Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Choice Must Be Eliminated

An unseen public rebellion has been taking place ... apparently.

You may not have noticed it - I know I didn't - but the pressure from hordes of angry letter-writers must have been intense as Heinz, the multi-national conglomerate, the fourth largest food company in the world, the supplier of ketchup to 200 countries, are changing their recipe.

For the first time in 40 years, Heinz ketchup is changing its famous recipe - by lowering the salt content in an effort to appeal to more health-conscious consumers, the company said yesterday.
Of course, as a private company they are fully entitled to. But their claim that they are appealing to a groundswell of public opinion isn't really the case, is it?

There is no uprising from the public, no crippling reduction in sales as customers flock to more healthy alternatives. Nope, precious few have demanded this, and the precious few are almost exclusively state-funded public health advocates.

Jackson said the company had been planning the change for about two years. But it is coming just as Mayor Bloomberg and other politicians are leaning on big food companies to kick the salt. Heinz was one of 16 major food manufacturers that last month signed onto the National Salt Reduction Initiative, a plan led by Bloomberg to get companies to cut back on the salt in their products.
It's state bullying of a private enterprise, pure and simple. Reduce your salt, or we will legislate to force you into it. No-one asked for this except the tax-sponging righteous who constantly seek to dictate how you live your life. Those who believe they have the right to tell you what you should put in your own body, and if you don't comply, they will contrive to leave you no other option.

Now, New Yorker Bloomberg, the guy who wants smoking banned in public parks, is a hideous dictatorial scumbag, but don't ever think that we in the UK can be in any way blasé. The same bansturbatory elements over here have been dreaming of this for quite a while.

Heinz ketchup, Kellogg's cornflakes and a host of traditional foods from Cornish pasties to Stilton cheese are under pressure to slash their salt content. The Food Standards Agency says radical action is needed to cut salt in a vast range of popular foods. More than 14,000 people are dying each year because we are overdosing on salt, it claims. Bread, ready meals, cakes and savoury snacks are also under scrutiny.
The capitulation of Heinz is a major scalp. It's the significant domino which authoritarians worldwide have been praying for. Other companies will soon fall into line once they realise that even a massive company like Heinz has been brought to heel.

There are, of course, available alternatives for those who truly care about salt content, as the Guardian reported in October.

Customers searching for the healthy options on supermarket shelves may be better-off choosing the cheaper deals, according to a study which has found that own-brand and "value" ranges have the lowest levels of salt.
Fantastic for the salt-averse, then. Not only are the lower salt options easy to source, they are also cheaper. But it's not enough, you see, because the popular brands (that is, the ones which everyone likes) are still serving those who really couldn't give a toss one way or another as long as it tastes nice, and that just won't do for any self-respecting righteous hector.

OK, maybe that was a bit harsh. I mean, perhaps some who don't like salt would really love to buy Heinz ketchup but can't because of the salt level, and feel they are missing out. It's not fair, they might argue, that Heinz are forcing them into a Hobson's Choice on the country's favourite ketchup.

Well, no. That doesn't hold true either, because Heinz already produce a low salt and low sugar version of ... Heinz ketchup. It's pictured above and can be bought from every supermarket in the UK.

The choice is there already. For everyone. But some (in fact, the majority) are bound to choose incorrectly, so there must be no choice at all. Nanny knows best and you cannot be allowed to wriggle out of her all-encompassing net.

Or maybe I've just been talking with my tinfoil hat on. Perhaps Heinz really do see this as a marvellous opportunity to ride the wave of popular opinion. But if so, they have a funny way of publicising it.

Marketing strategists are surely thinking back to the days of New Coke, a massive PR failure, but the Heinz ketchup reformulation has some important differences. For one thing, the catalyst for the change would appear not to be PR but rather public health. Spokeswoman Jessica Jackson told the Post that the company was keeping "the needs of our consumers and our commitment to health and wellness" in mind. The other major difference is the lack of a glitzy ad campaign. Bottles containing the new recipe will have no hint on the label; customers will have to look at the nutritional data in order to tell the difference.
Err, how will all these health-conscious customers, who have been feverishly calling for this measure, know it's happening?

Well, they won't as they don't exist to any significant extent. But at least the loyal Heinz customers, in the main, will be blissfully unaware so sales won't be hit as Heinz dance to the selfish, holier-than-thou, public health tune.

If, however, you prefer your food untainted by government interference, I'm afraid your preference doesn't count. Your choice must be eliminated ... for your own good.


Catosays said...

And if they take the salt out, will their prices drop accordingly?

Nah, didn't think so.

Do you remember when all the gin distillers decided to reduce their alcohol content to 37.5 proof? Almost all the decent brands have popped back up to 40 proof and higher. Gordons is still 37.5 proof but their prices don't reflect it.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Well no more Heinz Red Rockin' for me.

It'll taste a bland as it's tomato soup nowadays.
Since they removed the salt and the E-numbers, I've not had a can of that either.

AntiCitizenOne said...

It's easy to make your own tomato soup and it tastes good too.

Just boil down a few tins of tomatoes with some olive oil and a teaspoon or two of sugar, then sieve them, then add a veg stock cube and some pepper and boil to a consistency and colour you like.

The Englishman said...

Thank goodness for Lidl where one can still buy Chocolate Digestives with taste.
It is a whinging middle class free zone, everyone who shops there has a dodgy 4x4, dogs that catch things and questionable personal hygiene. Toffs and pykies alike.

banned said...

I bought my first Heinz HP sauce in years a few weeks ago, came in the same plastic upside-sown bottle as in your pic (not the unsalty version). Dunno what they've done with it but it is awfull, thin and runny. I can only use it for bacon butties when pissed.

Pavlov's Cat said...

You see that's why right thinking people can never come together to oppose this sort of thing.

Whilst we agree on the main things, against all the bansturbation anti-salt, anti-fags etc.

Anyone that would put anything other than Brown Sauce on a bacon sandwich is a cad and a bounder.

Paul said...

If there's a low/no salt version already being produced I really don't see how the righteous have a leg to stand on. Those people who want a lower salt version can easily find one...

...oh, but it's not about that is it? It's about petty control by petty authoritarian scum. Fuckity fuck off!

But Lidl is great. You get all kinds in there as The Englishman says and no-one gives a toss, least of all the staff. It's wondrous. Far better than shiteholes like Asda and Sainsbury's and fucking Tesco (gawd help us) with their pandering to autocratic slime.

Anonymous said...

Here in Canada I don't use Heinz ketchup, I use Daddies (from UK import shops). I used to buy Chef Brand until it disappeared. I always found the Chef and Daddies to be tangier and less bland.

I always put extra salt on my ketchup and will continue to do so.

Shame that British pop has deteriorated as a result of sugar removal. I used to be able to get the original "full flavour" Vimto and Tizer recipe pop which came from Middle Eastern countries and was imported into Canada from distributors in the USA. Alas, these things seem to be no more.

Great blog Dick. I look forward to reading it every day.

Expat living in Canada

JuliaM said...

"The choice is there already. For everyone. But some (in fact, the majority) are bound to choose incorrectly, so there must be no choice at all."

Encapsulates the Righteous mindset perfectly. My god, how did we get to the pass that there are so many of these people, and that they wield a power out of all proportion to their percentage of the population?

We fought off the Nazis, we outlasted the Soviets, and yet we've allowed these people to march in and take over all our institutions. Why?

Anonymous said...

Heinz, like all the other spineless industries out there, will find to their cost that voluntary action under fanatic pressure will have a double negative result.

1 Their sales will drop
2 The fanatics are never satisfied and stronger legislation will come anyway. Resulting in more of 1.

SadButMadLad said...

I think you've got the reason slightly wrong Dick. Heinz have already kowtowed to the righteous minority when they brought out the lo-salt/lo-sugar version. Thats when they sold out.

This change is nothing simpler than a cost cutting exercise as Catosys has mentioned. Even 0.001p saving when you are producing millions of bottles of sauce makes a difference. Salt is probably one of the easiest ingredients to cut back on without many consumers noticing. Especially if they cut back on the salt gradually.

Martha said...

"Err, how will all these health-conscious customers, who have been feverishly calling for this measure, know it's happening?"

That's an easy one... 'cos it will have no bloody taste duh!!

Beware of Geeks bearing GIFs said...

During the manufacturing process, the delicate flavours in food are destroyed elaving a bland, tasteless pulp. Salt is added for flavour.

Which is why reduced salt cornflakes tastes like eating cardboard, because that is what it is. You'd be better off buying a corn cob or oatflakes and eating that for breakfast - far better taste and less salt than regular cornflakes - it's a win-win.

I've found over the years that I simply make prepare my own food from scratch and, not that I'm bothered, I find that I don't have to use as much salt as in the processed version, because the flavour is already there, particularly in making bread - never buy supermarket bread now with all their flavour enhancers etc With bread machines there's no excuse although I normally bake mine by hand.

As you say DP, and JuliaM, it's never about choice which is the obvious solution, it's companies exploiting authoritarian legislation in an effort to reduce their costs while increasing their profits.

I will probably go down the AC1 route and make my own.

Dick Puddlecote said...

The cost reduction angle is an interesting one, but I'm pretty sure the state pressure has been more persuasive so perhaps that is a happy consequence for Heinz.

The thing is, it's not likely to make a great deal of difference to the ketchup - Heinz are adamant that no-one will notice - but it's the principle of it that is worrying. Government have every right to try to persuade private companies to their way of thinking, but the threat, or application of, force is quite wrong.

Anon@ 02:16: Thanks for the compliment, glad you enjoy it here. :-)

Anonymous said...

I rececently asked a Chinese
fish and chip shop owmer his views
on councils proposal to issue
5 hole tops for salt dispensers.
Not problem replied the grinning
"just shake bit longer, Ok."

General Jung Lo.IV

While you are all busy chuddering
about tomato ketchup and digestives
a young soldier has been kicked to
death when he had to stand outside a pub for a smoke.

Wakey Wakey

Anonymous said...

There is no evidence that lowering the salt content of most people's diet is beneficial. Even the CASH report(2003) didn't manage to concoct any. However, low salt can be very harmful: particularly to old people in hot weather (the French heat wave). I think this becomes more dangerous when they are on several different types of medication; as most people are these days. My father collapsed and was taken to hospital because of lack of salt. My mother had been taking Government advice and had stopped adding salt to recipes. Needless to say, my father stopped taking half his pills and my mother went back to the style of cooking which had kept them both alive for 83 years.

Big Mick said...

Thank You, Anonymous at 12:19. Salt is a basic necessity for life. All these people who want to eliminate salt might as well eliminate O2 as without either we soon die.
I haven't used Heinz products for years. There are much better alternatives. Hunt's is also following this insanity. I suppose I'll continue to add salt to my food and just begin carrying my own salt supply everywhere I go.

Dr Evil said...

The reason they taste nice and are popular is because of SALT!! it is a seasoning. also, nerve conduction will fail if you do not have enough salt. Excess salt is excreted. But like any chemical, too much is bad for you. I don't need legislation to know this or to choose.

Pogo said...

The Food Standards Agency says radical action is needed to cut salt in a vast range of popular foods. More than 14,000 people are dying each year because we are overdosing on salt, it claims.

What utter, utter, bollocks!

Sam Duncan said...

“...customers will have to look at the nutritional data in order to tell the difference.”

Or taste it.

It'll be like that bloody aspartame crap all over again. It used to be that if you wanted your lemonade with a bitter aftertaste you bought the “diet” version; now they've all got it. I bet that was due to “consumer demand” as well. And if you believe that...

+1 for Lidl, though. After some extensive research, I found that Morrisons' “The Best” and Lidl's cloudy stuff were the only lemodades I could find unpolluted by the foul-tasting muck. Their jam's rather good, too.

Martha said...

Sam: Asda removed Aspartame from their own label drinks some time ago, but now Aspartame has been renamed AminoSweet so watch those labels :)

selsey.steve said...

I just wish some of these bansturbators could see the amount of salt and vinegar I lash onto my chips! It's like a bloody snow drift! Then, when the top layer of chips has been consumed another NaCl hurricane sweeps across the next vinegar-soaked layer.
Anyone ask the banning buggers why animals will walk for miles to get to a salt lick?

Dick Puddlecote said...

Steve, did you learn the salt'n'vinegar action from me? It's uncanny - you described it as I do it. ;-)

Sam Duncan said...

No Asdas near here, Steve, but thanks for the info. I was beginning to think I was the only one who couldn't stand the stuff.