I can no longer go to the supermarket without being haunted by posters promoting certain ‘superfoods’ that will supposedly make me a happier, healthier person. Like many of you, I try to live a healthy lifestyle, but I don’t eat chia seeds, nor do I blend myself a kale smoothie in the morning.
According to the International Food Information Council, consumers are taking steps to improve their diets. While this is great news, I am troubled by the idea that many companies label their products as superfoods to imply that they are better than average fruits and vegetables.
Kale, quinoa, and pomegranate juice are among those that have been transformed into elixirs of life. While all of these foods are irrefutably good for you, suggesting that they are superior to other natural foods is absurd and is purely the result of strategic marketing.
Every couple of years a new food or drink is placed in the spotlight, but labeling these foods as superfoods is problematic. According to the European Food Information Council there is no real regulatory or legal definition of superfood that sets a precedent for using the term in marketing campaigns.
Because of this, companies are able to mislead consumers into believing that natural produce exists on a spectrum where one food is considered superior to another. The idea that everyday fruits and veggies — such as carrots, onions, and apples — are not as healthy as superfoods is deceptive, as they’re truly equal in nutritional value.
Often, people are [more inclined] to spend money if they feel it’s for a health benefit.
Trendy health foods often come with a hefty price tag, but people are willing to shell out the dough if they feel it’s for a health benefit. This is why companies take advantage of the term superfood, as they rely on consumer compulsion to buy products that will enhance their quality of life in one way or another.
One of the largest marketing campaigns that sought to promote a superfood was recently led by juice mega-giant Pom Wonderful. In 2012, an investigation was opened in response to the health claims advertised by the company. As stated by the Fair Trade Commission, advertisements were “making false and unsubstantiated claims that [Pom] products will prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction.”
Pom could not back up their assertions with any sort of scientific research, and that same year, they reported a net worth of around $50 million. That’s quite a lot of juice.
Sadly, pomegranate juice is not the only superfood that has been a bust. The New York Times reported this year that coconut water is now a $400 million industry, but there is no evidence to suggest that coconut water contains any preventive properties or nutrients unattainable in everyday fruits. While the concept of superfoods may be appealing, consumers must be more realistic.
Foods such as quinoa, açaí berries, and dark chocolate are undoubtedly healthy choices that are high in all the vitamins and minerals we need. But to believe that these foods have the ability to change our lives is foolish. Truthfully, health is a fluid concept and consists of so many things other than just diet, including exercise, sleep, and mental wellness, just to name a few. Rather than going broke on superfoods, consumers should attempt to create a balanced diet composed of a variety of natural produce.