I know you were hoping I’d write about the food at the Royal Wedding this morning but since my invitation got lost in the mail I have no basis upon which to comment. Not that I’ve ever let that stand in my way before. I do have experience with food shopping, however, and I read a lot of labels as I do so. Those labels – and the packages on which they reside – are today’s food thought and of course it ties into business – and just maybe your health – as well.
I’m still engaged in my “healthier Keith” campaign and it’s paying off. I had to buy jeans two sizes smaller the other day and even I was surprised, albeit pleasantly. The key to this new diet is paying a lot of attention to what’s in any packaged foods I buy and boy, is that a lot harder than it ought to be.
Take bread for instance. The packages for everything – including crappy old white bread – all seem to stress how healthy and wholesome the product is. I mean even Pop Tarts claims a serving of whole grain on their whole wheat style as if that negates the 15 grams of sugar. When you read the ingredient list and nutrition information on the label the story is often quite different from what’s claimed in much bigger letters elsewhere on the package.
Wheat bread vs. whole wheat bread vs. whole grain wheat bread. Sugar vs. corn syrup vs. cane syrup vs. agave. It’s really confusing and I think the food industry likes it that way, frankly. Even the nutrition labelling can be confusing since not all carbs are the same, the Glycemic Index isn’t on a lot of packages much less the Glycemic Load. When you try to find sugar-free products, Stevia doesn’t behave in your body the same way Splenda does and the sugar alcohols are very different from everything else. Rather than trying to clarify things for consumers, it feels as if the food industry is happy with the confusion. The fact that a manufacturer can buy a “heart-healthy” label from a sanctioning body to make you think a product loaded with crap is good for you is kind of indicative that there’s a problem.
That’s my business point. If you can’t sell something without being evasive about it, maybe you need to rethink the product. As an example, Smart Start cereal wraps itself in a healthy image and yet sugar and other sweeteners show up 10 times on the ingredient list. Is that really a smart start? I’m not sure how I’d solve the problem – obviously you can’t put out a label that says this box contains a lot of stuff that will lead to obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease. But should the folks in the food or any other industry be deliberately misleading? I think that becomes self-defeating. What do you think?
Enjoy the weekend – read a label!