As a young person wholeheartedly adhering to their personal health and wellness, and inspired to design a product that fits into the category of a “functional food,” I was curious to know if there was a discrepancy between the real and ideal culture of the rest of my generation’s interest in nourishing themselves with these kinds of products. According to large trend databases on Google Search Engine, health-beneficial products have become all the rage among kids of high school and college age (Google Trends, 2016). We are a generation that has knowledge at our fingertips and are mindful that we are living longer and want our extra years to be pain-free and disease-free.
So, we’re motivated to make more informed choices about the forks that we raise to our mouths and enlist upon the help of our technology to answer our qualms about what sort of elixir or item is best for our current predicament. We shell out cash for mysterious ingredients like bee pollen, turmeric, apple cider vinegar, hulled hemp hearts, and spirulina in hopes of a fresher face, a clearer mind, a flatter tummy, or a happier outlook. We’re more likely to gobble up a whole box of gluten-free cookies or fiber-rich crackers without feeling remorse for our choice. But when these kinds of foods are presented to us amidst an array of traditional snacks– like donuts, chips, cakes, and soda—do they still have that irresistible aura that we can’t help but fawn all over via the internet?
This actually wasn’t what I intended to find out with the goods that I baked and brought for my peers during two separate parties on our last formal days of school. One was more subtlety-healthy, and the other purported the promises of so many superfoods, it practically sang, “I’m for hippies!” I mainly wanted to see what students thought of the taste, but the presentation of both the muffins and the cookies that I brought was enough to deter most students from giving either a chance. It made a real statement of the real and ideal cultures that conflict with each other within my age demographic. We want to make the right choices, but we’re easily swayed by the artificial “charms” of modern day junk food fare—the synthetic colors, flavors, and textures.
Two-thirds of the gluten-free, paleo banana-chocolate-chip muffins that I put out for students were taken. This is a significantly higher amount than the takers for my flax, pepita, dried apricot and goji berry granola cookies. Students might have had taste concerns considering the exotic ingredients and their flawed, homemade look. The muffins may have seemed “friendlier” because bananas and chocolate are simple and familiar ingredients, and humans love labeling things. The fact that these muffins could be lumped into two currently trendy food categories—gluten-free and paleo– may have been a plus.
Failures happen. It’s an essential part of the learning process, an element of experimentation. Especially when we work with humans (fussy teenagers, for that matter). What can unfold with an improperly conducted observation or survey can profoundly impact the results that you hope to get! However, what was revealed to me honed in the essentiality of how a product is conveyed to others and how it looks. While what I set out to do isn’t what panned out, I learned of another dimension of food engineering: creating intriguing, delicious products that look good enough to eat and flawlessly blend into the palate of modern-day consumers.
Pina, Pedro. (2016, April). 2016 Food Trends on Google: The Rise of Functional Foods. Retrieved from