Fat Chance

The skinny on marketing bad-for-you foods
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the April 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

If you're an entrepreneur hoping to live off the fat of the land, your time has come. Even as The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that obesity affects 20 percent of the American adult population, consumers appear to be embracing fatty, high-calorie foods like never before. Most of the evidence of this trend is anecdotal; some of it is downright amusing: Taquitos.net, a potato chip portal that offers snack reviews, gets 200,000 hits a month. Says its creator, Jeremy Selwyn, 32: "There's more interest in salty foods than I ever would have thought."

Not to mention sugar. How else can you explain Christopher Sell's success? Sell not only owns the ChipShop, a fish-and-chips eatery in Brooklyn, but he also created the infamous deep-fried Twinkie. "We put it on the menu more for the shock value than anything else," admits Sell, 37, whose restaurant brings in $1.3 million annually and is working toward franchising. "It's more of a talking point, but it has caught on." State fairs have begun selling the Twinkie, and Sell's restaurant has received national attention for creating the concoction.

In fact, the more fattening a food, the more attention an entrepreneur can expect, says James McKinnon, 37, owner of Dangerous Dan's Diner in Toronto. He's received much regional coverage for his Coronary Burger: two 8-ounce beef patties covered with two slices of cheddar, four slices of bacon and a fried egg--with french fries and gravy served on the side. He may only sell 50 a week, compared to 450 other burgers, but "the damn thing is so ridiculous, people remember you for it," says McKinnon, who also serves 24 oz. patties in a bun.

"As Americans have more stress in their lives, we'll see these types of foods increase," says Phil Lempert, a food industry analyst and a regular contributor on NBC's The Today Show. He suggests entrepreneurs find decadent foods with "a huge margin, so when the trend changes, you can get out quickly, and stay away from products like shrimp or chocolate, which have a high cost of goods."

Lempert's final warning: "Many entrepreneurs think a great marketing gimmick turns into profit. Not true in foods. Remember, we gotta eat this stuff."

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