Marketing Health.

cross-posted from TAPPED

The Fooducate Blog breaks down one of the ways in which food companies try to market a product that is fundamentally unhealthy, or at least neutral, with dubious health claims. The product they highlight is Vitamin Water, usually found in the same refrigerated bins as the power drinks people associate with exercise and health:

This is what the ingredient list should read:water, sugar, colors, needless vitamins & minerals

Here is the actual ingredient list:

Reverse Osmosis Water, Cane Sugar, Crystalline Fructose, Citric Acid, Vegetable Juice (Color), Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Natural Flavor, Berry and Fruit Extracts (Acai, Blueberry, Pomegranate and Apple), Magnesium Mate (Electrolyte), Calcium Lactate (Electrolyte), Monopotassium Phosphate (Electrolyte), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic Acid (B5), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (B6), Cyanocobalamin (B12)

It’s no surprise that people are confused about the contents of packaged foods when something as simple as added sugar has so many other names, when vegetable juice is as specific as it gets to describe what gives the water its color, and when a confusing list of vitamins that most people get enough of in their daily diets rounds out a needlessly long list.

Drinks like this, particularly, sodas, help explain why Americans get an average of 22 teaspoons of sugar a day. For context, women should get no more than 6 teaspoons and men should get no more than 9 of added sugar. It’s not that people don’t necessarily know how bad something like soda is; it’s that they don’t know how bad products like these, which are marketed as better water, are.

  • Scipio Africanus

    To talk specifically about Vitamin Water, the Vitamin Water Zero has less that 1 g of sugar per serving, is zero calories, and to me tastes just about the same as the regular version. That’s a win.

  • I worked in a Healh Food Co-op years ago and the customers and staff would often get into some heated “discussions” about the various attributes of some newly packaged superfood that popped up on the shelves of our store. More often that not, patrons were fully invested in the claims of the product, and would get hot if you tried to steer them to a cheaper or simpler alternative.

    Typical morning for me at the Co-op – walking through the clouds of cigarette and weed smoke emitted from my customers in the parking lot who were waiting for me to set up the wheatgrass juicer for their morning shot. Enhhh…

    • quadmoniker

      Yeah, I’ve had this too, especially since I also used to work at a co-op and lean toward the crunchy. Note to all: acai and goji berries are no more healthy than any other berry. Also, I get this way about all the people who believe they have a wheat allergy. Note to all: celiac is actually pretty rare and all of the gluten free foods you see in health stores don’t mean gluten is bad.

  • lsn

    why Americans get an average of 22 teaspoons of sugar a day.

    One thing that really surprised me while travelling in the US was the amount of sugar in bread. I became really obsessive about reading labels while I was there, which started when I tried to work out why the bread tasted sweet to me (short version: most Australian breads have around 2g sugar/slice; a lot of the US breads had around 6g/slice, although I did find one variety that had 12g/slice). Then I looked at the labels on soft drinks, completely freaked out and refused to drink any more of them. (Then of course I came home and slowly reverted to not reading labels and drinking soft drinks again, which is bad. *sigh*)

  • Yeah my boys switched over to Gatorade G2.

    Peace, Love and Chocolate

  • Man, I love Vitamin Water. Guess it’ll just have to be a guilty pleasure now… but then it’s not like I had it every day anyway.

    • Scipio Africanus

      Get the Vitamin Water Zero. All pleasure, no guilty.

      • quadmoniker

        It’s not just that, though. I say this as an occasional enjoyer of drinks with sugar: occasional sugar water is fine! But it’s that they market it as healthy, when it’s not.

      • Aun know man, the flavor’s just not right to me…

  • It is not just the foods and drinks that are more hype than content. The supplement industry goes to incredible lengths to promote their goods that have never faced the scrutiny of double blind trials to test their efficacy. We all need to be mindful that the products we buy may be pushed with considerable marketing spin.