Category Archives: food marketing

Because breakfast wasn’t bad enough … introducing the Jimmy Dean for lunch

Jimmy-Dean-Macaroni-and-CheeseWe get it. Brands need to keep growing. They need to break into new markets. Develop increased market share. Find new customers. FoodFacts.com understands this applies to every brand … not simply the ones that offer consumers healthier options. But we have to confess that seeing Jimmy Dean branch outside of the breakfast food arena might have been a bit too much for us.

Jimmy Dean isn’t our idea of a healthy brand. The ingredient lists for the majority of their breakfast sandwiches are far too long and far from healthy. Needless to say we really couldn’t get excited about their new lunch options.

We decided to look a little further and picked the Smoked Bacon Mac and Cheese Bowl as our subject. There are plenty of other options but we went with this one because honestly it’s one of the better offerings in the new lunch line.

First let’s look at the nutrition facts:

Calories:                         440
Fat:                                 15 grams
Saturated Fat:                8 grams
Cholesterol:                   45 mg
Sodium:                         1020 mg

O.k., it isn’t a burger — but that doesn’t make it good. And we’re really not happy about the sodium level in this lunch option. Let’s make a loose comparison. You can have a cup of Betty Crocker Cheese Pizza Macaroni and Cheese (about 236 grams as opposed to the 255 gram serving size for the Smoked Bacon Macaroni and Cheese Bowl) for 80 less calories, 13 less grams of fat, no saturated fat at all, and 530 mg less sodium. We should point out that there’s no bacon in that one. But there’s still a big difference between the fat and sodium content of the two products.

The ingredient list follows:

Ingredients: Elbow Macaroni (Water, Durum Wheat Semolina, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, and Folic Acid), White Three Cheese Sauce (Water, Skim Milk, Cheddar/Parmesan, Mozzarella Cheese (Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Cream, Corn Starch, Whey, Natural Flavors, Salt, Sodium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Xanthan Gum, Spice and Yeast Extract), Shredded Cheddar Cheese (Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto Color), Bacon (Cured with Water, Salt, Sugar, Sodium Phosphates, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite, Smoke Flavoring)

Like we said, this is one of the better Jimmy Dean lunch products. We’re still not thrilled with the list and believe that it could be a lot better.

But if you’ve ever taken a good look at the ingredient lists for the Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches, the Smoked Bacon Mac and Cheese Lunch Bowl is actually an improvement, albeit a slight one.

The next time we’re craving macaroni and cheese, we’re making it from scratch with our own choice of ingredients. Yes, it’s certainly an indulgence, but FoodFacts.com is much more comfortable with an occassional indulgence with better ingredients than we are with Jimmy Dean for lunch!

http://www.jimmydean.com/products/bowls/smoked-bacon-mac-cheese-bowl#nutritional_info

Lawsuit against Chobani claims it’s not really Greek yogurt and is misleading consumers about nutrition

Chobani_AP2Lawsuits against food manufacturers have been in the news constantly over the last few years. Manufacturers have removed “All Natural” claims from their labels more than a few times because of disgruntled consumers discovering that those claims really weren’t the truth. FoodFacts.com has always felt that the voices of consumers do eventually motivate postive changes in the food industry. And those lawsuits certainly have been motivational for many manufacturers. The latest lawsuit we’ve been reading about is something we want to call to your attention because it may stir up some different feelings.

According to the New York Post, Barry Stoltz and Allan Chang are suing Chobani, alleging that the companies falsely represent their product by hiding the amount of sugar in their yogurt and by calling it “Greek.” Chobani Greek Yogurt is about as nutritious as eating a fudge ice cream bar,the lawsuit claims.

The 48-page suit, which accuses the best-selling brand of deceiving consumers about its health benefits, sounds more like a Jerry Seinfeld routine.

But its irony is unintentional.

“There is nothing ‘Greek’ about the products,” the complaint says. “None of the products sold in the U.S. are made in Greece or made by Greek nationals.”

“The name of the brand itself is not Greek,” noting that it is derived from the Turkish word “chobani,” which means shepherd, and the company’s founder is Turkish.

The suit contends Chobani products contain about 16 grams of sugar, virtually the same sweetness as a Nestlé Fudge ice cream bar.

Chobani allegedly creates further confusion for consumers by prominently displaying a “0%” on the label “without providing any context as to what the 0% represents,” the suit alleges.

The plaintiffs — Barry Stoltz of Scarsdale and Allan Chang of Queens — filed the class-action suit in Brooklyn Federal Court and are seeking unspecified monetary damages for apparently being tricked into thinking that 0%, which actually means it’s nonfat, refers to zero calories or sugar.

“With deceptive packaging and marketing, consumers are deceived into thinking that junk food can be a healthy alternative,” said lawyer C.K. Lee of Manhattan, who filed the suit.

Chobani, based in upstate Norwich, said a similar lawsuit had been tossed in California. The company said it is “committed to using only natural ingredients.”

It also schooled Stoltz and Chang on where Chobani is made.

“Much like English muffins and French fries, our fans understand Greek yogurt to be a product description about how we authentically make our yogurt and not about where we make our yogurt in upstate New York and Idaho,” the company said in a statement.

FoodFacts.com was thrilled to see Subway move to eliminate azodicarbonamide from its breads and rolls because consumers made their voices heard. We were equally happy about Gatorade removing brominated vegetable oil from their products that previously contained the controversial ingredient. We applauded Kashi removing the “all natural” claims from their products because of a lawsuit. It is certainly true that consumers would feel misled by claims that are obviously untrue.

Have to admit though, that none of us here at FoodFacts.com ever considered the possibility that ANY of the mainstream brands of Greek yogurt are actually manufactured in Greece by Greek nationals — unless of course we’re talking about imported products, which we’re not. We’re pretty positive that the overwhelming majority of consumers understand that what we’re talking about are products manufactured in the Greek style of yogurt preparation.

As far as the sugar content is concerned, we have to be honest here, 16 grams (while certainly higher than we’d like) is actually right in the ballpark for most mainstream brands. If you’ve been reading nutrition labels for yogurts, you probably know this already.

We’ve posted about this lawsuit for your consideration. Is this a reasonable claim?

FoodFacts.com would really like for consumers to use careful consideration before filing any lawsuit against food manufacturers. Please don’t get us wrong, legal claims are a great tool to change what is actually wrong with how food manufacturers market products. We just want to make sure they’re used to do just that. We’re really not so sure this particular lawsuit fits that bill. What do you think?

http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2014/06/24/greek-yogurt-giants-chobani-and-fage-facing-lawsuits-over-sugar-and-greekness/
http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/chobani-yogurt-greek-deceives-customers-lawsuit-article-1.1836844

Misleading healthy eating concepts food marketers love and nutrition experts don’t

ExpertsWe know that food manufacturers routinely use language to convey health benefits of products that may or may not actually be there. We’ve covered plenty of information about food marketing that hopefully helps us all be more aware of some of the words manufacturers are using to create healthier images for their products. But it goes beyond words … marketers exploit healthy eating concepts every day, shaping our opinions and our purchases.

A recent Huffington Post article gives new perspective into what nutrition experts are especially sensitive to on food labels — and want all of us to be sensitive to as well. FoodFacts.com thinks their insights are well worth sharing.

“There is so much nutrition misinformation out there,” says Appetite for Health’s Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD, “and add on the fact that marketers often use ‘health halo’ descriptors to sell products, it’s no wonder Americans are confused about what’s really healthy to eat.”
To help clear up some of the confusion, a group of nutrition experts were asked to dish on the healthy eating concepts we’re most commonly misusing. Here are eight of the worst offenders.

“Detox”

“If I could erase one word from the dietary dictionary it would be ‘detox’. The idea that certain foods or nutrients will speed up or enhance your body’s detoxification process is just silly. The best way to help your body get the toxins out is to put fewer in.”

–Monica Reinagel, MS, LDN, CNS, HuffPost blogger and author of Nutrition Diva’s Secrets for A Healthy Diet

“Good” Foods And “Bad” Foods

“I don’t like saying there are good foods and bad foods — it’s so judgmental! I’m not saying French fries aren’t loaded with calories, fat and sodium, or ice cream isn’t rich in calories, fat and sugar, but saying they’re ‘bad’ foods invokes guilt on those who enjoy these comfort foods. Eating and enjoying food — even foods that aren’t the most nutritious — shouldn’t ever be done with guilt or shame. Eating should be one of the great pleasures of life! And if you learn to eat with pleasure, you may even feel more satisfied with less food.”

–Elisa Zied, MS, RDN, CDN, author of Younger Next Week

“Clean”

“Everything is all about ‘clean’ foods, a ‘clean’ diet, but there is absolutely no definition of what ‘clean eating’ means. Many athletes refer to ‘clean’ as eating natural, wholesome, real foods and fewer processed options. I think that makes sense, but I don’t know why we need to call it ‘clean’ instead of healthy eating. I’m starting to see marketers say their processed products are made with “clean” ingredients, so to me this is just a meaningless term. I think, ‘You’ve been had!’ when I hear friends use the term.”

–Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD, Appetite for Health

“I shy away from the term ‘clean eating’. I appreciate that people use the term to describe eating plans that include high-quality, unprocessed foods and perhaps organic and locally-grown foods, and I applaud their efforts to eat nutritious foods. But I have a hard time with the clean-eating label because it makes me think that if you’re not eating ‘clean’ then you’re eating ‘dirty.’ Also, clean eating doesn’t necessarily equal a balanced diet. As much as I’ve tried to embrace the clean eating term, I sense some shame in it. For example, people may feel bad that they can’t ‘eat clean,’ because the cost is prohibitive or it’s inconvenient. And I sometimes get the idea that die-hard clean eaters look down on people who don’t eat the same way, and that they use the term to define themselves rather than their eating. I’d love it if we could ditch the eating labels and try to eat the fewest processed foods possible as part of a balanced diet we can afford and live with in the long-run.”

–Elizabeth M. Ward, RD, author of MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better

“Low-Carb”

“The one that gets to me the most is when people tell me they eat ‘low-carb’, or [say] ‘I don’t eat sugar.’ I always ask, ‘What does that mean for you?’ I constantly find myself explaining that carbs are in multiple food groups. There are grams of carbohydrates (a.k.a. sugar) in bread and bread products and fruits, but also in other foods that you may not think of as having grams of carbs, like unsweetened yogurt and vegetables. Once I explain the basics of food science, the ‘low-carb’ proclamation that so many claim to adhere to is not accurate.”

–Marjorie Nolan Cohn, MS, RD, CDN, ACSM-HFS, national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and author of Belly Fat Fix

“Gluten-Free”

“Many people who tout the wonders of going without gluten don’t even know what gluten is — and there is little evidence that those who do not have celiac disease (only a small percentage of the population) [or non-celiac gluten sensitivity] will benefit from a gluten-free diet.”

–Katherine Brooking MS, RD, Appetite for Health

“Fruit Has Too Much Sugar”

“While fruit does indeed contain natural sugar, it comes along with great nutrition, such as vitamin C and fiber. One of my favorite fruits is grapes. They are [around 100] calories for a cup and are loaded with antioxidants and vitamin K. It’s natural to enjoy sweet foods — so getting a natural sugar fix from fruit rather than candy is smart. Aim for two cups or two pieces of fruit per day.”

–Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, CSSD, LDN, HuffPost blogger and author of The Flexitarian Diet

“Breakfast Is The Most Important Meal Of The Day”

“NOT! All meals are important for different reasons. Each one plays a role in keeping you energized and at the top of your game.”

–Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, health and nutrition expert for the “Today” show and founder of Nourish Snacks

“Made With Simple Ingredients”

“This is popular with brands that say things like ‘made with ingredients you can see and pronounce.’ We all know what simple means, but ‘simple’ is now a marketing buzzword showing up on supermarket shelves. The ‘simple’ foods have a more wholesome look and may make you believe that you’re buying something that’s better for you and your family.

I’m all for foods with a single ingredient, like apples, bananas, broccoli, nuts, eggs, lean meats and fish, to name a few. They’re all as simple as foods can come and are loaded with nutrition and provide major health benefits. We’d all be healthier and live longer if we ate single-ingredient foods most of the time.

The new ‘simple’ foods I’m talking about are things like gourmet ice cream, cookies, candy, butter and other foods that may contain just a few ingredients. The problem is, those simple, all-natural ingredients don’t provide a nutritional punch. I’m talking about sugar, cream, salt and oil. There is no shortfall of these ‘simple’ ingredients in the typical American diet, so positioning them as a health bonus is just, well, bogus.”

Thanks for the great information, Huffington Post. And for the reminder that there are plenty of food trends that don’t begin with solid information from experts, but instead are the results of ideas that manufacturers want out there in the population at large. We’ve been hearing that breakfast is the most important meal of the day for decades. That may very well have come from a cereal manufacturer and it went viral before social media ever existed. Along with words and phrases like “all natural” and “whole grain,” let’s keep concepts like those noted here as well. We’ll all be happier and healthier eaters!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/23/nutrition-misunderstood_n_5508695.html

Just because it says it’s healthy, doesn’t mean it is .

iStock_000003492931SmallPretty simple concept, isn’t it? Or at least it should be. But food marketers are well aware that minds can be swayed in a particular direction with the use of some very simple language.

Health-related buzzwords, such as “antioxidant,” “gluten-free” and “whole grain,” lull consumers into thinking packaged food products labeled with those words are healthier than they actually are, according to a new research study conducted by scholars at the University of Houston (UH).

That “false sense of health,” as well as a failure to understand the information presented in nutrition facts panels on packaged food, may be contributing to the obesity epidemic in the United States, said Temple Northup, an assistant professor at the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication at UH.

“Saying Cherry 7-Up contains antioxidants is misleading. Food marketers are exploiting consumer desires to be healthy by marketing products as nutritious when, in fact, they’re not,” said Northup, principal investigator of the study, “Truth, Lies, and Packaging: How Food Marketing Creates a False Sense of Health.”

The study examined the degree to which consumers link marketing terms on food packaging with good health. It found that consumers tend to view food products labeled with health-related euphemisms as healthier than those without them. The research also showed that the nutrition facts panels printed on food packaging as required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration do little to counteract that buzzword marketing.

“Words like organic, antioxidant, natural and gluten-free imply some sort of healthy benefit,” Northup said. “When people stop to think about it, there’s nothing healthy about Antioxidant Cherry 7-Up — it’s mostly filled with high fructose syrup or sugar. But its name is giving you this clue that there is some sort of health benefit to something that is not healthy at all.”

The study also looks at the “priming” psychology behind the words to explain why certain words prompt consumers to assign a health benefit to a food product with unhealthy ingredients.

“For example, if I gave you the word ‘doctor,’ not only ‘doctor’ would be accessible in your mind — now all these other things would be accessible in your mind — ‘nurse,’ ‘stethoscope,’ etc.,” Northup said. “What happens when these words become accessible, they tend to influence or bias your frame of mind and how you evaluate something.”

This triggered concept is then available to influence later thoughts and behaviors, often without explicit awareness of this influence — the so-called priming effect, Northup said.

Northup developed an experiment using priming theory to gather quantitative research on how food marketers influence consumers. He developed an online survey that randomly showed images of food products that either included actual marketing words, like organic, or a Photoshop image removing any traces of those words, thereby creating two different images of the same product. A total of 318 study participants took the survey to rate how “healthy” each product was.

The products with trigger words in their labels analyzed in the study were: Annie’s Bunny Fruit Snacks (Organic), Apple Sauce (Organic), Chef Boyardee Beefaroni (Whole Grain), Chef Boyardee Lasagna (Whole Grain), Chocolate Cheerios (Heart Healthy), Cherry 7-Up (Antioxidant), Smuckers Peanut Butter (All Natural) and Tostitos (All Natural).

Northup found when participants were shown the front of food packaging that included one of those trigger words, they would rate the items as healthier.

“I took a label from Cherry 7-Up Antioxidant and Photoshop it without the word ‘antioxidant’ and only the words, ‘Cherry 7-Up.’ I then asked people via the online survey which one they thought was healthier,” said Northup. “Each time a participant saw one of the triggering words on a label, they would identify it as healthier than the other image without the word. ”

After completing the product evaluations, the study participants then reviewed the nutrition facts panels on a variety of products. These labels would be presented two at a time so the participants could choose the healthier food or drink option.

“Food marketers say there are nutritional labels, so people can find out what’s healthy and what’s not,” he said. “Findings from this research study indicate people aren’t very good at reading nutritional labels even in situations where they are choosing between salmon and Spam. Approximately 20 percent picked Spam as the healthier option over salmon,” said Northup.

Northup hopes the results of this study will contribute to an increased dialogue on how food is marketed, guide development of specific media literacy and help people understand the effects of how food is marketed to consumers.

While we like to think of ourselves as sophisticated consumers (and just about everyone these days considers themselves as such), the proliferation of those small , yet powerful words on food labels everywhere — even where they don’t make sense — speaks directly to their actual influence. Antioxidant soda? Whole grain canned macaroni? Can those words actually manage to make an unhealthy product full of bad ingredients healthy? We know they can’t and yet, somehow, time after time, consumers are fooled. Armed with the insight as to why this manufacturers ploy continues to work, FoodFacts.com suggests we all think a little harder the next time we’re attracted to a product label bearing an extra descriptive word or two.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140613130717.htm

McDonalds doesn’t want kids to see Ronald McDonald eating a Big Mac

RonFood marketing to kids is a very controversial subject. There have been many different studies done that do show that all the characters and computer games and TV commercials influence kids to beg their parents for foods we’d probably rather they not eat. And there have been many “agreements” between food companies that have them pledging to change their marketing strategies when it comes to bad food and kids. Most of those pledges aren’t technically broken, as food companies find different ways to get their messages across to the youngest among us. Fast food companies make attempts at making their children’s meals healthier, but somehow or another those fries seem to sneak back into that Happy Meal. Are the food companies intentionally sidestepping responsibility? And what about that Happy Meal anyway?

When Ronald McDonald was first introduced to America in the 1960s, he wore a magic belt that dispensed an endless supply of hamburgers.

But today, according to both food advocates and McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson, America’s most recognizable clown won’t go near a Big Mac.

“You don’t see Ronald McDonald in schools. You don’t see him eating food,” Thompson said Thursday at the company’s annual shareholder meeting, according to multiple reports.

This, health activists say, is so McDonald’s can deflect criticism that it willfully markets the unhealthy food to children.

“They think that by not having him consume the food, it’s not encouraging kids to patronize the brand,” said Jesse Bragg of Corporate Accountability International, a food advocacy group that has been pushing for Ronald’s retirement for years.

In the past, said Bragg, McDonald’s has been criticized for having Ronald visit schools to teach phys ed and appear in connection with charities that work on behalf of sick children.

The company has kept Ronald at arm’s length from its food for years now, nutrition advocates say.

“At least since they joined the Better Business Bureau program in 2006, they’ve been saying they wouldn’t use Ronald McDonald to sell food,” said Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a group that says it helped persuade McDonald’s to join an inititative run by the BBB that sets nutrition standards for advertising food to children under 12.

And Ronald’s abstemious habits may go back much further than that. Geoffrey Giuliano, who portrayed Ronald in public appearances in the late 1970s and early 1980s and is today an outspoken critic of the company, once said in an interview that he “was never allowed to eat the food” while in character because it would have been “unseemly.”

In 2007, Jim Skinner, then CEO of McDonald’s, told Reuters that “Ronald McDonald has never sold food to kids in the history of his existence.”
When asked if it was official policy to keep Ronald McDonald away from the food he was created to promote, McDonald’s spokeswoman Becca Hary said only that “when Ronald McDonald appears in public, he is focused on spreading joy and smiles.” Hary declined to comment on how long this has been the case.

Marketing experts say it doesn’t really matter whether Ronald is ever actually seen eating in public: Kids will still associate him with Big Macs and Happy Meals.

“Kids are hardwired to think that he equals McDonald’s,” said branding strategist Adam Hanft, founder of the marketing firm Hanft Projects.
“There’s a test in marketing where they put people under a full magnetic resonance imaging machine, like a brain scan essentially, and they show people images, and different parts of the brain light up,” Hanft said. “If you showed kids Ronald McDonald, all the reward centers of the brain would go crazy like July 4th. Because he equals the hamburger.”

Ronald McDonald doesn’t sell food? His sole purpose is to spread joy and smiles? FoodFacts.com doesn’t remember Toucan Sam eating Froot Loops. Snap, Crackle and Pop never ate Rice Krispies. They still sold products. Ronald McDonald isn’t an ambassador of goodwill — he’s the mascot for McDonald’s hamburgers. That’s not a smiley face embroidered on his pocket — he wears the golden arches on his jumpsuit.

Come on McDonald’s, we may be gullible, but we are smart enough to understand why the big guy exists. And even if the kids don’t realize it, when they see him they ask their moms for a hamburger.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/28/ronald-mcdonald-is-never_n_5380825.html

Are Kashi and Bear Naked misleading consumers with “natural” claims?

In early December two class action lawsuits were certified by the United States District Court for the Southern District of California against two popular “natural” product companies — Kashi and Bear Naked Inc. The lawsuits claim that both companies have misled consumers with false claims of “100% Natural” or “Nothing Artificial” ingredient lists. The court has ruled that the plaintiffs have proven that some of the “natural” ingredient claims are not true and some of the ingredients used were synthetic.

FoodFacts.com is all too familiar with manufacturer claims of “natural” ingredients. There are many ways companies can make that claim legally, regardless of whether or not we would consider it true. Kashi and its subsidiary Bear Naked Inc. certainly wouldn’t be the first companies to assert that their claim of “natural” ingredients” is consistent with current federal law.

This lawsuit specifically states that Kashi and Bear Naked products were found to contain Alph-Tocopherol Acetate and Hexane-processed soy ingredients. Hexane is listed as a federal hazardous pollutant and was identified as a toxic contaminant by the California Assembly in 1993.

Kashi is a leader in the natural foods market and has successfully branded itself as a nutritional, environmentally conscious manufacturer. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit hope to show that Kashi is deceptive about its branding and misleads consumers to believe that their products do not contain artificial ingredients. They assert that as a result of their misleading labeling, Kashi has been able to sell products to hundreds of thousands of consumers nationwide.

In addition, plaintiffs claim that Bear Naked labeled products containing potassium carbonate, glycerin and lecithin as “100% Natural”. These ingredients are all recognized synthetic chemicals under federal regulations.

Both companies deny that their labeling is misleading. Kashi and Bear Naked state that their claims are truthful and consistent with federal law. The trail will begin for both lawsuits on February 11, 2014.

It’s definitely worth noting that the use of the word “natural” by food manufacturers is in decline. That seems to be a direct result of lawsuits like these. FoodFacts.com believes that consumers are getting smarter about the branding practices of mainstream food manufacturers. But we also think that those same consumers can develop a strong relationship with companies like Kashi and Bear Naked because they aren’t necessarily viewed as mainstream manufacturers (even though they’re owned by Kellog’s). These aren’t the first lawsuits against these two companies. It’s worth keeping an eye out for the results. We’ll all be happier consumers when we can count on any manufacturer’s “natural” and “nothing artificial” claims.

http://www.examiner.com/article/court-certifies-lawsuit-against-kashi-bear-naked-for-false-natural-claims

The internet, food activism and food manufacturers

Internet influence on consumers is everywhere. Online information has changed so much about how we approach purchases of all kinds. We’re more educated, more aware and definitely more discerning about the products and services on which we choose to spend our money. And because of the internet, we can be a lot more vocal about our likes and dislikes – and our product requirements.

That fact is especially true when it comes to food purchases. American consumers are paying much closer attention to the foods and beverages they consume. And we’re letting manufacturers know loud and clear what we DON’T expect to find in our foods. Online petitions and popular blogs – as well as FoodFacts.com (our own website), are helping consumers learn more than they ever have before about the ingredients in the food products in our grocery stores. In addition to a much more detailed ingredient education, those resources are giving us all a bigger voice that is clearly being heard by food manufacturers.

Earlier this year, for example, PepsiCo Inc. said it would stop using brominated vegetable oil in Gatorade and find a another way to evenly distribute color in the sports drink. That action was based on an online petition started by a teenager from Mississippi.

Last year, Starbucks said it would stop using a red dye made of crushed bugs based on comments it received “through a variety of means,” including an online petition, and switch to a tomato-based extract.

Kraft Foods plans to replace artificial dyes with colors derived from natural spices in select varieties of its macaroni and cheese, a nod to the feedback it’s hearing from parents.

The internet has made consumers much more powerful in the eyes of food manufacturers. It’s helped our voices be heard and our demands be met. Online resources have certainly created a shift in how those manufacturers respond to their customers.

Ali Dibadj, a Bernstein analyst who covers the packaged food and beverage industry, says the changes reflect a shift from “democratization to activism” by consumers.

“It used to be that people would just decide not to buy the product. Now they’re actually agitating for change,” Dibadj said. “There’s a bullhorn – which is the Internet – so you can get a lot of people involved very quickly.”

There are no numbers tracking how many companies are reformulating products in response to consumer demand. But even if recipe changes aren’t in direct response to petitions or blogs, executives understand that ingredients can become a liability once they fall out of favor with the public.

High-fructose corn syrup, for example, has gained a negative image in recent years and has been blamed for fueling bad eating habits. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a health advocacy group, says the sweetener is no more harmful than ordinary sugar in large amounts. But Kroger Co. decided to remove it from store-brand cereals following surveys with consumers in 2011.

The supermarket chain isn’t alone. Over the past decade, the use of high-fructose corn syrup in packaged foods and drinks has fallen 18 percent to 6.1 million tons last year, according to market researcher Euromonitor International.

Not all companies are making changes, at least not right away. The same teenager who called for the removal of brominated vegetable oil in Gatorade, for instance, is now taking aim at Coca-Cola’s Powerade, which also contains the ingredient in select varieties. As of Tuesday, her newest petition had more than 57,000 supporters.

In a statement, Coca-Cola noted that all its ingredients comply with regulations. But the company also said it is “always looking for ways to evolve” its formulas.

Another petition that asks Mars Inc. to remove artificial colors from M&Ms had more than 141,000 signatures. In an emailed statement, the privately held company stressed the safety of its ingredients.

As the internet continues to evolve, it places more and more power into the hands of the consumer. No manufacturer likes bad press. And news travels very quickly through online channels. Food manufacturers are adapting to the idea that our opinions are more influential than ever and that our voices can be heard quickly by millions. That’s all good news for us, as we continue to express our nutritional and ingredient requirements to the food industry.

http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_289563/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=H9WkyLl7

Advergames … target marketing unhealthy food to our kids

FoodFacts.com has followed the issue of how food manufacturers market foods to children. We’ve posted about how the food industry is supposed to self-regulate and how they have stated their commitment to promoting healthier food choices to children. They haven’t been extremely successful in their efforts. Today on Slate.com, we read about how the industry has increased another marketing tactic called “advergames” as another powerful promotional tool. Here’s what they had to say:

Exactly as their name suggests, advergames combine advertising and addictive video games in a way that ensure kids bathe in product spots for as long as they click on the keyboard or smartphone. That might mean anything from popup ads unrelated to the action to whole experiences built around branded characters. Recently, Chipotle got a lot of attention for their Scarecrow commercial and its accompanying game/app, but examples are as numerous as your options for breakfast cereal. Sticking just to that aisle, there’s “Ice Block” from Fruit Loops, “Cap’n Crunch’s Crunchling Adventure,” and “Cookie Crisp City.”

Recently, researchers at Michigan State University analyzed more than 100 advergames to see whether any patterns emerged about the products being advertised. After looking at 145 different websites, the researchers identified 439 products from 19 brands. They then analyzed the nutritional contents of each of these products to see how they measured up against health recommendations for children.

Of the products advertised, approximately 95 percent of the meals and 78 percent of the snacks exceeded total fat content recommendations set by the United States Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. For sodium, 95 – 97 percent of the meals and 41 percent to 64 percent of the snacks failed to meet guidelines (depending on whether you’re using the USDA or FDA’s recommendations). And when it came to added sugar, 86.6 percent of meals and 97 percent of snacks exceed the USDA recommendations. (The FDA doesn’t make a recommendation for added sugar.)

There’s some powerful lobbying at work. In 2009, a number of government organizations were tasked with defining nutrition principles for foods marketed to children. It was aptly named the Interagency Working Group on Foods Marketed to Children, and it has failed repeatedly to stand up to the food industry. In fact, right now its official recommendation is for the industry to regulate itself.

Elizabeth Taylor Quilliam, one of the papers lead authors, says this was an interesting secondary takeaway from the research. “The fact that the agencies were not able to get together with one standard, and that it’s still up to the industry to self regulate is continuing to create this confusing environment where a lot of the messages getting through to kids may not be the ones that parents would want them to receive.”

FoodFacts.com did a little searching. We found games our kids are playing at BKcrown.com (Burger King), McVideogame.com (McDonald’s), PebblesPlay.com (Post Cereal), CrazySquares.com (General Mills Cinnamon Toast Crunch). Those are just a few of the branded sites. In addition, at GamesOnline.fm, you can play TacoFu from Taco Bell, at GameGape.com, you can play White Castle Chase the Crave and at CandyStand.com, you can play Gummi Grab, Sour then Sweet and Sour Patch Stunt Crew. We were only searching for about 10 minutes. There are plenty more like these out there. You’ll notice, though, that we didn’t find an advergame for an organic food brand. Pretty much sums it up.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/10/09/advergames_show_why_the_government_needs_to_stand_up_to_the_food_lobby.html

Food advertising on children’s websites doesn’t meet current nutritional standards

FoodFacts.com has featured our share of blog posts reviewing the ongoing battle to increase the quality of advertising foods targeted to children. In the past food companies have pledged to self-regulate the ads they are placing in the media, promising to promote healthier products for kids.

A new study out of the Yale Rudd Center and published online in Pediatric Obesity, finds that companies are placing billions of ads for unhealthy foods and beverages on children’s websites. The study evaluated banner ads and other display web advertising on sites that are popular with children – sites like Nick.com and CartoonNetwork.com. It’s the first study that looks closely at food advertising on the web that’s specifically aimed at children.

Rudd Center researchers used syndicated Internet usage data from comScore to identify popular children’s websites and the food advertisements viewed on those web sites from July 2009 through June 2010. Food ads were classified by category and the companies’ participation in the food industry’s self-regulatory program, the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI). Researchers also evaluated the nutritional quality of the advertised products. Most large food companies are a part of the CFBAI and have pledged to promote only healthier food choices in advertising targeted to children. Web advertising is included in that pledge.

Researchers found that 3.4 billion display advertisements for food and beverages were viewed on popular children’s websites annually. More than one-half of these ads appeared on just two Viacom sites: Nick.com and NeoPets.com. Children who visited NeoPets.com viewed on average 30 food ads per month. Food Manufacturers who are a part of the CFBAI placed 89% of the food advertisements on children’s websites.

Three-quarters of the advertisements promoted brands that food companies participating in CFBAI identified as healthier dietary choices for child-directed advertising, yet the products in 84% of those ads had high levels of fat, sugar, and/or sodium. Almost two-thirds of food ads were for sugary breakfast cereals and fast food. Researchers noted that advertised foods that were designated by CFBAI companies as healthier dietary choices appropriate for child-directed advertising were less likely to meet nutrition standards proposed by the government than other foods advertised to children.

To address limitations of the CFBAI, the U.S. Congress commissioned an Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children (IWG) with representatives from four government agencies to develop more effective guidelines for responsible food marketing to children. The authors assert that stronger nutrition standards are required for foods marketed to children, such as those proposed by the IWG, to meaningfully improve the nutritional quality of food and beverage advertising on children’s web sites.

There have been previous studies conducted in regards to food advertising on television that’s targeted to children. Those studies have shown that the self-regulatory concept of the CFBAI haven’t changed much on TV in terms of the nutritional quality of the foods marketed to kids. This study demonstrates that CFBAI pledges aren’t protecting children from web advertising of nutritionally poor foods. While the content of websites like Nick.com and CartoonNetwork.com are safe and engaging for children, over one-third of the food advertising that kids are seeing constantly on those sites are for foods that contain high levels of sugar, fat or sodium.

FoodFacts.com knows that any parent who has taken a child to a grocery store understands how much food advertising affects our kids. If it looked cool and fun on TV or on the internet, kids beg their parents to purchase the product. The point is that healthy foods can also be cool and fun and manufacturers can be more responsible about the products to which they are exposing our children. While we certainly understand that content is king for any website, when it comes to websites for children, adults need to consider more than the safety of the content their children are engaging with. When it comes to giving our children the healthiest start in life, ads count too. Let’s all practice viewing media choices for children through the lens of nutritional awareness!

http://news.yale.edu/2013/07/08/foods-advertised-popular-childrens-websites-do-not-meet-nutrition-standards

Progress in labeling … lawsuit against General Mills reaches a settlement

FoodFacts.com has been following the lawsuits that have been filed against various food manufacturers based on misleading labeling. Today, we have some news regarding one of those suits that was brought against General Mills by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and a consumer protection law firm.

It focused on Strawberry Naturally Flavored Fruit Roll-Ups – which actually aren’t made with any strawberries. That’s right, no strawberries at all – just pears from concentrate and some “natural flavors,” so they can taste like strawberry.
The settlement of the lawsuit requires General Mills to market this product differently than they have been. As long as the product does not contain actual strawberries, the new labels cannot include any images of strawberries. In addition to this important fact, as long as the packaging reads “Made with Real Fruit,” General Mills is required to state the actual percentage of real fruit included in the product. The Center for Science in the Public Interest feels that this requirement will give consumers a more honest definition of the food product they are purchasing. Many purchasing these products currently believe they are made completely or mostly from fruit. While the most honest labeling for the product would be Pear Naturally Flavored Fruit Roll-ups, the removal of strawberry images from the packaging is certainly a more accurate representation.

While these changes aren’t required to take effect until 2014, FoodFacts.com is encouraged that there is actual progress being made in labeling the products in our food supply in a more honest manner. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has been behind other labeling changes and advertising issues. They’ve been behind agreements with Kellogg’s regarding improvements made to the products they manufacture that are specifically targeted to children as well as the removal of partially hydrogenated oils from Kentucky Fried Chicken.

FoodFacts.com will continue to keep our community updated on other developments in the numerous lawsuits against food manufacturers that may help consumers make more educated food choices free from misleading product claims.

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/the-strawberries-are-about-to-disappear-from-the-labels-of-strawberry-fruit-roll-ups-122712.html
http://www.startribune.com/business/184878301.html?refer=y