Technologies and Dietary Change: The Pharmaceutical Nexus and the Marketing of Anti-aging Functional Food in a Chinese Society

Veronica, Sau-wa Mak
Department of Sociology, Hong Kong Shue Yan University, Hong Kong.


At the turn of the 21st century, the demand for anti-aging functional milk among elderly Chinese people has become a major marketing success story in Hong Kong, even though most had never drunk milk prior to retiring and little scientific evidence supports the claims regarding the body-enhancing benefits derived from consuming specially formulated milk. This article examines the marketing and consumption of a technology-driven food—anti-aging formula milk—in Hong Kong, seeking to understand what draws the elderly to this functional food. Combining the theories of the pharmaceutical nexus, marketing semiotics, and emotion studies, the author investigates the pivotal roles of a network of actors—the scientists that endorse health claims, the government that normalizes milk consumption, and the global pharmaceuticals that generate fearful sensations regarding activity restrictions or immobility through marketing their formula milk products. Drawing on data from an analysis of in-depth interviews, health talks, and advertising materials, this article reveals the techniques by which anti-aging foods are promoted as the means for fashioning a physically fit self to maintain family and social networks, which are essential for the elderly to access emotional, social, and financial resources.

Anti-aging; health; functional milk; marketing; pharmaceutical nexus; technology-driven food

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