Pushers sell drugs, with the goal of getting users ‘hooked’; so that the user will become a steady customer; customers spend money and pushers make money. One could call them drug dealers, but the implications of the verb ‘to push’ being made into a noun, is, I think quite descriptively telling.
The commercial food industry makes food products in factories; products designed in laboratories. Actual food is plants, animals and things that have been minimally, humanly prepared from plant and animal products: harvest wheat, thresh, grind to flour, bake bread; milk cow, separate cream, make butter or cheese. Food prepared by humans (even on a large scale) has as it’s primary purpose the feeding of people, the delivery of nutrients for health and growth.
Food products prepared in factories may start with the same ingredients, but they lose a few essentials along the way. One needs heavy machinery to grind a lot of flour really quickly and to refine it so that it no longer has the pesky parts that could cause it to spoil. These mammoth milling machines overheat the wheat, which is a factor in the loss of both nutrients and flavor. The flour is then usually bleached and treated with ‘stabilizing’ chemicals, to extend the shelf life of the final product. Chemically produced nutrients will be added ‘back’ later.
You see, the ingredients don’t need to be handled with care and they don’t need to taste good on their own. Depending on whether it is destined to become sandwich bread, snack crackers, breakfast cereal, cookies or any one of a thousand products, a wheat-based product will receive flavor enhancers, sometimes known as ‘natural flavoring’, along with a precisely calculated mix of the big three: sugar, salt and fat (SS&F).
Huge, multi-million-dollar research labs, some of them nominally independent of the processed food industry and many of them in-house labs, employ thousands of food scientists, working feverishly (because this is about competition, after all) to design food products that taste good, have an extremely stable shelf-life and can be made as cheaply as possible.
The goal is simple: profit. Marketing personnel handle the outreach part of the pushing; researchers and food chemists find the precise mixture of chemical additives and SS&F that achieve the ‘bliss point’ (yes, they call it that) for the consumer. It is a stated goal of the processed food industry to turn consumers into ‘heavy users’. Users grow dependent (addicted?) and spend money. Pushers make money.
There are so many threads to follow here. I’ll do my best. If you want a more precise rendering of the facts or verification of my comments, the place to start is with Michael Moss’s superbly researched volume Salt, Sugar & Fat.