6 Unsettling Ways Food Companies Are Changing Our Perception of Gender

6 Unsettling Ways Food Companies Are Changing Our Perception of Gender
From ut.spoonuniversity.com, by Meredith Simmons

Photo by Trissa Gurney

If you’ve ever been to a grocery store, browsed the internet or are generally aware of your surroundings, you might know what I’m about to say. Some foods are blatantly marketed for one gender or the other.

While this seems like an innocent idea marketers have employed to increase sales, it can have some detrimental effects for both men and women, and sometimes even the companies. These are 6 of those reasons.

1. Gender Conformity
Photo by Trissa Gurney

Photo by Trissa Gurney

All women love things pink, frilly and flowery, and all men like sports and bulking up. Well, no, actually. Products like Pinky Wine, Sassy Bitch Wine and Chick Beer support the idea that women can’t like the masculinity that we all know drinking beer is (not to mention perpetuating that women are all collectively bitches.)

At the same time, men are pressured to be overtly manly through other products. For example, Dr. Pepper made a diet soda, Dr. Pepper Ten, targeted directly at men because normal diet sodas are associated with women, and men feel insecure drinking calorie free soda.

So, men who care about their health are viewed differently, and women who like to drink beer over “more feminine” alcoholic beverages are viewed differently. Maybe, we should let people like whatever they want regardless of their gender.

2. Price

According to an article in Consumer Reports Magazine, products targeted for women can cost up to 50% more than similar products for men. A different article from Gender and Consumer Behavior says this is due to the advertising, design features, distribution and promotion differences between items marketed for men and women. While this most definitely applies to beauty and self-care products, the same affect can be seen in food items, too.

3. Stereotyping
Photo by Trissa Gurney

Photo by Trissa Gurney

This goes without saying, some marketing is so extreme it can belittle the other gender. A good example of this is Brogurt—and yes, that’s a yogurt created and marketed specifically for men and their fellow bros because popular greek yogurt brands like Chobani are associated with women.

With words such as “powerful” and a fierce looking outline of a bull on the container, Brogurt perpetuates the stereotype that women can’t be powerful, too. This yogurt claims to help men with workout recovery and muscle gain due to its higher protein content. So apparently, no women like to workout, gain muscle or nourish themselves accordingly because they’re too dainty. Okay, Brogurt. Okay.

4. Health Effects

Here’s one benefit, finally. Some foods are marketed towards one gender because they are specifically made up of ingredients to promote the health of a certain gender.

For example, Bürgen bread, a product from London, created a line of bread for “women’s wellbeing.” Women can benefit from this because it contains extra calcium (women are more prone to osteoporosis with age) and phytoestrogens.

Do your research, though—some foods with benefits designated for one gender can actually promote health in everyone. Activia is a good example of this because last time I checked, everyone has a digestive system, not just women.

5. Body Image
Photo courtesy of Alyssa Galella

Photo courtesy of Alyssa Galella

Many companies use very powerful and demeaning marketing. You guessed it—using women’s bodies, sexuality and insecurities to promote a product. Though you think this would mainly occur with clothing companies, it most certainly can be found in food marketing.

In 2010, Pretzel Crisps went as far to use a pro-anorexia motto to promote their snack product. Other companies—alcohol, chocolate, fast food, you name it—have used and exploited women’s bodies to promote their foods, too. This has a much larger affect on women’s self esteem than people would believe, and the sexualized marketing of non-sexual things such as food is definitely taking its toll on women’s mental health.

6. Sales Figures

According to a 2003 meta-analysis by Lori Wolin of Lynn University, when companies divide their products by gender, they find that their sales increase. So in this way, we can’t blame companies for using this tactic; they care about their business receiving profit, and I get that.

What isn’t understandable is when marketing towards certain genders crosses a line and serves as a huge turn-off for consumers. Jill Avery, a senior lecturer at Harvard, refers to this as “gender contamination,” which is when an item is so strongly associated with one gender, the other gender will refuse to buy it.

Take, for example, the Yorkie candy bar made by Nestlé, which goes as far to advertise by saying “It’s not for girls!” and “Don’t feed the birds!” (birds is slang for girls in Britain.) You think women are buying Yorkie candy bars? Me either, and Nestlé may have lost a significant amount of revenue due to pushing away a huge demographic.

Targeting certain demographics is not something that should be completely frowned upon; it’s a very profitable marketing technique companies use to increase revenue. What can stand to change is the absurdity and extremity currently behind this type of marketing. Knowing the effects of gendered marketing can benefit you in many ways and make you a more knowledgable consumer.

Educate yourself on gender issues with these articles: 
A Closer Look at “Gendered Foods”
Brandy Melville Epitomizes What’s Wrong With Our Society
All About That Bass Might Be Bad For Female Body Image

More food porn ahead:

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