Everything in a pizza pocket, the poster

Justin Perricone sez, "This is a poster I designed using all of the ingredients in a Ham & Cheese Hot Pocket. First in a series."

Hot Pockets Ingredients (Thanks, Justin!)


  1. No kiddin’! My kid made me buy a box of these things. Then I noticed the list of ingredients resembled the contents of the chemistry lab’s storage cupboard.

    And they stink up the house when you microwave them.

    Genuine imitation food. No thanks.

  2. This has got to be one of my favourite posters. The mere simplicity, maybe even naiveness of those seemingly random “ingredients”… Brilliant :) First in a series let’s me hope for more!

  3. And yet, it looks so tasty.
    Really pretty design, yet so cruel to read what’s inside. I’ve never eaten one of those, but these “imitation foods” are quite … fasscinating. Weird stuff. Why is there corn starch syrup and soy flour in so many things?

    1. “Why is there corn starch syrup and soy flour in so many things?”

      Corn is the cheapest form of carbohydrate in the US, and soy in the cheapest form of protein. They are generally grown in huge mono-cultures, and are in most processed foods.

      It is not like this in New Zealand, where wheat flour is more common than corn in its various guises. Michael Pollan found that Americans on average consume more corn per person than Mexicans, and more soy per person than Chinese.

  4. A few minutes of research by anyone with basic reading comprehension and access to wikipedia will find that, surprise surprise, while nothing in that is particularly healthy, nothing in it is nefarious either.

    It’s junk food, but it’s still food.

    Though, to be fair, once you know how to make a decent dough (and it is easy!), just make your own. Egg-wash the crust to make it shiny like a calzone. Stuff it with what YOU want to taste.

    Prep time for a calzone is like, max, ten minutes, and baking is another fifteen.

    It can’t beat a microwave pizza pop for convenience, but it sure can for taste.

  5. I count “modified food starch” twice. I guess that’s because its used in multiple sub-ingredients.

    Wikipedia “Modified starch is added to frozen products to prevent them from dripping when defrosted”

    Cargill on “soy flour”

    “With a protein content of 54%, the Proliaâ„¢ brand is a high-quality, textured soy flour that is available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Mimicking the look and fibrous structure of cooked meat, it may also be used to add protein and crunch to nutrition bars and snacks.
    Proliaâ„¢ textured soy flour provides flavorful, healthier versions of conventional food favorites including:

    – Processed meat
    In its hydrated form, textured soy flour can be used in many formulations to replace substantial portions of raw meat.

    Extending ground meat with Proliaâ„¢ textured soy flour:
    – Increases yield
    – Adds juiciness
    – Lowers fat”

    On Titanium Dioxode (like in the paint, Titanium White)

    “Titanium dioxide is the most widely used white pigment because of its brightness and very high refractive index (n = 2.7), in which it is surpassed only by a few other materials. Approximately 4 million tons of pigmentary TiO2 are consumed annually worldwide. When deposited as a thin film, its refractive index and colour make it an excellent reflective optical coating for dielectric mirrors and some gemstones like “mystic fire topaz”. TiO2 is also an effective opacifier in powder form, where it is employed as a pigment to provide whiteness and opacity to products such as paints, coatings, plastics, papers, inks, foods, medicines (i.e. pills and tablets) as well as most toothpastes. Opacity is improved by optimal sizing of the titanium dioxide particles.
    Used as a white food colouring, it has E number E171. Titanium dioxide is often used to whiten skimmed milk; this has been shown statistically to increase skimmed milk’s palatability.[17]”

  6. I dunno. I think opposition to food additives is just bias against inorganic chemistry. Probably founded on some religious beleif that “organic” chemistry is has some special kind of elan vital that inorganic chemistry doesn’t.

    If you can eat it, its food.

  7. If you knew the ratio of each ingredient in a product, you could generate word clouds of them. That’d be kinda cool, and informative. Less artistic than this, but infographical instead.

  8. If you wanted to, you could describe *any* food in terms of its chemical components, because everything is chemistry. It’s just that nobody legally demands that, say, a vegetable, or a piece of meat be described in such a manner, and instead we can say things like “beef”, or “tomato” and leave it at that.

  9. Hi all. This is my monster, and as to the questions of proportions, no they’re not. After I got started I realized that would be a brilliant idea, but there’s no way of depicting it accurately without the formula. I mean recipe.

    1. @getjustin Not sure about the US, but in Australia ingredients on packaging must be listed in order of highest to lowest proportion.

      1. It’s that way in the US too but that still wouldn’t tell ratios, which would be necessary for a word cloud sized by quantity.

      2. @getjustin Not sure about the US, but in Australia ingredients on packaging must be listed in order of highest to lowest proportion.

        That’s the convention, if not the law, in the US as well. It’s not a perfect system but it’s not too bad, either.

  10. It has four different kinds of artificial yellow coloring: Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Yellow 5 Lake, and Yellow 6 Lake. That oughta be enough yellow for anyone.

  11. Yeah, my first thought was it was like a word cloud, sized by quantity, but my second thought was that WHEAT FLOUR would be much, much larger if that were the case.

  12. Neat poster! I can easily see Jim Gaffigan riffing on it. Dipotassium Phosphate Pocket!

    Anyone know what became of Frankie Flood’s site or whether his pizza cutters were ever commercially available? Amazing stuff!

  13. Here are Micheal Pollan’s food rules:
    1. Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
    2. Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.
    3. Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store.
    4. Don’t eat anything that won’t eventually rot.
    5. It is not just what you eat but how you eat. “Always leave the table a little hungry,” Pollan says.
    6. Families traditionally ate together, around a table and not a TV, at regular meal times. It’s a good tradition. Enjoy meals with the people you love.
    7. Don’t buy food where you buy your gasoline.

  14. A bit of trivia: University of California, Irvine has the The Paul Merage School of Business. Paul Merage, along with his brother and a few other people, created the Hot Pocket and sold it to Nestle in 2002 for $2.6 Billion. You could also call it the Hot Pocket School of Business.

  15. The deal with “organic” is that we’re gradually discovering that stuff that’s already been combined by Mother Nature as plants and animals tends to have fewer bad side effects than the same stuff that’s been all sorted out into its constituent parts and then recombined in some sort of Frankensteinian experiment.

    Not that I eat “organic” food exclusively… the taste laboratories have got me by the short hairs.

    1. No, we *aren’t* discovering that Mother Nature loves us and produces things with “fewer bad side effects” than processed food. Quite the opposite. For example, nicotine is a 100% natural product that predates humanity by millions of years. So is alcohol. And humanity used both for thousands of years without suspecting that they were unhealthy. (Yes, some religions were against using them, but just because religions tend to frown upon pleasures of the flesh).

      Logically, *all* food, whether an “organic” orange or a pizza pocket, should undergo the same testing; we can’t safely conclude that any substance or food is healthy just because it is “natural” or that people have been using it traditionally.

      1. That’s pretty disingenuous. Nicotine is a chemical found in small quantities in certain plants. It’s a “100% natural product” the same way crack cocaine or chlorine gas are. Likewise, natural fermentation requires quite a bit of help to result in distilled spirits; beer and wine aren’t bad for you unless you drink way too much — but then, too much of anything is bad for you. (That’s sort of the definition of “too much.”)

        You eat your Hot Pockets, I’ll eat my vegetables, and we’ll see who stays healthy longer.

        1. It isn’t disingenuous at all. Nicotine exists naturally in tobacco plants and its relatives at a far higher concentration than many pesticides that get people all upset. In fact that’s what nicotine is: a natural pesticide for the protection of the plant. And there’s no reason to suppose that similar toxins as yet undiscovered don’t exist in other plants. Plant parts (with the possible exception of some fruits that need their seeds to go through a digestive system to germinate) don’t “want” to be eaten; it is evolutionarily favorable for them to produce ways of protecting themselves from animals.

          Also, there’s no magic exception for beer and wine over other forms of alcohol. There is a small bit of evidence that the proanthocyanidin in red wine has some anti-oxidant effects, but that’s it — and that could be gotten without the alcohol at all. There’s nothing defending beer — and I’m a beer drinker, mind you; I just have no illusions that I’m doing my body any good by it, nor that it is healthier than vodka or other distilled drinks.

          The issue isn’t “vegetables vs hotpockets”; it’s that *everything* needs to be tested and it is illegitimate to assume that anything is healthy just because it’s “traditional”, “natural”, etc.

  16. Nice graphic! I don’t actually eat the things because of two problems – all the flavors of them that I’ve seen have meat in them, and they’re made by some Nestle subsidiary. (You can look up the Nestle boycott in Wikipedia – short version is that they market baby formula unsafely and unethically in the third world, and the boycott’s been going on since the 70s. Too bad – they keep buying up more food companies, many of which make products I like.)

  17. EMJ@#25 mentioned Michael Pollan’s rule about not eating anything with ingredients you can pronounce. I once heard somebody discussing it on the radio saying that didn’t work for him, since he was a chemist and could always pronounce the ingredients, even if he wouldn’t eat some of them.

    I’ve often bought stuff in Asian grocery stores that I definitely can’t pronounce. Sometimes they’ll have stickers added with ingredients listed in English, or there’ll be a price tag over the English part but there’s a French version, or it just says “soybean”, even if it’s not, but sometimes it’s just in Chinese. I once bought some kind of dried vegetable because none of the English labels said anything about what the product _was_, but made a big deal about it being ISO 9001 Certified.

    And it’s not uncommon for teas or vegetables in Asian stores to list the Latin name of the plant, since there may or may not be an English common name for it.

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