1st Edition

Food Marketing and Selling Healthy Lifestyles with Science Transhistorical Perspectives

Edited By Lauren Alex O'Hagan, Göran Eriksson Copyright 2025
    352 Pages 27 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book sets out to historicise our understanding of contemporary trends by studying the long relationship between science, food and drink marketing and the promotion of healthy lifestyles. It aims to bring together contemporary and historical research from a multimodal perspective, considering how scientific discourse and ideas about health and nutrition are channelled through visual and material culture.

    Using examples of advertisements, commercials and posters, the 16 chapters in this book will foster a cross-disciplinary and cross-temporal dialogue, uncovering links between past and present ways that manufacturers have capitalised upon scientific innovations to create new products or rebrand existing products and employed science to make claims about health and nutrition. They will, thus, demonstrate the continuity of science in food and drink marketing—even if fundamental ideas of nutrition have evolved over time. The book provides crucial new insights into the significance of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as a period of innovation in food and drink marketing and showcasing how many of the marketing strategies employed today, in fact, have a far broader historical trajectory.

    It will be of great interest to students and scholars of Critical Food Studies, Media and Communication Studies, History of Science and Medicine and Cultural Studies, as well as nutritionists, dieticians, sportspeople, in addition to policymakers and practitioners working in the area of food and drink marketing.

    Introduction: Selling Healthy Lifestyles with Science     
    (Göran Eriksson and Lauren Alex O’Hagan)

    From Foods to Nutrients: 150 Years of Modern Nutrition Science           
    (Lauren Alex O’Hagan and Göran Eriksson)


    Chapter 1 - Vim, Vigour and Vitality: Physical Culture Marketing and the Promise of a Better Life (Conor Heffernan)

    Chapter 2 - Multimodal Representations of Health and Science in Danish Advertisements for Dairy Products and Plant-Based Alternatives: A Diachronic Study (Iben Bredahl Jessen)

    Chapter 3 - Consumer Activism, Ultra-Processed Food Marketing and the Meaning of Healthy Eating in Mexico: A Diachronic Study (Pilar Zazueta)

    Chapter 4 - A Better Way to Start the Day: Pseudoscience, Health and Synthetic Personalisation in Breakfast Cereal Packaging (Angela Smith)


    Chapter 5 - Best for Babies? Powdered Milk and Scientific Discourse in Early Twentieth-Century China (Lo Shuk Ying)

    Chapter 6 - “The Great Natural Health Drink of Our Time”: Health, Gender and Nutrition in British Advertisements for Ribena Blackcurrant Drink (Daniel Ewers)

    Chapter 7 - A Cheap and Easy Way to Health: Advertising Coffee Substitutes in Sweden, 1870-1914 (Leif Runefelt)

    Chapter 8 - “Unveil Your Inner Youth”: Science, Gender and Anti-Ageing Milk Marketing in a Chinese Society (Veronica Sau-wa Mak)


    Chapter 9 - Selling Motherhood Through Science: Advertisements for Dalda Cooking Oil in India, 1940s to the Present (Saurabh Mishra)

    Chapter 10 - The Rhetoric of Unadulterated Wholemeal: Thomas Allinson and the Natural Food Company, 1892-1918 (Amber Hinde)

    Chapter 11 - Between Science and Tradition: Nutrition Epistemologies and Extractionist Logics in Chia Seed Development and Marketing (Jessica Loyer)


    Chapter 12 - “The Triumph of the New Over the Old”: Electric Restaurants, Health and Modernity (Lucy Jane Santos)

    Chapter 13 - Bridging the Gap from the Petri Dish to Natural, Healthy Meat: An Insight into Marketing Communications for Cultured Meat (Andreja Vezovnik)

    Afterword: A Transhistorical Semiotics of Food Marketing       
    (Caroline Tagg)


    Lauren Alex O’Hagan is a Research Fellow in the School of Languages and Applied Linguistics at the Open University (UK) and an Affiliate Researcher in the Department of Media and Communication Studies at Örebro University (Sweden). She specialises in performances of social class and power mediation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century through visual and material artefacts, using a methodology that blends social semiotic analysis with archival research. She has published extensively on the sociocultural forms and functions of book inscriptions, food advertisements, postcards and writing implements.

    Göran Eriksson is Professor of Media and Communication Studies at Örebro University (Sweden). He works in the field of discourse analysis and his current research is linked to the sociology of health and is concerned with multimodal representations of healthy food and healthy eating in different settings. Ongoing studies look at marketing and are especially interested in how science and scientific expertise is communicated. He publishes extensively in international peer-reviewed journals. Göran is associate editor of the SSCI-indexed journal Discourse, Context and Media.

    ‘From cod liver oil to cultured meat, food marketing addresses anxieties about health and morality. This engaging volume explores the nexus of scientific/medical discourse, marketing enabled by mass communication, and the industrialized foodscape, offering cogent and compelling analyses of visual and material culture.’

    - Kathleen LeBesco, Professor of Communication and Media Arts, Marymount Manhattan College

    ‘Everywhere we now look food is being marketed as in some way healthy.  Making an important and timely contribution to the field of food studies, the contributors of this book show how this is of concern across major food categories. Taking a historical approach, the oddity and cynicism of food marketing is drawn out by showing that it is nothing new.’

    - David Machin, Professor of Linguistics, Shanghai International Studies University

    ‘How is science employed in food communication, and why? This book presents an original and thorough investigation into the appropriation and reuse of scientific knowledge by food brands. Through qualitative research spanning both contemporary and historical contexts, this collective work unveils insights crucial for understanding food communication across the world.’

    - Simona De Iulio, Professor of Information and Communication Sciences, University of Lille