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Culture and Fast Food Industry in North America

Webika (2008) defines fast food as “inexpensive food containing processed ingredients and prepared as well as served quickly in an industrialized manner”. These types of foods are synonymous with junk foods that include pizza, sandwiches, fries and hamburgers that are accompanied by sweetened soft drinks or milk shakes. They are characterized by high calorie content and low nutritional value. The advent of fast foods was brought about by the industrial revolution that commenced in the latter part of the 18th Century.

Age sub Cultures of Fast Foods

The examination of the sub cultures has the capacity to provide an insight on the consumer trends in regard to fats foods in Canada. This is because it is a point to the levels of nostalgia effect in fast food consumption amongst the various age groups.

The phenomenal increase in the online advertising of fast foods has reached its climax in the recent past. The 1980 – 1995, the generation commonly referred to as Gen-Y,  even though was heavily influenced by the advent of the fast foods advanced by the McDonalds, their levels of addiction still remain less in comparison to today’s generation. This group consists of 23% of the Canadian population and is grouped under the North American adult population. They influence the way in which their children consume fast foods in that “16 year old kids need parents’ permission to play in McDonalds Kids Zone” (Dalgleish, 2007)..

In addition to the above, this generation is characterized by upbeat sense in consumption and often enjoys assimilating. Available articles on the consumption culture of fast foods by this generation reveal that an average disposal income of $500 if spent on the purchases of the fast foods and related items. The major fast food outlets such as Pizza Hut and MacDonald have invented the application of online games that have the capacity to attract this generation into the consumption of their fast food products (Murkoff, Eisenberg & Harthaway, 2008).

The group commonly referred to as the Tweens is composed of a total of 2.4 million children aged between 9-4. Their overall spending power and consumption of fast foods cannot be underestimated in that their spending power is estimated to be approximately $1.7 billion annually.

The generation X is the current generation that constitutes the large percentage of the population in North America. With approximately 6m Canadians that is inclusive of 3.1 M baby boomers, this generation is composed of a mature market that has the capacity to make personal decisions and has more economic clout. The consumer behavior and culture amongst this generation is heavily influenced by the availability of in- store for kids and coupons for adults.  

Creation and Diffusion of Culture

The creation and diffusion of culture in relation to culture selection and global marketing have been fully exploited by fast foods stores. This is because advertisement has the strongest influence on consumer behavior (Polan, 2006). The cultural differences amongst the various age groups have been used as strategic tools in advertisement with a strong shift towards online advertisements. Popular fast food companies have for decades advanced the consumption of their products through the use of advertisements. This is because the advertisements are laced with pictures that projected the real stuff.  Such high standards in the advertisements of fast foods have led to increase in the levels of obesity and other related health conditions. This is because the aggressive advertisements have translated to the increase in the consumption and addiction to the fast foods. Available articles on consumer behavior in regard to fast food culture in North America reveal that MacDonald in one of the most famous figures amongst the current generation. According to Schlosser (1998), “A survey of American schoolchildren found that ninety-six percent could identify Ronald McDonald and is the only fictional character with a higher degree of recognition was Santa Claus”. Schlosser (1998) continues to state that “The impact of McDonald’s on the nation’s culture, economy and diet is hard to overstate. Its corporate symbol – the Golden Arches – is now more widely recognized than the Christian cross.”

Cultural Influences on Consumer Behavior

This has eventually led to the phenomenal increase in the consumption of the MacDonald products and the increase in childhood obesity (Waist, 2002). The cultural influences on the consumer behavior and the effect of fast food culture on our patience have been documented (Scientific Blogging, 2010). This is because children birthday parties and conventions have all been modeled to the idea that ready made is the most convenient and the best choice. Our ability to remain patient and prepare meals during parties and meetings has been eroded by the availability of fast foods. The creation and the diffusion of culture as evidenced in the McKids – kidsmen, Happy Meals, fictitious characters (A&W Bear, The King, McDonalds with characters- Hamburglar) have all pointed to the shift of the traditional food culture to the popular culture of fast foods (Heise, 2002).