Debunking Marketing Terms on Food Labels

When I first started Teffola, I sort of imagined that there was this great big entity that would “check” my packaging for clarity or accuracy or even that it made sense to customers. Of course, the truth is there is far less oversight than that. Companies use psychology to know what words to use to increase the odds that a customer will purchase. And many of those words are just marketing terms that don't really mean anything in practice. 

We’ve outlined a couple below that you might want to keep an eye on - especially that last one!

Superfood - Oxford dictionary definition says a superfood is a “nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being”. Nutrient-rich foods are basically any whole food from bell peppers to steak to acai berry powder. As for being especially beneficial for health and well-being? Protein found in black beans is healthy. The Vitamin A and K found in iceberg lettuce is very beneficial. I suppose companies will point to the word “especially” but no government department is able to quantify that. 

Just because it’s an ingredient you might not have really heard of before and the health food store is charging $20/pound for it, doesn’t mean it’s a supercharged food that’s going to suddenly counteract any less nutrient dense food you might have enjoyed. 

All/100% Natural - There is absolutely no regulation from any organization that oversees the use of “All Natural”. What does natural mean? That it came from nature? Well there are a lot of things in nature that aren’t good for you (eg. mercury, snake venom, arsenic). And a lot of ways to take what nature has given us and manipulate it into something potentially harmful like taking poppy seeds and creating oxycodone. Or corn which can be turned in ethanol, acetone and butanol. 

Free Range & Pasture Raised - Again, zero regulation on this. Free range could mean there are 100 chickens in a 200 sq foot cage. Pasture raised sounds wonderful but how are they quantifying raised? Is there a certain number of days in the first 100 days of the cows life that is spent in a pasture? There’s no oversight of how big that pasture or cage is. 

Guilt free - I read a lot of ingredient labels for all kinds of foods. Never have I come across guilt as an ingredient, nutrient, or chemical. Food is calories and calories are a unit of energy. Like cups are a unit of volume. Do some calories have more nutrients than others? For sure. Do the contents of a food item get to dictate your worth as an individual? No. 

This is just a small list to get you thinking a bit more critically at the store. Have you seen any other buzzy marketing jargon that you aren't sure about? Send it my way and we'll get to the bottom of it - contact Claire!