The SparkPeople Blog

Beware the New Food Marketing Hype

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
4/19/2010 6:08 AM   :  83 comments   :  14,693 Views

Understanding the loopholes of food labeling can be tricky. It requires looking beyond the fancy marketing claims to find the truth about a product. Many times when we are in a hurry we skip reading the labels and move toward purchasing a product based on name or nutrient recognition and price which is just what the marketers love.

There has been a great deal of talk about high fructose corn syrup pros and cons over the years. Now food companies such as ConAgra, Kraft Foods, and PepsiCo are taking a marketing leap into the topic as well.

Starting in May, Hunt's will offer a new ketchup formulation. Sprite Green and Dr. Pepper in anniversary packaging and other products such as Wheat Thins and Healthy Choice Tortellini Primavera Parmesan will also be appearing on store shelves as well. According to Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert, these new product formulas will not contain high fructose corn syrup and you can bet their labels will note this difference as well.

Recent Princeton University research findings suggest that the question about health concerns from diets rich in HFCS will likely go on. Two different studies in rats demonstrated a notable influence on weight from HFCS intake including a 48% weight gain in some testing scenarios. With the increased focus on reducing the obesity rate in American and the ongoing uncertainty of cause and effect of HFCS, food manufactures are wise to make the move to reducing or eliminating HFCS use in their products.

The Bottom Line - So if this is a good thing, why the headline to beware? Because just as we saw marketing trends confuse consumers with the low carbohydrate craze, the same potential holds true for the no high fructose corn syrup frenzy. When new products like Hunt's Ketchup or Wheat Thins show up on store shelves in a new formulation that removes HFCS, it is a good thing and worth noting on the label. However, when foods that never contained HFCS start displaying the same label it is misleading and a marketing fad that doesn't help consumers. The bottom line for smart consumers is to continue to read labels and know what you are buying and putting in your body. If a product you currently use contains HFCS and a new formulation appears next to it on the shelf that does not, consider making a switch. However, beware the practice of buying a product simply because of the "contains no high fructose corn syrup" label.

Were you aware these new products would be showing up on your store shelves? What do you think about HFCS-free products? Do you think there is a consumer confusion risk?


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Comments

  • CHRIS2267
    83
    I am glad there is discussion about the HFC but come on, what about all the corn the government subsidizes so the food can have it as a sweetner? I just find it very hard to have these companies say they wont have it as an ingredient. It is so important to read, read, read those labels. If it has a long list of ingreadients it doesnt make its way to my house. Remember companies are very tricky and are only interested in their bottom line, not what is right for the people that are consuming their product. Just keep your eyes open. - 11/9/2010   12:32:58 PM
  • SLADE1955
    82
    My main concern is it is in everything. Why do you need bread with sugar and HFCS? I thought HFCS was the sweetner being used. I read that they used it in products as a preservative also. I can remember companys saying that trans fat wasn't bad for you and the ads they put out for that too. Now they are doing the same with HFCS. I have found numerous products now with no HFCS. That is what I try to buy for my family no HFCS. Pepsi (even though I'm not a soda drinker) is thinking about making the Throwback Pepsi and Mountain Dew permanent. But they will still sell their Pepsi with HFCS too. The Throwback sodas go off the shelfs like crazy in my area. - 7/18/2010   10:15:59 AM
  • 81
    I know this is narrowing the HFCS field a bit by just talking about drinks, but I'm trying hard to stick with water and not indulge in the sweet drinks, whether they're sweetened with HFCS or sugar. Neither one is good for your body or your teeth, and in NY State, Gov. David Paterson is trying to pass a law taxing ALL sweetened beverages, including powdered drink mixes(they would be taxed on the amount they could be mixed up into) to help prevent/stop obesity!! How absurd!! A canister of powdered Nestea regularly priced at $4.99 would cost about $12.00 after the new excise tax.....diet drinks remain at normal tax rates. I think I'll stick with water - it's healthier & cheaper!!! - 4/28/2010   3:23:43 AM
  • 80
    I hate how consumers are so often deceived like this. The current 'trick' is with "0 Trans Fats." In the US, a food product can have trans fat levels of less than 0.5 grams per serving and can still be listed as 0 grams trans fat on the food label. And they say anything more than 2 grams of trans fat a day can have advers effects on your body, so it doesn't take much of eat 'trans fat free' products and you could be over your limit without even knowing it!

    And don't even get me stared on high fructos corn syrup! When I became aware of this and started to avoid eating it. I would read food labels and it is in everything! Why do I need high fructose corn syrup in my loaf of bread?? - 4/27/2010   4:27:54 AM
  • 79
    I saw Coke being advertised with pure cane sugar. - 4/25/2010   11:45:19 AM
  • SPECEDKAT
    78
    No, I was not aware this would be happening - thanks for the info. It really makes me crazy when companies try to confuse a consumer into thinking they are making a healthy choice when nothing could be further from the truth. My latest bad experience was with honey. Recently learned "pure" and "natural" are not the same thing! I just hate being tricked! - 4/24/2010   6:07:37 PM
  • 77
    I believe everything in moderation. I always read the labels and if I can't pronounce it or know what it is, I usually don't eat it. I think more and more families aren't eating at home or aren't cooking at home, therefore adding extra calories and fat and whatever else to their diets. The responsibility with what you put in your mouth is yours. Years ago people did more physical work, nowadays we're in front of computers. So I say be informed and read your food labels, cook at home as often as possible and get off your butt and exercise, whether it be a walk, a dance or a run. - 4/24/2010   5:19:16 PM
  • JOANNDAVENPORT
    76
    I'm with the same rule of if i can't read it, or has too many ingredients I don't eat it. I try and have as much real food as possible and no processed stuff. - 4/24/2010   9:52:47 AM
  • 75
    We all need to be smarter about reading food labels & not purchasing foods that don't come up to standards. - 4/24/2010   12:21:14 AM
  • 74
    We all grew up with HFCS and my generation did not suffer from childhood obesity like the generation of today. Like anything, too much is not good, but maybe there's other culprits (like more fast food and more working parents in a hurry to feed kids!). - 4/22/2010   12:27:15 PM
  • 73
    I don't buy anything with HFCS simply because of the controversy. Better to be safe by not eating it than sorry in a few years if it's proven to be a health hazard. - 4/22/2010   7:53:50 AM
  • 72
    I believe that the hardest thing of all is that the foods that are terribly bad for us, including those with the HFCS, sugar and fat - tend to have the longest shelf-life, and are the most affordable foods. People need to think their health more important than the extra cost to buy healthy food....and learn which healthy foods are more affordable. Many people I know just are not aware..... - 4/21/2010   11:00:06 PM
  • MOMOFPRE
    71
    good - 4/21/2010   9:40:53 PM
  • PATTHERD
    70
    The Princeton rat studies seem to confuse more than help understand this issue. Simply put, according to the American Dietetic Association, “high fructose corn syrup…is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose. Once absorbed into the blood stream, the two sweeteners are indistinguishable.” Like table sugar and honey, high fructose corn syrup contains no artificial or synthetic ingredients or color additives. The new labels will sport sugar or honey with no benefit to the consumer. As a registered dietitian, consultant to the food and beverage industry and a college professor I say let’s deal with the facts. At the end of the day Moderation is key. - 4/21/2010   7:39:38 PM
  • CORNREFINER
    69
    Research can be confusing. Please consider what nutrition experts have to say about the Princeton study before accepting the results.

    “This study is poorly designed and poorly controlled and does not prove or even suggest that HFCS is more likely to lead to obesity than sucrose [table sugar].” Karen Teff, Ph.D., Associate Director, Institute for Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine http://bit.ly/bkD52b

    Consumers are being misled into thinking that there are nutritional differences between high fructose corn syrup and sugar, when in fact they are nutritionally the same.

    “There’s not a shred of evidence that these products are different biologically. The decision to switch from HFCS to cane sugar is 100% marketing and 0% science.” David S. Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School http://bit.ly/bkD52b

    You can also learn more about high fructose corn syrup at www.SweetSurprise.com .

    Audrae Erickson, Corn Refiners Association
    - 4/21/2010   9:07:38 AM
  • 68
    Funny thing about hfcs, once I became aware of it and bought things a few times without it, I became hyper aware of its smell as something that I dislke. When I walk down the bread isle it stinks of it. I used to spend so much time picking up loafs of bread and trying to get the small celephane writing in the right light so I could read it. I can also smell the loaf to see but dont that look wierd. then one of my brands of light wheat starting putting on the side of the loaf NO HFCS, and its made it easier for me. - 4/21/2010   7:57:28 AM
  • 67
    As someone allergic to corn, I'm happy to see HFCS gone.

    Now we just need truth in advertising. And truth in the ingredients list. - 4/20/2010   9:23:32 PM
  • 66
    I picked up a package of Sandwich thins , labelled only 100 calories and no HFCS and they were wonderful to eat. When I went to check the nutrition, which I should have done before the purchase I would have discovered that the HFCS was replaced with an artificial sweetener -SUCRALOSE --.SPLENDA? I do believe?
    Why that??
    I was surprised they say we took this out but did not add that they actually added something. I wonder if they were trying to hide something from us. - 4/20/2010   9:15:52 PM
  • 65
    I Just wonder what new "chemical" they will be replacing HFCS with.They already have a new name for HFCS. I just read an article on food labeling guidelines form the Carolina Medical Weight Management website. This article is taken straight form the FDA. I couldn't add it as a link here but here is the website. It has alot of very interesting info in addition to this.

    www.thecarolinaweigh.com/food-label
    .htm
    - 4/20/2010   7:10:23 PM
  • LAPORTE2006
    64
    I am glad that they are taking it out but what are they replacing it with? Every new thing that comes along, is sooner or later bad for you. Look at all the artificial sweeteners. I will not touch any of them. I would rather have a little sugar , if I want a treat than all the artificial sweeteners in the world. Every one is touted as great and safe until later studies find them dangerous. I don't want high fructose corn syrup either but it is so many things. We just have to be really good at reading labels. - 4/20/2010   4:50:28 PM
  • 63
    I am not concerned about HFCS, since I'm no longer eating ANYTHING "man-made" in large amounts. I quit drinking "COKE" which I love, about 3 years ago and it has a lot of sugar. When I can give that up, I know I can deal with the rest. - 4/20/2010   4:07:31 PM
  • 62
    I'm a label-reader, as many Sparkers are. I avoid what I can, but I don't get freakish about it. Also, I just read an article on SP by Becky the dietician that studies/research has shown that HFCS has the same metabolic affect on the body as sugar. For me, because it's an unnatural, man-made substance, I try to avoid it, but I also try to limit the sugar I consume most days (I'm a sugar addict, so I gotta have some once in a while!).
    That's fine these companies want to try another marketing ploy - I have my fav. products I buy (rarely, if ever, are they name-brands) and it most likely won't affect what I purchase anyway. - 4/20/2010   2:53:01 PM
  • 61
    I'm already confused.... - 4/20/2010   2:42:14 PM
  • 60
    It infuriates me that people don't have the right information about HFCS. It's nothing but pure evil.... Whenever I see one of those commercials on TV stating that HFCS is no different than sugar - I realize that it's nothing more than politics... And it scares me when the government is more concerned about making money than about the health and well being of it's citizens... Please watch Food, Inc... Please learn what you're putting in your body... I love our country - I'm not a crazy person against the machine... But this is just something that we've all got to learn about.

    Why does it cost more money to get a head of broccoli than it does to get 3 cheeseburgers?? Why is a two liter of pop less expensive than 2 oranges??

    Please people - watch Food, Inc... It's not horrific.. It's not animals being abused.. It's the truth about the decline of quality in our food over the last 50 years. HFCS just got caught!

    And there IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE between HFCS and sugar! Research it and then stop feeding it to your family! - 4/20/2010   2:34:47 PM
  • ROMISIS
    59
    I've been buying Hunt's organic ketchup for a few years now because it has much less sugar than the alternatives. As far as the grocery aisles go, it's the lowest in sugar (and I'm not watching HFCS) for ketchups, I've seen. - 4/20/2010   1:20:44 PM
  • 58
    I am glad companies are making a concerted effort at removing HFCS. Consumers need all the help we can get in eating unprocessed foods. - 4/20/2010   12:26:42 PM
  • MIEZEKATZE
    57
    Isn't it a good policy to avoid sugar and sugar related food products in general? - 4/20/2010   12:09:04 PM
  • 56
    I avoid foods with HFCS because I don't want the extra sugar and it's a sign to me that that food is junky if not outright junk food. I bet they aren't taking out the HFCS without putting in another sugar. When I eat something sugary or rich, I want it to count as a treat. I don't want my diet loaded up with extra sugars and fats so that I never get to eat ice cream or chocolate. - 4/20/2010   11:32:23 AM
  • 55
    I read lables all the time but didn't know these particular companys were going to do this. I think there will be confusion for some but not for people who have practiced readying lables. Those types of people are concerned about what goes into thier food and bodies. - 4/20/2010   10:50:01 AM
  • VANANDEL
    54
    I already try to limit/eliminate HFCS anyway - even though the research is ongoing and not yet concrete. I think it's good that companies are eliminating it, but what they use in its place is yet-to-be-seen. Definitely we all need to read the labels! - 4/20/2010   10:17:22 AM
  • 53
    I'm just learning to read labels critically. Thanks for the heads-up! - 4/20/2010   10:15:02 AM
  • 52
    I've also learned to read labels. I avoid HFCS like the plague, but also it there are alot of ingredients, especially things I've never heard of, I don't buy it, I prefer natural or products with only a few natural products. I've even gotten my friend to pay attention & start asking what certain ingredients are.
    I think that alot of these companies will just replace the HFCS with something else as bad or like mentioned before, they will just call it something else ie. "corn syrup" - 4/20/2010   9:17:30 AM
  • 51
    Good advice. I've noticed the misleading packages saying they're _____ ingredient free on items that never contained them. It really limits my ability to trust that info advertised on the packaging. - 4/20/2010   9:08:10 AM
  • 50
    I think people need to be aware of what ingredients are in their food, period. That means reading the whole label on products, and not just the front of the box. IMO, it's like eating food labeled "no fat," and not checking the calorie or sugar content. I even re-read labels occasionally, to be sure the manufacturer hasn't changed the ingredients or nutrition facts for whatever reason. I figure a person can't be too careful. - 4/20/2010   9:05:56 AM
  • 49
    While I applaud the increase in "full disclosure" relating to food labeling, I believe the incentive is just another marketing ploy the media and processed food companies are using to sell more product or get us to watch their news programs by scaring people.

    Like many sparkers mentioned, the bottom line is to eat as basically as possible. The less the food is processed, the more healthy it is. - 4/20/2010   8:55:06 AM
  • 48
    I was not aware of this, but I doubt that it will have an impact on obesity. America has two problems in that area, portion control and too little activity. Banning HFCS is not the answer. - 4/20/2010   8:47:15 AM
  • 47
    I had not heard about this but I know there is a difference in taste. Several years ago, Coca-Cola changed their formula from Sucrose to HFCS in an effort to cut manufacturing cost, but the flavor changed. Unfortunately for Coca-Cola, HFCS is not Kosher while Sucrose is. In an effort to keep customers, Coca-Cola still makes the soda with Sucrose around Jewish Holy days and it can be found in Kosher markets. So, if you want a REAL coke every now and then, find yourself a Kosher market around Passover or Hanukkah. I don't drink sodas anymore, but a real Coke float might persuade me. :-) - 4/20/2010   7:56:19 AM
  • 46
    I was aware that the change is coming because my husband used to work for Kraft. The corn growers saw it coming, which accounts for all the recent pro HFCS ads on televisonl I know that HFCS does cause the user to want more. But so does sugar. How much of an impact these changes will make will be seen over time. If it is just a fad, and the buying public does not embrace it, it will die off. Read labels faithful, so you know what you are eating or drinking! - 4/20/2010   7:47:24 AM
  • 45
    I have learned the hard way to read every label every time I buy something because even products that I have used for years can change and include an ingredient that I do not want to ingest. Fortunately I don't use very many prepared foods or it would be like a trip to the library. - 4/20/2010   7:15:13 AM
  • 44
    Thanks! - 4/20/2010   6:51:32 AM
  • CHIBISEIRA
    43
    To COVEGIRL1: Just FYI, Nevella=sucralose=Splenda, and dextrose=sugar. Dextrose isn't a bad thing (well, ok, it's no worse than sugar because it is sugar), but sucralose... http://www.holisticmed.com/splenda / - 4/20/2010   6:30:57 AM
  • 42
    Over the weekend I saw a bottle of pancake syrup with a new large label stating "No High Fructose Corn Syrup".
    I checked the ingredients - In order - sugar, corn syrup, water, etc...
    Must have had low fructose corn syrup....
    Beware and read the labels
    I believe it likely that all sugar is sugar as far as the body is concerned but we all need to read the labels. - 4/20/2010   6:29:42 AM
  • 41
    I've been avoiding HFCS for so long I don't think the new labeling will make a bit of difference. But you still have to read the labels. Back during the "fat free" craze a product would be labeled "fat free" but read the ingredients and it would have corn oil. Labeling restrictions let them say it was fat free if there was less than 1/2 gram of fat per serving. SO - just make the serving size smaller and you can say it's "fat free." But the serving size is unreasonable and you're eating just as much fat as you did before the product became "fat free." Bottom line, like it or not, we have to read labels. Or better yet, like Dr Fuhrman says, "The most important thing to remember about food labels is that you should avoid foods that have labels." - 4/20/2010   5:55:54 AM
  • 40
    I believe that there is always going to be the Newest and Best sweetner to the market. How ever pretty consistently...they are all toxic as it may. I figure that good old sugar is about the best way to go if you are going to indulge. That includes fruit juice. Everything in moderation seems to be the trick for a healthy lifestyle. - 4/20/2010   1:21:30 AM
  • 39
    Whether or not a product had it or not, I think it is good to label it. It puts a bit of pressure on companies that do use it to remove it and go back to sugar. On the other hand, there was time before many of these companies used HFCS and junk food is still junk food. - 4/20/2010   12:50:20 AM
  • 38
    Did not know this was going to be a new marketing trend - Looking forward to reading more about it, and re-checking labels. Thanks for the heads-up! - 4/19/2010   11:31:38 PM
  • 37
    an organic apple has a label with its variety. A free-range egg is so labeled. I try to stick with foods that are that simple, or that have no more than 5 ingredients--and all those have to be real words, words I know and understand. If it starts looking like a chem. experiment, I go elsewhere. - 4/19/2010   10:47:20 PM
  • 36
    The hype just seems to grow and grow. I wonder what chemical(s) they will use to replace the HFCS. I find it to be almost a relief to find plain old sugar by its own name on the label--at least I know what it is. What I would like to know is when are they going to lower the salt? - 4/19/2010   9:21:38 PM
  • 35
    I was not aware of the "new" formula foods. I mostly eat fresh foods or whole foods.
    As far as the Hype it will confuse consumers and who is to say they companies don't use another possible worse ingredent. - 4/19/2010   6:26:18 PM
  • 34
    I used to never pay attention to what I was eating, then I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. CD causes wheat, barley and rye to be poison for me and had to start reading labels. The more I looked the more disgusted I got, now I eat mostly "fresh" food. I say "fresh" because I make big batches and freeze it.
    I knew there was something was coming I saw part of a story on the Today show. Unfortunately the digital stream that wasn't supposed to be able to be dropped does quite often so missed part of the story.
    Like Mel_Unrau when the Throwbacks came out I tried the Pepsi and loved it. I used to be a Pepsi fiend as a child then suddenly I didn't like the taste anymore and hated the strings you'd see in the bottom of the bottle(Yes, bottle). I now realize that it was when they switched to HFCS.
    I'd rather sugar thats natural over HFCS anytime, that stuff is NOT natural and I don't care what the one SparkPeople writer wrote I don't believe it's good for anyone. - 4/19/2010   6:16:11 PM

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