How processed foods are really made

26th May 2021 | Eativity editors

If you’ve ever found yourself staring at a hot dog, wondering what the hell is actually in it, we’ve found just the book for you. Australian illustrator and designer Ayla Marika has demystified how the most common processed foods are manufactured in her new work, How Food is Made: An Illustrated Guide To How Everyday Food Is Produced.

Researched and compiled over two years, How Food is Made answers the big questions about how food is created on an industrial scale. Using plain language and step-by-step infographics, the book guides you through the entire process of how factory-made foods like sugar, coffee and chocolate are concocted, from raw ingredients to final product.

The book includes chapters on grains and starches, condiments, meat products, dairy foods, spreads, plant proteins and drinks. Inspiration for the book came from Marika’s desire to educate her own daughter about food production, in a time when people often feel disconnected from the origin of the food they eat.

“With almost 1000 hand-drawn illustrations, I’ve covered 60 favourite foods,” Marika says. “It presents the bare facts without bias to allow readers the freedom to form their own ideas about the food they choose to buy and eat. My aim is to reduce the confusion caused by food advertising and empower people to think differently about food.”

To give you a taste of what you can find in the book, Marika has shared these extracts with Eativity. Read on, but trust us – you may never be able to eat another gummy bear again.

How hot dogs are made

A hot dog is a processed pork and/or beef sausage. Offcuts used in hot dogs include skeletal muscle, head meat (eg, snout and tongue) and skin, as well as fat and connective tissues. Contrary to popular belief, organs are not normally used. Hot dogs usually contain pork and beef but may contain poultry or veal. Low-quality hot dogs often use mechanically-separated chicken, also known as “white slime”.

The type of casing used varies. Natural casings made from animal intestine are the most traditional option, but also the least common. Artificial casings are made from either collagen or cellulose. Skinless hot dogs, which are the most common type, are made with cellulose casings that are peeled off before packing.

How gummy bears are made

Gummy bears consist almost entirely of gelatine, water and sugar. The sugars used include sucrose and fructose, which act as sweeteners and preservatives. Glucose is also added to prevent them from crystallising. Other additives include artificial or natural colours and flavours, artificial sweeteners, food acids, oil and glazing agents for gloss. Food acids such as fumaric or malic acid are added to make sour gummies.

To make gelatine, pig or cow offcuts containing collagen protein such as skin, bones and ligaments are treated with an acid (such as hydrochloric acid) or alkaline solution. When mixed with water, gelatine forms a gel that sets into a semi-solid when cool. Gelatine is tasteless, but is added for the bouncy, chewy texture it gives.

Gummy candy made from real fruit juice is common, while versions containing multivitamins are a recent innovation. Vegan gummies that use carrageenan, pectin or starch instead of gelatine are also available. Other alternatives include Turkish Delight made from starch, and pectin-based jellies. Halal gummy bears are made with gelatine from cows.

How Food is Made: An Illustrated Guide To How Everyday Food Is Produced is now available from online book retailers including Amazon, Booktopia, Barnes & Noble, Fishpond and Apple Books. You can find out more at