Filed under: advertising & marketing,conspiracy theories,cultural differences,daily life,food and drinks,health,products,shopping,signs,weird
When we first moved to France in 2002, I was a big snacker, as many Americans are. It was part of life and when I began searching for French snacks in Nice, it was a huge disappointment. In fact, I remember blogging about how we were able to find potato chips but only “au parfum paprika,” and other so-called different parfums, which in fact all tasted exactly like BBQ potato chips. Not knocking those, but I wanted different things to munch on, some variety in textures and flavors, artificial flavors and ingredients notwithstanding.
In the U.S., we’re used to variety, so much of it, that’s it’s hard to decide what to snack on. Having choices is good. It’s great for someone who must have a full spectrum of junk food, whether it’s good for zee health or not. Wasn’t I relieved to find Roasted Chicken Flavored Chips in France? Anyway. Another thing I’m used to, as an American, is volume. Gimme some tortilla chips, not just individual lunch bag sizes, but JUMBO, heaps of mega amounts of genetically modified corn substances and oils pressed together in the shape of triangles. Throw some in the oven with cheese and add salsa, guac, black beans, jalapenos, sour cream, onions and more cheese and voila: yummy nachos. I can eat an entire pan in one go, whereas in France, this portion would be served to at least 10 people.
On the sweet side of junk, I also needed volume. An example: I was very much a M&Ms with peanuts kind of person. Gobs and gobs and gobs of them, I would munch all day if I could.
During the early years in France, the biggest bag of M&Ms with peanuts held approximately 15.3 M&Ms with peanuts. PFFFF! I was like, “don’t make me laugh, France. I could eat 100 bags of those itty bitty things. Gimme more!” Where was the humungous bag to fill my ginormous American belly???
Recently, we saw some XL bags of M&Ms in Auchan. My sweetie noticed them and squealed XL! So, yeah, it was pretty big for French standards considering these didn’t even exist a few years ago. I was mildly impressed, but this French EEKSelle was a mere 500 grams (about 1 pound). Frenchies would probably say, “Ouah. Enorme!”(wow. enormous!) while ogling the outrageousness of its packaging. I say, “PFFF! That’s a Barbie portion.”
Last month while shopping at Costco in L.A., we saw some bags of M&Ms. Each weighed 1587.6 grams (3 pounds and 8 ounces)! Now, THAT’S what I’m talkin’ ’bout! To be honest, even I was shocked at the magnitude of the bag. But! In the back of my mind, I was thinking, “I bet there’s one that’s EVEN bigger!” I’m so American. I’ve probably watched way too many episodes of The Simpsons. (You know what episode, I’m talking about.)
We bought several. Not for me because these days I don’t eat as much junk (remember junk food is BAD for you!), but rather, for a few of our French friends who we know are ravenous M&M addicts. They were all shocked and happy with their supersized gifts, exactly what we were hoping.
But just afterward, it all made me a little worried. I hoped those M&Ms last a while and aren’t eaten right away…
While I complained about the dinkiness in size of M&Ms bags and other snacks, and the lack of variety in France, I was, at the same time, relieved that I would not have the challenge of resisting eating these as well as other junk in grand quantities. Like many people, I can’t eat just 1, or 10 or even 15. The French were known to be bafflingly skinny for many reasons, but namely because of a lack of junk foods and specifically a lack of large quantities of junk foods, or food in general – with the exception of meat at BBQs.
Sadly, times are changing in France. We found these M&Ms in the store the other day. They were size “Maxi” (whose name would obviously NOT work in the U.S.). The maxi bag is 1000 grams, just over 2 pounds. France, you surprise me sometimes. So, it’s big but there’s still a difference of about 587.6 grams, about 1.2 pounds, to catch up with their American counterpart. But 2.2 pounds is fairly large for previous French standards.
I know! This is what I was hoping for, but not really.
M&Ms is just one example but there are thousands of products that can also apply here to the obvious conclusion: an increase in product sizes will lead to an increase in consumption, which leads to obesity. This happened in the U.S. which is partly why one third of Americans are obese.
Obesity is rising already in France but I’m afraid it will only increase exponentially with the supersizing of portions and with the imports of industrial foods. In 2002, when we first moved to France 9.4% of the French population was obese. Just four years later, that percentage increased to 12.4%. That’s nearly 8 million obese people in 2006. I don’t know more current stats on obesity in France but I’m fairly positive that it’s more than 12.4%.