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Healthy FOOD: CONFUSING LABELS AND MARKETING TRICKS

In our previous blog post we wrote about marketing techniques used on dog treat packaging. As you probably expected, it doesn’t stop there.

The food we buy for ourselves to consume each day is subject to these marketing tricks as well. Luckily, our current society is increasingly aware of the benefits of eating healthier options.

On the flipside however, the marketing teams of mainstream brands witness this trend, and try to capitalize on it.

With this blog post, would like to increase people’s awareness of the many tricks used in marketing of the food and drinks we consume on a daily basis.

 

Fresh fruit versus fruit juice

Fruit juice is a very popular choice of drink. We hear that people opt for this with the idea of consuming something healthy. But is that actually true?

If we were to solely look at the front of a juice box, the answer seems obvious. Of course it is healthy.

With statements such as ‘consists of 100% fruit!’, what could be wrong with that? An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right?

 

Bunch of bright green apples

 

Fruit in itself is healthy of course, but fruits in fruit juice are stripped of their fiber. This means that your body will experience sugar peaks, rather than the slow release of sugars when eating fresh fruits.

When eating fruit, people often eat one piece at a time. However, drinking one glass of juice equals multiple pieces of fruit. Hence, when drinking a glass of juice, your sugar intake is much higher compared to that of one apple for example.

A medium sized apple on average contains 18.9 grams of sugar, whereas one glass (250 ml) of apple juice contains a staggering 38.5 grams!

Additionally, drinking one glass of juice doesn’t really fill us up as eating one piece of fresh fruit would. After drinking, you’re still left hungry. This makes it tempting to eat something with a juice as well.

One reason for that is the fact that the drink does not contain fiber. But what you might not have known is that chewing actually signals your brains to give you a ‘full’ feeling, but drinking a juice doesn’t involve the need to chew!

 

pack of fruit with 100% natural ingredients

 

‘Better life’ labels

In the Netherlands, some packages of meat contain labels that indicate that the animals had a better life before slaughter compared to meat without the label. There are four options here. A package either doesn’t have a sticker, or it has a sticker with one, two, or three stars.

 

chicken with better life label

 

Meat labeled with one through three stars is not considered organic, but it is considered better by law. Personally though, we believe that people might not be aware of the meaning of these labels. So here we’d like to give a short explanation to show what a ‘better’ life means for laying hens.

Laying hens that have a ‘better life’ must, by law, see daylight, have access to hay bales and concrete blocks, and be fed grain every day.

All other factors of their lives are left unspecified. One can think of factors such high population density and beak trimming.

Does that sound like a great life?

 

Healthier snacks

We both love crisps and other crunchy salty snacks. A recent alternative to the regular potato crisps that has gained a lot of ground is vegetable crisps.

What most people might not realize though, is that potato is a vegetable too! Instead of slices of potato, vegetable crisps are often made of sweet potato, carrot, beet, and parsnip. These vegetables hold a similar amount of carbohydrates and hence the same amount of sugar.

Additionally, these crisps are fried in oil just like the original ones, and contain a similar amount of salt. So if you think that vegetable crisps are a healthy option, think again!

 

bag of regular chips next to vegetable chips

 

These two bags of salty snacks contain an almost equal amount of calories. Per 100 grams, the vegetable crisps contain more fat (8.7 grams) and more salt (0.3 grams) than Doritos! Doritos even have much more protein (2.4 grams)!

 

What is said in commercials

Commercials on TV sometimes really bother us. We don’t mind to see advertisements, you can find great new things you couldn’t have imagined that exist through advertisements.

Some things however are phrased in a way that makes everything sound perfect. Here’s a quote from a commercial for butter that is currently running on Dutch TV:

Children should eat more plants. No, not every part of the plant! Just the oil, that comes from the seeds.

Children should really be eating more fruit and veg, not just butter just because contains sunflower oil.

Obviously this is just one example. Try to look at the commercials critically when you watch TV and you might see some interesting claims!

 

Magical terms

Food in supermarkets these days is heavily marked with a wide array of different terms. If you just look around once, you are bound to see terms such as: natural, organic, gluten-free, healthy, hormone free, non-GMO, and spelt.

The problem starts with the fact that many of these have no formal definition to which they need to oblige. Companies can thus, within some bounds, use these words as they wish, resulting in confusion with consumers as to what they are actually buying.

The general meaning of the term ‘natural’ for example, solely means that a product no artificial additives. It however does not reflect any other aspect of the food chain, such as the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and preservation techniques.

It thus also certainly does not mean that a natural product is healthier than a ‘non-natural’ counterpart.

In the Netherlands, there seems the be a trend towards spelt. We see it advertised for on many packages in bold letters. Spelt however is not healthier than your regular wheat, it is even less healthy.

 

bag of spelt pitas

 

Spelt namely contains slightly more fat, less protein, less fiber, and more carbohydrates. Now, whole grain spelt certainly is not a bad option, but it isn’t better than whole wheat.

Luckily, the term organic is officially defined and monitored quite closely in most places. Although we do promote the use of organic products, they are not necessarily healthier for you, which many people do tend to think. The term mainly reflects on the production process. It basically means, among others, that no artificial fertilizers or pesticides can be used.

We think it is important to be aware of the meaning of these terms, in particular the terms that lack an official definition. We’ve even read about bottles of gluten-free water!

 

And many, many more

What we’ve mentioned above are just some examples we thought of, but there are of course many more.

We think it is important for people to understand and learn the difference between marketing techniques and facts.

By being aware and taking the time to look at what you buy, you can more easily make responsible choices for yourself and your children. Most of the information you need can be obtained by just reading the package thoroughly.

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