Can’t Cook?: Frankenfood Brain Code for Sale

Corporate capitalism is the most radically and successfully totalitarian social system in history. No aspect of life is safe from its relentless penetration and re-organization.

Want evidence? Consider the example of iFood Assistant, the Kraft Foods conglomerate’s new “app” for iPhones.

Here’s how Advertising Age describes this exciting advance in big business marketing:

CHICAGO (AdAge.com) — One of the coolest apps on the iPhone isn’t Pandora or Facebook: It’s recipes and shopping lists for Kraft singles, Jell-O gelatin and Minute Rice.

Yes, enough Kraft Food devotees are actually paying to be marketed to on their beloved iPhones that the company’s iFood Assistant is now one of the device’s 100 most popular paid apps, and No. 2 in the lifestyle category. With its endeavor, Kraft is pulling off a rare trick: getting consumers to pay a one-time 99-cent fee for the app and also sit through ads on it. And in the process, it’s collecting useful data for targeting them more closely.

IFood Assistant’s rich interface works well with the handset, and its navigation is similar to that of the iPod. The app offers a host of recipes, browse-able by ingredients, meal type or prep time. Consumers may register at KraftFoods.com to save recipes and build shopping lists.

Recipes come with instructions simple enough for the uninitiated, and daily featured recipes try to tempt the uninspired. Of course, the dishes incorporate Kraft products. A featured recipe last week, for “chicken cacciatore pronto,” calls for Kraft Light Zesty Italian dressing, chicken thighs, garlic, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, red peppers, whole-wheat spaghetti, Kraft Grated Parmesan Cheese and Kraft 2% Milk Shredded Mozzarella Cheese.

And that’s not all, boys and girls! Not only does Kraft get to sell you the cooking knowledge you lack due to corporate capitalism’s past and present assault on personal time and personal skills; not only do these Kraft-written “recipes” drive you to buy you Kraft’s processed (and hence more profitable) Frankenfoods; but, in the bargain, Kraft gets its mitts on a trove of better-than-free “marketing data” that will help its extend and refine its control over your most basic life activities! To wit:

For now, Ed Kaczmarek, director-innovation, new services at Kraft, said Kraft is using the data to understand when and how consumers are shopping, what they’re making, and which ingredients they prefer. Since users need to sign in to Kraft Foods before downloading recipes and shopping lists, that information is sent directly to the company, allowing Kraft to gather information on which recipes are the most popular and which ingredients are most used. Kraft is, of course, running ads throughout the app, some before the instructional videos and some with searches.

Footnote: To complete the picture, I tried to go onto iTunes to leave a warning about this Trojan Horse product. Guess what? “You must own this item to write a Customer Review.”