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让垃圾食品不再“垃圾”

让垃圾食品不再“垃圾”

Miguel Helft 2012年11月01日
位于波士顿的“奇异品牌”公司生产糖果。它的产品采用天然原料制造,含糖量和脂肪量更少,纤维素和蛋白质含量更多。这些糖果不含玉米糖浆、氢化油、人造色素和香精,也不含转基因成分。公司希望借此减少人们因为吃糖果面临的健康威胁。

    汤姆•布莱迪和吉赛尔•邦辰都是“奇异品牌”(Unreal Brands)的粉丝,还有马特•达蒙、约翰•勒珍德,以及电子支付公司Square和社交网站Twitter两家科技公司的创始人杰克•多西。本周晚些时候,你自己也有机会亲自体验这些名人所关注的产品。

    当你为孩子挑选的万圣节战利品,或者挑选同事带到办公室的糖果点心时,请留意看看是否有一种包装颇为显眼的新型糖果。这种名为“奇异”的糖果产品有着一个同样奇异的不凡使命,那就是让垃圾食品不再垃圾。

    位于波士顿的“奇异品牌”公司拥有来自知名科技风头Khosla Ventures等投资者数百万美元的投资。公司目前销售的糖果有五种,分别是Un 41、Un 54、Un 5、Un 8和Un 77。虽然听起来像药品的名字,但你可能想象不到,它们居然是牛奶巧克力糖果M&Ms、花生味的M&Ms、星河巧克力(Milky Ways)、士力架(Snickers)以及好时花生酱杯(Reese)的克隆翻版产品。不同的是,奇异品牌的产品是用天然原料制造,含糖量和脂肪量更少,纤维素和蛋白质含量更多。这些糖果不含玉米糖浆、氢化油、人造色素和香精,也不含转基因成分。此外,所有的原材料都是“经过可靠渠道采购”而来。

    奇异品牌创始人迈克尔•布隆纳称:“人们喜欢吃糖果,我们可以为他们提供更好的选择。”他认为,奇异品牌的目标不是在有机食品连锁店Whole Foods和农贸市场出售,而是针对一般消费者,产品在塔吉特百货(Target)、CVS大药房和史泰博公司(Staples)有售,很快也会在7-11便利连锁店上架,价格与其所克隆的产品差不多。布隆纳称,奇异品牌最终将会努力向那些食品巨头证明,不靠垃圾食品原材料也能生产出美味且赚钱的产品。布隆纳是一位成功的企业家,创立了迪杰斯公司(Digitas),这家数字广告企业现在由阳狮集团(Publicis Groupe)所有。他还创立了优诺公司(Upromise),这家金融奖励公司现在由助学贷款提供商Sallie Mae所有。

    尽管该品牌抱着强烈的使命感,但很多公共健康的提倡者都怀疑奇异品牌能否真正为对抗肥胖症和慢性疾病起到积极的作用。

    公共利益科学中心(the Center for Science in the Public Interest)营养学政策主任马尔戈•乌坦称:“这种所谓的天然食品无异于垃圾食品,依然会造成血管堵塞,会和普通的垃圾食品一样让人变得越来越肥胖。”她认为,从健康的角度来看,蔗糖并不比玉米糖浆要好。她进一步指出,向缺乏营养的食品中添加纤维素可能是一种很好的营销手段,但对健康却没有什么好处。“这种营销策略使得人们认为这种食品更好,可能会让他们选择本来不会购买的那些东西。”

    乌坦承认,相比竞争对手的产品来说,奇异品牌的产品较小,含糖量和卡路里较少。但她表示,如果奇异品牌的市场营销举措使得消费者吃得更多,那么产品本身带来的好处就会被抵消。这种情况以前就出现过。乌坦说:“整个水果点心系列对孩子的饮食都有着不利影响,因为孩子的父母更有可能将这些点心加入孩子的午餐菜单中。”

    布隆纳表示,他已经听到了批评的声音。但他说,小小的奇异品牌公司不太可能对这个年销售额高达300亿美元并且年年增长的产业产生直接的负面影响。他说:“虽然我们不希望甜食成为美国人饮食的一部分,但事实如此,而且还在不断增长。如果我们能够让人们停下来思考一下,为什么要吃这种垃圾食品,我们就有可能能够让那些大公司减少产品的含糖量、玉米糖浆和人造成分的含量。”

    Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen are fans. So are Matt Damon, John Legend, and Jack Dorsey, the techentrepreneur of Square and Twitter fame. Later this week, you may get a chance to find out what all these celebs are fussing about.

    As you sift through your kids' Halloween loot -- or the pile of sugary treats your colleagues will undoubtedly drop off at the office -- keep an eye out for a new type of candy wrapped in shiny packaging. It's called Unreal, and it's on an improbable mission: to "unjunk" junk food.

    Unreal Brands, a Boston-based company with millions in backing from renowned tech investor Khosla Ventures and others, sells five types of candy for now. You might not guess from their clinical names -- Un 41, Un 54, Un 5, Un 8 and Un 77 -- but they're clones of M&Ms, peanut M&Ms, Milky Ways, Snickers, and Reese's peanut butter cups. Unreal's versions are made with natural ingredients. They have a less sugar and fat, and more fiber and protein. They use no corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils, no artificial colors or flavors and no GMOs. Oh, and all the ingredients are "responsibly sourced."

    "People are going to eat candy, so we want to give them a better choice," says Michael Bronner, the founder of Unreal. He says Unreal's goal is not to appeal to the Whole Foods (WFM) and farmer's market set. It's going after average consumers, and its treats are sold at Target (TGT), CVS (CVS), Staples (SPLS), and soon at 7 Eleven, at prices similar to those of the items they clone. Ultimately Unreal is trying to prove to giant food companies that they can make tasty -- and profitable -- products that are free of junky ingredients, says Bronner, a successful entrepreneur who founded Digitas, the digital ad firm now owned by Publicis Groupe (PGPEF), and Upromise, the financial rewards company now owned by Sallie Mae.

    For all its mission-driven ethos, some public health advocates are skeptical that Unreal can be a net positive in the fight against obesity and chronic disease.

    "Natural junk food will clog your arteries and make you just as fat as regular junk food," says Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. From a health perspectivecane sugar is no better than corn syrup, Wootan said. And adding fiber to a nutritionally worthless food may be good marketing, but can be bad for health, she added. "It helps people think of the food as better and may make them eat stuff they would otherwise not buy."

    Wootan acknowledged that Unreal's products come in smaller portion sizes, have less sugar and fewer calories than rival treats. But those benefits could be more than undone, she said, if the marketing of Unreal's product prompts people to eat more than they would otherwise have. It's happened before. "The whole category fruit snacks has had a negative impact on children's diets, because parents are more likely to include them in their lunches," she says.

    Bronner says he's heard the criticism. But he says tiny Unreal is unlikely to have a direct negative impact in an industry that rings in $30 billion in sales annually, and that continues to grow every year. "As much as we'd like to see candy not be part of the American diet, it is and it is growing," he says. "If we can get people to stop and think about why this junk is in their food, maybe we can get the big companies to cut down on their sugar, corn syrup and artificial ingredients. "

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