Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Is Costa and Starbucks Making Us Fat?

Nothing beats a cuppa tea and a chocolate bikkie! The cup of tea is almost an Irish institution at this point, an integral part of our culture. But this tradition is under threat as it is slowly being swept away by the big coffee corporations, the humble cup of tea is being replaced by the skinny caramel frappuccino with cream. When was the last time you enjoyed a cup of tea or a bun in an Irish owned and family run café? These establishments are all-pervasive and have slowly become dominant institutions within our society. Franchises such as Costa and Starbucks are replacing small independent coffee shops in Ireland and guess what? They're making us fat.

I was in Dublin having a wander around the shops a few months ago and I had a craving for caffeine so decided to pop into Costa (or as my friend put it the other day, Cost-a-lot) for an Americano. Don't get me wrong, I really like Costa and I like their wide sandwich collection, their coffees and have always found the staff really friendly! So I thought you know what I've walked the feet off myself so I deserve something nice. My mother loves the raspberry and almond bakes so I thought I'd maybe try one of those. As my eyes searched for them behind the glass counter, they fell on the little placard in front of the tray and I read something that literally made me gasp out loud; 457 calories! Are. you. kidding. me! That is literally more than one quarter of my daily calorie intake in one tiny ass piece of cake. I would want to eat a whole cake for that many calories. Needless to say, I didn't buy it! The difference between a full fat and low fat medium latte is about 100-150 calories, and if you add any flavoured syrup you're looking at an extra 200-300 calories. Insane stuff! Now I'm not suggesting we all start boycotting Costa or other similar companies, I just want to create awareness around the fact that what people are eating and drinking from these establishments are not as authentic and innocent as they seem.

Not many people realise how high in calories the food and drinks from these kind of multinational establishments are. When you go to eat in places like McDonalds or Burger King the majority of people aren't under any illusion that what they are eating is low in calories but when it comes to eating in places like Costa or Starbucks I don't think people understand the ploys and tricks that are used to get you to buy and eat more. I did a Google search on the tricks used by global coffee organisations to get you to buy more and it came up pretty fruitless so I'll just tell you about the things that I've noticed. The main thing that annoys me is that when you order a coffee in Costa they ask you do you want a medium or a large. This manipulates people into thinking that these are the only two sizes available when in actual fact you can order a small too. In Starbucks, if you only order a coffee they will ask you "Would you like anything else with that?". Staff in Starbucks are forbidden from straying from this phrase. I have a friend who works there and says that they must say this every time and if a member of staff slips up and says something like "Is that all?" you can get in trouble. My favourite sandwich from Costa is the chorizo and chicken sandwich. They state on the pack that there are 499 calories in the sandwich, why they don't just put 500 on the package really bothers me, I don't think anyone is under the illusion that it's any better for them whether it is 499 or 500. I have seen this throughout the entire food industry and it's a cheap, dirty little trick to further manipulate people into thinking they're eating less calories than they actually are. The next thing is obvious, it's not necessarily a covert manipulation of the masses and I'm sure many people are aware of this strategy. They place all the food at eye-level, making it impossible for the customers to not be staring at all the food with their tongues hanging out as they wait to be served. This is definitely a sure-fire way to get all the people who are desperately trying to resist the temptation to get something sweet, to break within 10 seconds. I've seen it myself countless times! Don't get me wrong, I know this is a universally accepted way of presenting food, it's not like they should hide it away in the back and only let you buy it if you drop and give'em 20. I'm pointing it out because the food behind the counter is not as good and wholesome as you think it is, which leads me on to my next point.

When you go into an Irish independently owned and run café, the food on display is more times than not, home made. If not made by the café itself, it is usually sourced from a local bakery. The products are fresh and need to be consumed within a couple days before they go off. This is not the case with the food in globo-coffee shops. A lot of people think they're eating fresh food and baked goods when the food they're eating couldn't be further from fresh, or Irish for that matter. I have searched high and low trying to find out exactly where the food that is served is from and I haven't been able to find anything. That in itself says it all really. The food is without a doubt all frozen and then thawed out ready to be sold. God knows where the products are actually made. The more I look into it the more annoyed I'm getting so I've emailed Costa directly and asked where exactly their food is made, if it is frozen and what it the usual time period between the time the food is made from when it is consumed. They get back to you in seven days apparently so I'll update this when I get a response.

I think the most important thing to get from this is that the international coffee shops that we frequent do not always have our best intentions at heart. You have to remember that they are a franchise and all that matters to the company is the bottom line, not your waistline. We live in a country where we operate on our own free will, these coffee companies are not ramming their sugar filled drinks and high fat muffins down our gobs. It is our responsibility to learn about what we are putting into our bodies, where it comes from and how we can prevent taking in too many excess calories. The aim of this article is to promote the idea of consciously thinking about what we are putting in our bodies and to think before we order. Next time you're getting a coffee try to make it a low-fat version and if you're getting something to eat check out the calories first. Thanks for reading!

Also, here's a copy of the email I sent to Costa for those interested:

"Hi, I have been searching for the answer to this for a while and I'm hoping you can help me out. I want to know where the food that is sold in Costa shops come from.  I can't seem to find anything related to this on the internet or on the websites anywhere. I live in Ireland and I want to know where the food - the sandwiches, baked goods etc - is made, when it arrives in shops and how long is the usual  time period from production to consumption? So to clarify:

1.Where does the food that is sold in Costa made?
2.Is the food frozen and then shipped to stores to be unfrozen and sold?
3.What is the usual time period from where the food is made to the point where a customer consumes the food?
4.Why is there no ingredients for your baked good listed on your website?

Thank you for all the information you can give me."

1 comment: