There are new Pop Tarts, and they are Limited Edition. I know this because it says “Limited Edition” in bold red lettering inside a yellow banner that circumscribes the box. For an unspecified but finite amount of time only, Pop Tarts are available in a seasonal palette and flavor: pumpkin pie.
Pumpkin-pie Pop Tarts sound disgusting, it’s true. But I may not have another opportunity to buy them. If panicked urgency isn’t enough to make me buy them, there’s also the appeal of authenticity: They are“made with real nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove.” Just like grandma used to make her Limited Edition Pop Tarts.
Advertisers know that we consumers of food believe that “real” means healthy. To some degree, it used to. “Real” meant whole foods not far removed from the ground, which meant they were less likely to contain added sugar and salt, more likely to contain fiber and deliver nutrients. But “real” has been repurposed by advertising and technophobia, to the point that it’s largely meaningless, if not misleading. Though it does still accomplish the ultimate goal in marketing, to make people feel things.
Kellogg’s spent $32 million last year in advertising Pop Tarts alone. Coca-Cola spent $269 million advertising its flagship product (Coca-Cola). Pepsi spent $150 million just to advertise the brightly colored sugar-water that is Gatorade. It's the sugar water for people who do sports. These are numbers that Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health, highlighted in a lecture at New York University on Thursday night. “Think about what that money could do for education, for social welfare,” Nestle implored. “But that money is spent getting people to buy sugar.”