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Why No One Wanted A&W's Third-Pound Burger

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Americans have loved McDonald’s Quarter Pounder ever since a franchisee introduced the iconic burger to the country in 1972. In the 1980s, A&W attempted to capitalize on the success of the Quarter Pounder—and drum up a little competition for Ronald and friends—by introducing a third-pound burger. The bigger burger gave consumers more bang for their collective buck. It was priced the same as the Quarter Pounder but delivered more meat. It even outperformed McDonald’s in blind taste tests, with consumers preferring the flavor of A&W’s burger.

But when it came down to actually purchasing the third-pound burgers, most Americans simply would not do it. Baffled, A&W ordered more tests and focus groups. After chatting with people who snubbed the A&W burger for the smaller Quarter Pounder, the reason became clear: Americans suck at fractions. Alfred Taubman, who owned A&W at the time, wrote about the confusion in his book Threshold Resistance:

More than half of the participants in the Yankelovich focus groups questioned the price of our burger. "Why," they asked, "should we pay the same amount for a third of a pound of meat as we do for a quarter-pound of meat at McDonald's? You're overcharging us." Honestly. People thought a third of a pound was less than a quarter of a pound. After all, three is less than four!

Not understanding that a fourth is actually smaller than a third, many consumers eschewed the better-tasting burger in favor of the one they thought was the better deal. According to Taubman, A&W recalibrated their marketing, saying, “The customer, regardless of his or her proficiency with fractions, is always right.”

Apparently undaunted by the average American’s less-than-average math skills, McDonald’s tried their own version of the bigger burger, the “Angus Third-Pounder,” in 2007.

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It didn’t last, but they gave it another shot with the “Sirloin Third Pounder” just last year. That one is gone now, too, but the mighty Quarter Pounder remains a mainstay.

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Health
Toddlers Are Now Eating as Much Added Sugar as Adults
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We know excessive amounts of added sugar can lurk in foods ranging from ketchup to juices to “health foods” like protein bars. We also know Americans get too much of it, often consuming up to 19 teaspoons daily, exceeding the American Heart Association’s recommended limit of 6 to 9 teaspoons a day. That adds up to 66 ill-advised pounds of the stuff per year.

A new study that came out of the American Society for Nutrition’s conference last week demonstrates an even more alarming trend: Toddlers are eating nearly as much sugar every day as is recommended for adults.

The study, which was organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, examined survey data collected between 2011 and 2014 for 800 kids aged 6 to 23 months. Based on parental reporting of their food intake, the tiny subjects between 12 and 18 months old took in an average 5.5 teaspoons of added sugar per day. Older kids, aged 19 to 23 months, consumed 7.1 teaspoons. That’s at or near the recommended intake for a fully grown adult.

In addition to health risks including weight gain and reduced immune system function, sugar-slurping babies stand a greater chance of carrying that craving with them into adulthood, where complications like diabetes and heart problems can be waiting. The AHA recommends that parents avoid giving their kids sweetened drinks and snacks and look out for creative nutritional labels that disguise sugar with words like “sucrose” or “corn sweetener.”

[[h/t Quartz]

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Science Has a Good Explanation For Why You Can't Resist That Doughnut
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Unless you’re one of those rare people who doesn’t like sweets, the lure of a glazed or powdered doughnut is often too powerful to resist. The next time you succumb to that second or third Boston cream, don’t blame it on weak willpower—blame it on your brain.

As the New Scientist reports, a Yale University study published in the journal Cell Metabolism provides new evidence that foods rich in both carbohydrates and fats fire up the brain’s reward center more than most foods. For the study, volunteers were shown pictures of carb-heavy foods (like candy), fatty foods (like cheese), and foods high in both (like doughnuts). They were then asked to bid money on the food they wanted to eat most, all while researchers measured their brain activity.

Not only were volunteers willing to pay more for doughnuts and similar foods, but foods high in carbs and fat also sparked far more activity in the striatum, the area of the brain where dopamine is released. (Chocolate is one of the foods most commonly associated with increases in dopamine, working in the same way as drugs like cocaine and amphetamines.)

Presented with these findings, researcher Dana Small theorized that the brain may have separate systems to assess fats and carbs. Modern junk foods that activate both systems at once may trigger a larger release of dopamine as a result.

This study doesn’t entirely explain why different people crave different foods, though. Much of it has to do with our habits and the foods we repeatedly gravitate towards when we want to feel happy or alleviate stress. Another study from 2015 found that certain treats associated with high levels of reward in the brain—like pizza, chocolate, chips, and cookies—were considered to be the most addictive foods (doughnuts didn’t make the top 20, though).

It's still possible to turn down foods that are bad for you, though. While many people try to improve their self-control, one of the most effective ways to avoid an undesired outcome is to remove the temptation completely. Free doughnuts in the break room? Stay far away.

[h/t New Scientist]

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