Christopher R. Friend
REBUS. College of Arts and Sciences, Saint Leo University.
Publication year: 2019

This essay explores the rhetoric of food and food packaging, showing how it reflects the concerns of the culture that produces it. This analysis comes in two parts, each suggested in the title. 

First: discussion of the current emphasis on what isn’t in our foods—the “nothing”—in our modern culture of abundance. We worry less about the nutritive content of processed food and more about fashionable things to avoid. From non-GMO foods, to fat-free, low-cholesterol, gluten-free, soy-free labels (good visuals to include with essay), today’s food packaging/marketing pays more attention to what’s out of the food than what’s in it.

Second: discussion of how color is used in food labels. Consumers associate color with products to the point that colors can be trademarked just as text can be copyrighted. The color of packaging conveys information faster than words—think of sweetener packets, decaf coffee, or the red of Coca-Cola (each an obvious opportunity for visual support).

I argue that the language of our food packaging tells us much about the priorities of the culture that produces it and show how the discipline of rhetoric helps us read food as a cultural text.


Leave a Reply