September 4, 2008
The Prevention Institute, a nonprofit health advocacy group out of California, studied 37 heavily marketed foods with pictures of fruit on the packaging. Fifty-one percent of the products contained absolutely no fruit, a few had minimal amounts!
Yikes, you have to be vigilant on all of these fruit claims!
Just take a stroll down the fruit juice isle and try to figure out which product is real 100% juice.
We all have had that experience of buying something based up its package or label and then find out what is inside is not what we expected. I know it’s wishful thinking that we can believe all those fantastic marketing claims (a lot of people do as evidenced by the product’s popularity). Think get thin quickly, eliminate wrinkles in 10 days and, the new favorites, protect your heart or lower your cholesterol. The last example is a tribute to the fact that marketers are finally talking advantage of marketing to an aging population.
Consider the recent flurry of activity regarding misleading claims on trans-fats. Companies are taking this seriously and changing their claims.
People are concerned with what we perceive to be “healthy” as listed on the package’s ingredients statements and then find out that it is misleading or false. Some claims (even though they are within the context of the law) can lead consumers astray by giving foods an undeserved “aura of health.”
Here is the definition for false advertising which includes packaged goods:
False Advertising—”Any advertising or promotion that misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities or geographic origin of goods, services or commercial activities” (Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 1125(a)).
So think about that when you are developing your product packaging. Can your claims be substantiated or are you “stretching” the truth, as in the case of fruit pictured on the outside but not actually inside?
I found lots of great information on how to read and understand a packaging label. It is confusing even to a seasoned professional. It is almost as if they are deliberately confusing the consumer into make a purchasing decision. I did a little investigation before writing this article and was shocked by the number of product manufacturers that have been sued for false advertising claims. This is a huge expense to defend the claims or pay to settle one that we consumers pay for in the product price.
From cold sore treatments to orange juice, they all have been sued for making unsubstantiated claims on their product packaging. Things as simple as this lawsuit against cereal packaging claims was aimed at food companies including Kraft Foods, General Mills and Kellogg alleging that “low sugar” breakfast cereals are leading the customer astray.
The suit claims that these cereals are misleading because they are not any healthier than cereals with regular levels of sugar. The food industry, in general, is coming under increasing pressure from food lobby groups and parents, to “clean up its act” and offer healthier alternatives to help combat the obesity epidemic facing America. Sugary cereals are frequently cited by these groups as guilty culprits, encouraging children to eat empty calories instead of nutritional whole foods.
No product packaging is immune. Consider these “hot” buttons currently being scrutinized if you manufacture products that make claims on any of the following attributes:
- Weight loss claims to reduce or lose weight in a specified manner or period of time.
- Healthy choice claims which imply or state benefits to a consumer from consuming.
- Organic or natural food claims that indicate the product is uncontaminated or pure from chemicals and additives.
- Nutrition claims such as rich in vitamin C that can not be proven or the alleged benefits proven.
This is just a start. Look for proof of environmentally friendly packaging and materials to be in the next wave of packaging being heavily scrutinized. Is it really “green” or just “greenwash?”
You can’t stop the lawsuits and media spin; however, you can ensure you do your best to prove to the consumer that what is on the outside of the packaging is also what is inside.
About the Author:
JoAnn Hines is the Chief Executive Officer at J.R. Hines International, a firm providing consulting services in the packaging industry. For over 30 years, Ms. Hines has been engaged in packaging trends, forecasting, ideation/brainstorming and implementing innovative new packaging technologies.
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