I had an interesting philosophical insight as I walked down the cereal aisle at the local grocery store the other day. As a mascot of the Paleo and Primal lifestyles, Grok conveys both the ideal and the message of the movement. He’s tall and lean, actively leaping into the air with his spear at the ready for the hunt. Unfortunately he just isn’t . . . cute. Or terribly cuddly.
I mean seriously, look at these characters in the cereal aisle. Over there is an overblown caricature of a Victorian sea captain. Over here a happy but somewhat ferocious tiger. And two sections down is Brown Bear with an uncontrollable sweet tooth! Even the bran cereal has a lovable, huggable pitch man. How can we compete with that? We need cute animals and we need them now!
If you haven’t guessed, I’m saying all of this with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. The real insight I had as I walked down the cereal aisle was how it is probably the most marketing-dense section of any supermarket. There are more mascots, dancing pirates, and anthropomorphic animals per square inch than any other aisle. By and large, it doesn’t usually affect the buying habits of adults, by the time we get to 30 our grocery buying habits are well entrenched. No, those colourful boxes promising fun and excitement are aimed at a much smaller crowd. The marketing department knows the person really making the buying decision in the cereal aisle is your 3 to 10 year old.
By the time you’ve reached the cereal aisle you’re about halfway through the store. You’re tired, your kids are tired, and it’s your deep and abiding wish to make it to the checkout without another fistfight. You walk down the aisle and those little brains start to light up with all the stimulus! Bright colours! Cartoon characters! Hey! There’s that funny bee from TV! Hands start grabbing. Tears flow as requests are denied. You’re at wits end. WHY did I walk down here again? And finally you allow them to each pick a box so you can get on your merry way.
Damn cute animals.
How insidious is that?
Thankfully, my kids would rather eat bacon and eggs than something that’s 60% chemically treated marshmallow bits. Again, I don’t think I did anything to influence that, it’s just the way it turned out. Another happy confluence for me. But for those of you that are still making the resigned march down that aisle, do you really even need to go there? All cereal at some point is a grain. That fact alone should be the show stopper for you. Add the sugar and chemicals on top of that and it even gives non-Paleo or Primal folks pause. Most parents though fool themselves into believing that one little treat isn’t going to hurt anyone. We’ve been so conditioned to believe that the box with the dancing bear labelled whole grain is so healthy that we ignore what our intuition is telling us; we can do better by our kids than this.
Want the simple solution? Don’t even go there. If you don’t walk down the cereal aisle most kids won’t even notice. That may seem dishonest to some. Who cares? There’s a whole interior section of the grocery store I try to avoid on every trip anyway. You should be as well. All those cute animals are fun and exciting but they aren’t doing you any favours. They don’t care if BHT has been added to package material to maintain product freshness. That’s a direct quote from a package of cereal I’m looking at right now.
Ummm? What’s BHT?
So remember, if it’s in a grocery store and it has a cute animal on the package, you probably don’t want it. The only animals you want to encounter are the tasty ones.
At the back in the meat section.
Why do I suddenly feel like having steak?