In the 1950s there was a very important innovation in food, the instant mix cake. One of my personal favourites. When they were first brought out all you needed to do was to add a little bit of water, who's not going to love that? Well actually no one loved it, no one bought the bloody things. So they did a bit of research and what they found was that the main consumer, the target consumer, the housewife, felt that it was cheating. They didn't want to pass off such an easy thing as their own baking to their partners, their husbands, their families, whatever. So what did the producers have to do? They had to make it harder, so now you had to add water and an egg. And sales eggsploded!
(at 1:00 in the video)
Is there any evidence to support these claims?
Food industry made it harder to cook these instant cakes.
Although there's a grain of truth to this claim, the legend that sprouted from it is a different kind of fruit: a marketing innovation did revive flagging sales of cake mixes, but it wasn't the innovation most people think it was.
Snopes provides quotes to demonstrate:
the addition of dried eggs caused internal debate from the beginning. Requiring eggs wasn't an afterthought.
Cake sales were initially strong (from introduction to 1953), but growth slowed between 1956-1960.
Fresh eggs produce a superior product.
Different major companies used different strategies, without one dominating over the other.
The marketing solution to the analysis that suggested that cake making was considered cheating was not to remove dried egg, but to emphasize icing and decoration to customize the cake.
Snopes go on to claim, without references:
What ultimately ensured the long-term success of instant cake mixes was a declining exposure to the art of cooking. [...] As fewer and fewer home cooks learned to recognize the difference between from-scratch cakes and mix cakes, the longevity of the latter was assured.