Simple Ingredient Lists: Just Another Marketing Gimmick or a Healthier Food Option?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
There seems to be a new trend in town these days that may or may not help the average consumer. But in a world where there are literally hundreds of new products on the shelves to choose from, having a simplified ingredient list may just be the answer. Or is it?

Just last week several food manufacturers, including Frito-Lay and Häagen-Dazs, revealed new product lines containing a list of three to five ingredients on the nutrition label. No more fumbling around attempting to read chemical compounds that are next to impossible to pronounce. No longer do I have to search for the words partially hydrogenated oil or high fructose corn syrup to pop out at me. Instead I can quickly skim the label and voilá there they are--three or five simple ingredients, nothing more.

For example Frito-Lay has a Classic Potato Chip with three ingredients on the label--Grade A Potato, all natural oil, and a dash of salt. While Häagen-Dazs is promoting a seven product ice cream line containing only five ingredients--milk, sugar, cream, eggs and a flavoring such as ginger or mint.

While I applaud the move to a more simplified ingredient list, I don’t believe this marketing strategy will persuade me to buy these foods. The reason--I don’t buy or eat them anyway. However, if I were to choose to buy ice cream it would be much easier for me to pick up a container of Häagen-Dazs Five more out of convenience since I would be able to read the ingredient list right on the front of the container.

As to whether or not this is a good thing, I am not sure. I wonder if this is not just another ploy to get us all to try a new product believing we are eating a healthier option. I remember in the 90's when everything was fat free only to discover when the manufacturers removed the fat; they replaced it with sugar and salt. What I thought was a healthier version was still ‘junk food’ in disguise. So while changing to a simplified ingredient list is a move in the right direction, these foods still contain empty calories and should not be a replacement for healthy fruits and veggies.

What do you think? Would you be willing to spend a little extra money for the simplicity on the label? Do you believe these are healthier options or just a marketing strategy?