Monday, January 26, 2015

This word helps sell $40 billion on food. Has it worked on you?

Research from Nielsen reveals that the word "natural" on food labeling is the second most powerful word or phrase in food marketing, helping to sell $40.7 billion worth of food in the United States alone. (First place belongs to "Fat Content" which was found on $64 billion of food packaging.)

So it was significant this past November when a U.S. court determined that General Mills could no longer use the term "100 percent natural" to describe food that contains processed ingredients.  Now the new packaging must specifically describe the part of the food that is indeed natural.  For example, instead of saying the entire product is "100 percent natural," they now must say "Made with 100 percent natural oats."  (Kellogg and Pepsi Co have also faced lawsuits around the use of the word "natural" many of them still in progress.)

This was the General Mills lawyer's defense explaining why they should be able to use the word natural:

"The word natural is completely meaningless.  Everything is natural.  Nature includes everything.  It's not just trees and flowers.  It's everything.  A chemical company's toxic waste is completely natural.  It's part of nature.  We're all part of nature.  Everything is natural.  Dog poo (censored) is natural.  It's just not real good food."

Actually I'm pulling your leg.  The above is from a comedy monologue by comedian George Carlin.  Carlin was making fun of people who think they are eating healthy by buying products with the word "natural" on them.  That said, it does make a pretty good defense for the use of the word.  A defense however that essentially renders the word meaningless.

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