Food Fortification: A New Marketing Era
Zoe Rubin, U3 Bachelor of Science
A couple of years ago, I was flipping through a magazine, when I stumbled upon an advertisement for a new Coke product, Diet Coke Plus. The new and improved Diet Coke, now infused with vitamins and minerals. At the bottom of the page appeared the slogan: “Great taste has its benefits!” I remember thinking to myself, many years ago, how ridiculous this product seemed. Would anyone really believe that Diet Coke, an exceptionally unhealthy beverage, could be transformed into a healthy drink upon the addition of a few vitamins? Little did I realize that the fortification of food and beverages with supplements would become the newest marketing craze.
For years, advertising companies have been working tirelessly at making society forget how unhealthy the foods they are eating really are. If advertisers focused on the unhealthy ingredients as well as the health risks associated with consuming foods such as pop drinks and processed desserts, you would find that there would be a lot less people running to buy these products. With the introduction of artificial sweeteners, a new marketing strategy had emerged. By replacing sugar with no or low calorie sweeteners, it was possible to design low sugar, low fat and even sugar free products. Although these products do provide benefits for dieters and diabetics, there are also many consequences. Too many people believe that these new sugar free, low fat junk foods are healthier and they are tricked into believing they can eat them without any consequences. What society has to realize is that these low fat products are still unhealthy and can still contribute to illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.
To return to the Diet Coke Plus discussion, it would seem that advertisers have graduated to a new scamming strategy. Perhaps the population was beginning to become desensitized to the low fat, sugar free era. It was time to up their game and come up with something new. In came food fortification with “healthy”, “beneficial” supplements. All of the sudden, all of our yummy cereals, fruit drinks and dairy products were being supplemented with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The question is, are these supplements making these products any healthier? Or are they just a way to disguise the unhealthy products and increase their sales?
Take for example, the very popular product, Vitamin Water. Vitamin Water comes in a multitude of flavors and offers a great substitute for normal boring water. What’s more, it is also infused with vitamins for a more balanced diet! This is the advertising platform that Coca Cola, the owner of Vitamin Water, has implemented, and it has been very successful. What the consumers of this product do not realize is that this “water” is not only infused with vitamins, but it also contains a processed sweetener called crystalline fructose. Crystalline fructose is 5% sweeter then High Fructose Corn Syrup (its closest counterpart and a major contributor to today’s obesity epidemic). The crystalline fructose contributes to the 33 grams of sugar found in this drink, which is only a couple grams short of the 39 grams found in a can of coke. We are not drinking vitamin water, we are drinking sugar water! Even the nutritional information at the back of the Vitamin Water bottle can be deceiving because their serving size represents only a fraction the bottle. In order to determine the true nutritional content in one bottle, one has to multiply each value by 2.5. There isn’t 50 calories and 13 grams of sugar in one bottle as so many people are lead to believe, in truth there is 125 calories and 32.5 grams of sugar!
People are deluding themselves into believing that this beverage is healthy. Some people are even consuming multiple bottles a day. It is important that society does not fall for the marketing illusions created by advertisers. I am by no means saying that people should not drink Vitamin Water, I just hope that people recognize that drinking a Vitamin Water is not so different from drinking a can of coke.
This problem does not stop at beverages. So many children’s cereals, including Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes and Cocoa Krispies are advertised as being fortified with vitamins and antioxidants that improve your child’s immune system. Too many parents are gullible and fall for this advertisement trap where they believe that these high sugar cereals are a healthy option for their children. It is this type of advertising, coupled with ignorance and susceptibility that, contributes to child obesity.
The truth is that the concept of fortifying foods with vitamins and minerals is not a new one or a negative one. For years, our foods have been supplemented with vitamins that society requires for a balanced diet. Without these supplements, many people would suffer from vitamin deficiencies. Some of these foods include salt fortified with iodine, milk with vitamin D, and flour with folic acid.
This new marketing strategy of fortifying junk foods with healthy supplements is a successful one, but it is not the first. Advertisers have been labelling packages with the slogan “trans fat free”, tricking uninformed people into believing that there is less or no fat found in these foods. Companies have also begun packaging chips and candy bars in smaller packages, like the 100-calorie “diet sized” chocolate bar. Although this new diet format may have good intentions, people end up eating multiple bars and in the end consuming more then they would have normally.
Marketing and advertisement of unhealthy junk food has become a huge contributor to our ever rising problem of obesity and heart disease. I cannot put all the blame on advertisers, as they are not physically forcing anyone to eat this junk. Unfortunately, the reality is that the average individual is highly vulnerable to these marketing strategies. People look for any excuse or justification to eat these unhealthy, but delicious foods. People saw through the idiocy of Diet Coke Plus, and for that reason it was removed from the market. However there are other products that are easier to camouflage as being healthy. It is these products that society needs to watch out for.