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‘Big Food’ and ‘gamified’ products: promotion, packaging, and the promise of fun

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The promise of ‘fun’ is an increasingly common strategy used by Big Food in the promotion of packaged products. Gamification, or ‘making it fun’, has been identified as a top consumer packaged goods trend for 2014, and is finding its way into the spectrum of packaged goods and target markets. Once solely the preserve of children’s fare, fun is now applied to ‘junk’ food, ‘healthy’ food, snack food, ‘adult’ food, and ‘kids’ food. The rise and implications of such marketing has yet to be explored, and this article draws from the critical literature in food studies, current food marketing campaigns, and primary research from the trade press to map and critique ‘fun’ in association with food promotion. I argue that the promise of fun – while positioned as a playful, edible ‘pause’ in a hectic world – works to occlude some significant health, attitudinal and policy considerations related to the industrial diet. The seemingly lightweight focus on fun as a driver in food promotion promises a more embodied level of engagement than does a focus on nutritionism. However, ‘fun’ can simultaneously work to reconfigure relationships with food, increase consumption, and distance processed foodstuffs from issues of nutrients, as well as the non-communicable diseases associated with excessive consumption of highly processed fare.
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Keywords: advertising; food; fun; packaged food; promotion

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Communication and Culture, Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada

Publication date: May 27, 2015

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