacks. Most sanctimonious of all is Whole Foodsâ promotion of vegan goods with a green smiley face and the slogan âIâm vegan!â
All the onions are exactly the same size. Big, round and heavy! All the apples, too. Never saw anything like that in my own garden or orchard. Yet Whole Foods gives us row after perfectly presented row of produce. Bland, but pretty-faced, immaculately clean, blemish free, perfectly made up and not one strand of hair out of place, these are the Stepford wives of the fruit and vegetable kingdom. I guess Whole Foods thinks Stepford foods provide a stress-free shopping experience. No need to choose. Perfect for the shopper in Calvin Klone jeans.
The Urban Dictionary defines âsoy latteâ as something overpriced and pretentious, especially something that tastes good initially but leaves a bad taste in oneâs mouth. Seems to me that sums up Whole Foods Market awfully well.
SIDEBAR: TALKING TOFURKY
Eager readers want to know how to incorporate the âhealth benefitsâ of soy into festive dinners. As the Naughty NutritionistTM, I suggest we not eat soy during this or any other holiday season, but instead speak it. In other words, letâs talk tofurky. Given that laughter is the best medicine, I present a bakerâs dozen of soyspeak examples found in, or inspired by, the Urban Dictionary (www.urbandictionary.com).
VEG@N: Alternative spelling of vegan. âWhy do you spell it veg@n instead of vegan?â âCuz itâs where itâs at. Veg@n looks so cool!â
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2011.
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