Oct 24, 2021

Book Review: Salt Sugar Fat: How the food giants hooked us by Michael Moss

Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss

Having been researching packaged foods and their ingredients for the past 5+ years, this book was meant to come to my attention one way or another. Thanks to a friend, I came across this book "Salt Sugar Fat: How the food giants hooked us" a few months back and I knew I had to read it to understand the history and evolution of processed foods in the US. 

The book is divided into three sections - a section each for Salt, Sugar, and Fat - the three essential pillars of processed foods. It has been a fascinating and eye-opening read with multiple takeaways. I stumbled upon many new terminologies - bliss point, sensory-specific satiety, vanishing calorie density, stomach share, etc. I also learned about the multiple roles of these three ingredients apart from their obvious role of taste. 

The author has taken the effort to go deeper into the two aspects that make processed foods addictive - formulation and marketing. He has provided multiple examples and case studies that reiterate the importance of these two aspects.

My main motivation to read this book was to gather some insights on how the product and marketing strategy of processed food manufacturers would play out in India in the near future. The anti-obesity campaign, the related regulations, and pressure from different groups kicked off sometime in the 1980s in the United States. We are still quite far from that stage in India. In the next few years, we might see a proliferation of new product categories - frozen pizzas, more cheese-based snacks, meal replacement drinks, etc.

The narrative of this book follows a documentary style of writing, that does tend to become a little dragging at times. Nevertheless, it helps to unravel a lot more behind-the-scenes details that are involved in the research, design, manufacturing, and marketing of processed foods. The not-so-surprising fact that gets reiterated is that almost all those who are involved in these different departments of processed food companies never bother to include their creations in their diets. It is only us, convenience-seeking consumers who become scapegoats in this large-scale collaboration and experimentation of food and pharma companies. 

Do pick up this book if you are interested to know more about food science and the history of processed foods. The context is set in the US though. For someone like me who has never lived in the US, I wasn't able to *get* the finer details about the big brands.

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