CEOs are not just making their junk food, they are eating it, too

, Economic

The most eager and demonstrative consumer of his own companies' foodstuffs may well be Warren Buffett.

The current issue of Bloomberg Businessweek has a cover story on Nestle’s big effort to transform itself from a maker of often-junky foods to a “nutrition, health, and wellness company.” Early on, a reader encounters this passage about the neurobiologist hired six years ago to lead the scientific side of that effort:

“Ed Baetge doesn’t touch any of Nestle’s candy himself, except for a bit of dark chocolate from the high-end Cailler line, and even that only on the weekends.”


This isn’t the first time Businessweek has asked an executive of a food or drink company whether he actually consumes its products. Here’s the president of Coca-Cola North America, in 2014:

“Sandy Douglas drinks one Coca-Cola every day. He likes it early, before noon, sometimes accompanied by a cup of coffee. ‘You get an espresso, you get your caffeine and have this for lunch, and you’re ahead,’ he says between sips from Coke’s old-fashioned 8-ounce glass bottle. When it’s over, he doesn’t allow himself a second. ‘I will probably have a Coke Zero in the afternoon at some point,’ he concedes, but not another regular one because it has too many calories. ‘That’s approximately my daily regimen.’

And the chief executive of Kellogg, in 2015:

“John Bryant is a voracious cereal eater. Most mornings, he has a bowl of Kellogg’s All-Bran Buds, a spinoff of the company’s 99-year-old All-Bran, originally marketed as a ‘natural laxative.’ At night he’s likely to snack on Honey Smacks, which is 56 per cent sugar by weight. Sometimes he’ll mix it with more nutritious Frosted Mini-Wheats. Bryant also feeds the stuff to his six children. ‘I can assure you that we go through an enormous amount of cereal,’ he says.”

Years ago, the phrase “eating your own dog food” — often shortened to just “dogfooding” — became popular in the software industry. The idea was that if your employees actually used the software they built, this would both demonstrate to your customers that the stuff worked and quickly reveal to employees if it didn’t.

Nowadays, food, beverage and fast-food companies are under increasing pressure from critics who say their heavily processed, carbohydrate-filled, sugar- or salt-laden products are a public-health disaster. It’s a potentially existential threat for some of these corporations, and it’s been fascinating to watch as they craft their survival strategies.


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