This Foodie Friday I want to talk about something I call “meaningless marketing” in the food industry although I think you’ll see that the principle behind the term holds true in any industry. Meaningless marketing is the use of words that really have no meaning. More importantly, in some cases, the words are used specifically because they might trick consumers into thinking they’re saying one thing when, in fact, they’re not.
Let’s use the term “natural” in the food business. One might read it on a package or a menu and think “this food is wholesome, healthy, and unadulterated.” Unlike many terms in marketing, “natural” isn’t regulated so in actuality the food in question can have artificial ingredients, preservatives, pesticides, and be made from GMOs. Not quite what the consumer is thinking, but exactly what the purveyor is hoping they will.
“Natural” isn’t the only meaningless phrase used in food marketing. “Delicious”, “Made With Whole Grains“, “A Good Source Of Fiber (or anything else)”, and “Low Sugar” or “Lightly Sweetened” are all other examples. As you might expect, I have issues with any form of deceptive marketing but I think when it’s done to induced people to consume unhealthy foods while the consumer thinks otherwise is pretty low.
The truth is that there is no “meaningless marketing.” It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. People see and hear things and act accordingly. I realize that there is a responsibility on the consumer’s part to read the labels or to garner information from other sources, but if companies aren’t honest about that labeling, thereby making the consumer’s research more difficult, how can any of us call ourselves a consumer-friendly brand that acts in the customer’s best interest?