Food Halos

Smart marketing. We see it everywhere. 

From car to hospitality companies, companies smash out the most creative words and promises out there to make their brand stand out from the rest. There are countless researches and quotes out there in the world that the essence of marketing, and to whom you are marketing towards, is an essential part of staying afloat.

It’s all about making the product or service look and feel better to win over the hearts of the consumer. The trick in asking them for more in the end. And it makes total sense. I am quite certain, you also would see returning customers coming back to your store with a smile on their face and tagging along a friend (or two) earlier to grab hold of one of your products.

The food industry is no stranger to making their products look better, and most of all, healthier. The advertisements and announcement that brand x has perfectly spiced up their deliciousness for an experience second to none fly across our mobile devices and inside supermarkets. It is nice to know that the ingredients of what you want to eat or drink are printed on it.

But who cares? There is little to no one looking in-depth into the small letters or any other product they purchase.

Bold and clever marketing in the food industry is how the producers use words and imagery to entice their customers. It is too showcase that they do care for your health. A plethora of terms and quotes are used that their created items boost that extra need to make you perform better, get more of the healthy stuff in your intestines, or use naturally sourced ingredients.

It plays with our mind that we are onto something good. We are hitting the place where X marks the spot and a treasure may be hidden.

Food halos are defined as foods that highlight those characteristics to give the consumer not a shadow of a doubt thinking otherwise. We all know that chewing on a cucumber stick is healthier than eating a bag of crisps.

However, the food halos tend not to get caught up comparing two products on the other side of the caloric spectrum.

It takes on similar products and enhances one of them with USP’s (Unique Selling Point or Proposition) to create awareness of why the consumer must try their end product. These foods receive their praise for being better for our bodies and give the consumer a leading edge.

Are these smartly marketed food halos actually any better?

Just like with any other product, there is no such thing as perfection. The companies tend to highlight that what makes people want to buy it yet leave other “less healthy” stuff out of their campaign. It is nice to know that a pack of freshly squeezed orange juice, with pulp, does not come with any added sugars. A naïve customer may pursue drinking more of this sweetened liquid with breakfast.

However a more critical eye is aware that fruit of any kind has already natural (fructose) sugars included. Would adding more sugar to the orange juice perhaps overload the juice itself with an excessive amount of sugars? 

Who knows?

But that is not what it is all about. It also does not show that the juice has other compounds added to it that may not have the same negative effect as sugar has but that’s beside the point

From chocolate drinks boosting performance to candy bars that are packed to capacity with protein, food halos are everywhere. The better it looks, the bigger the chances you buy it. And many of these manufacturers charge a premium for it for reasons as earlier outlined.

But what’s the evidence behind all this? Is it worth the extra bucks to spend on something that is as highly regarded as it claims to be? 

Is raw sugar better than normal sugar? The brown colour may visually be more appealing (a more back-to-nature type of sweetener) but does it give you that little bit of health-inducing spurt you need?

Are sea salts an upgraded option from your ordinary table salt? It may come with added minerals (we are talking about minuscule amounts), but when comparing what the main ingredient of any kind of salt is and remains sodium, can you now splurge out that bit more when seasoning your dinner?

Is grass-fed beef, displayed on eye height at the cooler in your local supermarket, really any better than any other type of beef? Studies confirm that cows doing nothing else than feast on grass produce leaner meats, have more vitamin E and contain more Omega-3’s. What is often forgotten is that these animals may get an additional grain supplement. But when checking out at the register and paying a lot more, does it really matter when beef is only once a week on the menu?

And what about buying only wild-caught fish, especially salmon? The stories behind this stem more from an environmental point of view when seeing consumer behaviours. Agree, there definitely are benefits from buying more organically raised over farmed fish (the Omega-3 and 5 fatty acid content). Is it worth spending more on it to get a superior boost of nutrients in your body? Recent studies point now towards perhaps eating less wild-caught fish due to the higher content of micro-plastics floating around.

When a label screams and shouts out that this particular yoghurt comes with added calcium, we often are drawn to it because it feels healthier. As a consumer, we hardly know how much percentage extra calcium has been added. Even half a per cent is more than the standard level of calcium. So yeah, the manufacturer is right in saying its creamy product has more calcium than normal. But ask yourself the question; is it worth the 10% extra charge compared to a less calcium-fortified type? 

Just a few examples of what and how food halos can make us spend more. There are many other examples available.

We believe that what we see may be beneficial to eat healthier when we pay a few extra bucks. And the funny thing about all this is that it is allowed and within the laws of consumer protection. It is with a lot of products we believe we know we are doing something right. There always is something else going on behind the screens.

Humanity is guided by these nutritional facts and the benefits of what is displayed. Marketing added health benefits to buy more (and spend more) is what drives our nutritional society these days. Just like no single calorie is the same, there is no common denominator of what positive add-on’s in food and drinks will do for your body. 

One good thing added often comes with a “but” which is never featured.

Knowledge is power when carefully spending your cash on healthy food and drinks and those that bring you to your goal. I will not forget to add that some smart-marketed food halos may not even benefit you. It all depends from individual to individual.

Ask questions, be critical and be aware before exceeding your grocery budget with foods you think may be beneficial. You can do a lot with a limited budget and still get the results you’re after. As always, aiming for perfection does not get you where you want to go. It may even see you deviate from your health path.

Slow, sustainable progress does.

You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food. | Paul Prudhomme

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