Thursday, September 16, 2010

Must... avoid... cliché... can't resist... must try... ah, heck: A rose by any other name will still cause obesity

© 2010 Joshua Stark

How can a person resist the ease of title-writing via cliché when the topic makes it so horribly easy?  BlogHer reports that the makers of high fructose corn syrup want to officially change its name to "corn sugar". 

The author of that report, Rita Arens, took the topic further at her personal blog, and it's well worth reading.

As Ms. Arens points out, for those already into these issues, a name change won't make a difference.  But in my humble opinion, the name change will have a detrimental effect on the public's buying habits.  In general, marketing works. It works so well that we've decided, socially, to develop our media streams solely on the back of the revenue generated through marketing.

Specifically for this product, "high fructose corn syrup" is not very sweet sounding, because you have to get through three un-sweet words before you get to syrup.  Additionally, the term has become one word, really, and a social inertia has been building against it.  By changing the name to something vaguely nutritious in our society (corn) and something sweet that has already well stood the forces aligned against it (sugar), and is even a term of endearment, hfcs producers hope to distance themselves from the social opposition that has taken hold against the term.  They are betting that A) a typical consumer won't read labels and stay up on the news; and B) the association with "sugar" will diminish the social stigma.

But, the purpose of hfcs, just like marketing, is a means to maintain market share.  Marketing differentiates between products, building resistance to competition in the marketplace.  High fructose corn syrup is a very expensive endeavor to begin, with huge up-front cost in materials and labor, making it difficult for competitors to enter the market.  Unfortunately, these ways of increasing barriers to entrance create scarcity in food markets to create profitability among a few, gigantic corporations.  This trumped-up scarcity for a necessity is a bad way to build a market and a horrible way to distribute food.  In fact, creating scarcity completely contradicts the purpose of economics.

The Basic Economic Problem, the only reason for the existence of the field of study, is scarcity.


Rita Arens said...

Good points, all. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Ingrid said...

I'm with you on this, Josh. I think it will dillute the bad rap.

Josh said...

Ms. Arens, thanks for stopping by!

Ingrid, I haven't heard from you in a while; it's nice to know you are still out there.

Anybody have any suggestions on how to counter this market manipulation?

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