Friday, February 2, 2024

Remember the fat-free chips frenzy? More fun from the archives of old commercials that didn't age well


No, you aren't watching a commercial produced by the Re-Elect Ronald Reagan campaign of 1984, though if you only watch the first minute and a half or so you'd be forgiven for thinking you were.   Instead, this is an ad for one of the most misbegotten products to come out of the first decade of the post Cold War world- a soybean-based oil that could be used to produce fat-free potato chips like Olean and Lay's Wow.

Remember those?  Well, if you were alive and in the United States in 1998, you probably at least tried them once or twice.  They were a very popular go-to for people conned into believing that scientists had stopped wasting time trying to cure cancer (or AIDS) and had done something truly valuable with their time- found a way to allow us to stuff ourselves with cheap, salty, crispy snacks to our - well, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to say "heart's content" here, so I'll more accurately type "to our dopamine center's content."  

Most of us thought the flavor was just "bleh" and went right back to eating good old vegetable oil-crisped chips, as G-d Intended.  But some people were so desperate to avoid eating right and exercise and above all Moderation that they ignored the off-putting taste and continued to chow down on these crimes against nature.  Maybe they thought  diet of Olean chips and Snackwell's cookies would give them Kathy Ireland's body- and back then, pretty much all of us wanted Kathy Ireland's body for one reason or another.  

Then we realized that this Frankenstein's Monster Oil was wrecking havoc on our gut microbiome and our digestion or, more likely, way too many of just didn't like the taste, and these fat-free chips vanished from the market.  

A quarter of a century later, the obesity epidemic that was in it's infancy in the late 1990s has become American's No. 1 health problem, because while Snackwell's themselves didn't pan out (they didn't taste very good) the concept that created them- replace fat with sugar to con people into thinking it's more healthy- is alive and well and actually stronger than ever in the American marketplace.  I imagine it's only a matter of time before another "miracle" oil is invented* that tricks millions of gullible, desperate Westerners into slapping down the money they don't have for fresh fruits and veggies, healthy fats and a gym membership for that magic pill.

*there actually is a fat-free frying oil already available out there.  It even predates olestra.  It's called hot air.  

1 comment:

  1. How odd that you mention the secret ingredient to most products. Hot air is an adman's business.