Manipulative Marketing: 3 Ways You’re Being Fooled with Food Advertising Tricks
We’ve all heard plenty of health food buzz words like non-GMO, gluten-free, organic, reduced fat, whole grain, fresh and natural. We set our eyes on these reminders and trust that the product we’re about to purchase is healthy. But are we too quick to believe everything we see and confide in company claims? How trustworthy are these labels and have we become victims of manipulative marketing and misleading advertisements? With big name companies receiving protests and lawsuits regarding deceptive marketing, can we really believe what’s being pushed toward us? There are countless ways that companies we love and trust can fool us, and here are some of the strategies they use to reel us in with food advertising tricks.
The Healthy Whole Grains Claim
When it comes to manipulative marketing, the common claim that whole grains are healthy takes the cake. If you’re not reading the label carefully, you’re going to think that you’re getting the goodness of whole grains in every serving. In reality, most of the bread that claims to have whole grains is actually made with refined flour. If you want to make sure that you’re eating whole grains, the FDA points out that it should be the first (and hopefully only) item on the ingredient list. Too bad that the processed loaves sitting on shelves today don’t come close to the whole grains of the past. Plus, if you read up on the negative effects of whole grain, you’ll realize that it spikes blood sugar and contributes to diabetes. Still feel like eating a bowl of Mini-Wheats in the morning?
Advertising as Fresh or Natural
Nowadays, you’ll find the word natural on just about everything. However, just because a product says that it’s fresh or natural doesn’t mean that it’s good for you. In fact, some products that claim to be natural can actually contain high fructose corn syrup and GMOs. It also doesn’t help that the FDA has no stance on natural labeled products, other than stating it won’t object to placing the word on labels if it means that the food omits synthetic ingredients, artificial flavors or added color. This means that practically any manufacturer or company can slap the natural sticker on a product, in hopes to confuse shoppers with manipulative marketing and have them believe it’s the healthiest item out there.
Hiding Harmful Ingredients
While on the topic of fresh and natural, who could forget about the yoga mat chemical found in Subway’s bread? Azodicarbonamide, a food additive that’s used as a dough conditioner and flour bleaching agent, is the same chemical that’s used in the production of rubber and plastic materials (like your yoga mat). Even though the harmful ingredient is banned in other countries, it continues to exist in the United States and lurks in loads of products that you probably already eat. Unfortunately, we unknowingly consume harmful ingredients all the time. Similar to the Subway incident, Fireball Cinnamon Whisky recently received ridicule about using propylene glycol in its liquor. The whisky has already been recalled in three other countries, but continues to be sold with the antifreeze ingredient in the United States. Who cares if we’re drinking engine coolant, right?
Advertising Ethics: Who’s to Blame for Manipulative Marketing?
Since it’s clearly easy for marketing companies and food industries to mislead and confuse consumers, it’s no surprise that we continue to get taken advantage of through manipulative marketing. We rely on specific companies or brands to be honest and we strive to be as health-conscious as possible, but is it enough? Should these manipulative marketing companies take responsibility and start showing a code of ethics for consumers? It definitely would be nice, but some companies care about making a profit instead of looking out for shoppers. In order to put them in their place, it’s important for consumers to read food labels and question products before buying into bogus claims.