Disclaimer: My mom is one smart cookie, and rarely gets
fooled. (Get it? Cookie. It's a nutritional blog post.)
As a recent marketing grad (yes, we have entered the workforce
and are coming for you), I live for trying to spin phrases or use
buzzwords to make a product sound revolutionary. Buzzwords play a
huge role in attracting attention, but sadly they can also be used
to skew consumer perceptions of packaging-confusing them at best
and outright misleading them at worst. There's a difference between
saying a product has "forceflex" technology and misrepresenting
nutritional benefits, but where is the line? And what is the danger
when that line is crossed?
Not everyone has time to stay up-to-date on the newest jargon
that takes advantage of popular scientific results. (I just got
cable for the first time in five years; I can name all members of
the Real Housewives, including Miami now. So that takes up a lot of
my downtime.). In all seriousness,
nutrition labels often have confusing information that is crammed
into a tiny space and nearly impossible to understand for most
people. It's hard to know what you're buying, let alone what's
actually in the product you're buying. For countless reasons, most
consumers know very little about the items they are purchasing for
themselves and for their families. To help clear up some of the
confusion, below is a guide for understanding why "all natural"
doesn't mean what you think it means.
Caution: These Labels Can be Misleading or
Labels to Look For
This is what you want to see instead of "natural." Products are
produced without growth hormones, use minimal pesticides, and
contain only natural preservatives (salt, etc.).
Fair Trade USA is a non-profit organization that ensures
products are grown-and sold-in an ethical manner. That means fair
wages for employees, better prices for farmers, and less middleman.
Although not exactly a nutritional concern, it's a good way to help
Founded in 2006, AWA is a food label for meat and dairy products
that certifies the animals were treated humanely. This helps
sustainable farming, makes sure the animals aren't force fed, and
guarantees a good living environment. So although "free
range" is a tricky gray area, this picture is trustworthy.
It takes time and effort to research each label on your food
products, but for common labels, it's worth it. When my mom said
that "all natural" meant that the food doesn't contain
preservatives, honestly, it worried me. The thought of her buying
food that she assumes is healthy (and for good reason), but instead
uses a marketing ploy, is frustrating. Thankfully, major steps
forward have been made in the past five years toward legally
defining keywords so that labels are more transparent, making it
easier for future generations to eat right without the work.