Like big tobacco in the United States several decades ago, global manufacturers of high-sugar, high-fat products find themselves in a bind when pressed about the health effects of their products. How do they manage the tension between profitable products and mounting evidence that fast food and calorie-packed drinks contribute to obesity around the world?

While previous research focused on two strategies—rejecting or accepting criticism—an Academy of Management Discoveries article explains an evaluation of 1,500 news reports that reveals a blended strategy. Companies that sell cheeseburgers, cakes, and sugary sodas have also developed an “accepting-defensive” position, according to the article.

In an effort to protect their bottom lines, manufacturers have found “shades of gray” by deflecting criticism and even blaming consumers, said researcher Tobias Hahn of Ramon Llull University, ESADE Business School, Barcelona, and the University of Sydney.

Read more at AOM Insights