Friday, February 26, 2010


No, not the classic Police song (who can forget Eddie Murphy singing the lyrics while listening to his Walkman at the beginning of "48 Hours"?)

I'm talking about Cargill's Roxanne.

Cargill, which you probably never heard of because it's privately held, is one of the largest companies in the world, a huge purchaser of bulk grains and cereals. It also produces many of the ingredients used in processed foods and is a leader in the "flavor" industry. You almost certainly have products containing Cargill products in your pantry.

And who is Cargill's Roxanne? She is a "flavor mixing" robot in a commercial I saw the other night. Roxanne, we are told, works at Cargill's flavor factory in Grasse, France. A man on a quest for flavor searches the picturesque streets of an ancient French town for the elusive "Roxanne." Everyone knows her, only heightening his anticipation to meet and woo this maven of taste.

Finally, the man, bouquet of flowers in hand, arrives at the flavor center only to discover that Roxanne is a bucket of bolts. But it's all right. The man overcomes his disappointment and gives the flowers to a fetching food scientist in a lab coat (nothing says romance like a starched lab coat). The message: Isn't Cargill great for using cutting edge technology and science to flavor your food?

Think about this for a moment. A company that removes flavor by processing food not only admitting it does so, but brags about its scientific and technical prowess in artificially restoring that flavor.

The French setting adds another layer of bizarreness. We may not like the French, but we sure know they are good at food, so this flavor place must be the cat's meow. Cargill goes all the way to France to make tasteless pulp appetizing. They really do love us.

It's enough to make your head spin.

What I don't understand is why Cargill would ever want consumers to know what it is doing. I mean, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to grasp the strange and disturbing message of this commercial. We've so leeched flavor from our food products that putting it back requires a space age robot, a huge lab with hundreds of test rubes and dozens of guys in white coats.

I'll stick to the Police's Roxanne.

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