3 Food Marketing Words That Mean Nothing

nature valley granola bars

Food companies are smart. They know what consumers care about and what terms are trendy, and they market their products accordingly.

This isn’t always a negative thing, but it can be.

Below are three common terms used on food packages – none of which mean what they seem.

Natural

Perhaps the most misleading term in the food industry, “natural” can be slapped on just about any food product!

Here’s a funny video about the “natural” phenomenon. Watch from 0:27 to 1:05 and you’ll see what I mean :)

Cage-Free

The term “cage-free” might drum up images of happy hens running around a farm yard, but this is far from what cage-free actually means. In reality, most “cage-free” birds spend their lives in extremely crowded warehouses and have little or no access to the outdoors. Diseases run rampant in these warehouses due to tight quarters, unclean conditions and contaminated feed.

If you’re looking for eggs or poultry from chickens who truly lead happy lives, look for the term “pasture-rasied” on packages. More on egg-buying here.

food marketing

Made with Whole Grains

Just because something has whole grains in it, doesn’t mean it is whole grain. Even if only a small percentage of the grains used in a product are whole, that product can write “made with whole grains” on the package. Sugary cereals, commercial baked goods, and packaged crackers may all make this claim – but that doesn’t mean they’re healthy, 100% whole grain, or naturally high in fiber. More on grain-buying here.

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Decoding food labels can be super tricky. Looking for the term “organic” is one way to make it easier, since organic is a regulated term & has a consistent meaning no matter what kind of product you’re buying.

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  1. Great post! The ‘natural’ one probably frustrates me the most. I laughed at the video, but it’s really a sad thing! I get so upset when I think about people who are trying their best to do the healthy thing and are getting misled – I’ve had clients come to me SO excited for a “natural” or “low-fat” product that they think is healthy. Thanks to you for continuing to educate!

  2. This is a great post. One of many I’ve looked at already here. The video is cute and scary, and thankfully I know about a lot of the labeling on food items already and how much BS they really are. More need to know though, so good work! =)