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    Archive for the ‘advertisements’ Category

    Nutrition Tunnel Vision

    foThe folks at Fiber One can’t stop bragging are very proud that their original cereal offers 14 grams of fiber per half-cup serving.

    Their over-confidence, however, has resulted in advertising tactics that are the epitome of nutrition tunnel vision.

    Take the Fiber One comparison tool.

    It stacks up a half-cup of Fiber One with a variety of foods, and indicates how much of that given food needs to be consumed to match the amount of fiber in their cereal.

    Numbers are unfairly tweaked for optimal effect (i.e.: although a standard serving of nuts weighs one ounce, the folks at Fiber One decided to use half-ounce servings for this tool, thereby making eleven, rather than five and a half, nut servings add up to 14 grams of fiber), and the message is ultimately misleading.

    If you go by this tool, Fiber One is a “better” choice than broccoli, carrots, blueberries, oatmeal, popcorn, and prune juice (the last one is no shocker — no juice has fiber!).  Since when do foods get judged solely by fiber content?

    Unlike Fiber One, those “inferior” foods offer exclusive and unique phytonutrients and antioxidants not found in the high-fiber cereal (and, unlike Fiber One, they don’t contain artificial sweeteners).

    A breakfast consisting of a cup of oatmeal, a banana, and a handful of almonds adds up to a still-very-worthy 8 grams of fiber and delivers an abundance of nutrients and antioxidants — certainly more than a bowl of Fiber One with milk.

    The almonds offer — among other things — vitamin E, magnesium, and monounsaturated fat.  The oatmeal is a wonderful source of LDL-cholesterol-lowering beta glucans.  And, the banana is a good source of delphinidin, a naturally-occurring pigment that helps lower cancer risk.  Start your day off with a bowl of Fiber One and some milk and you’re missing out on all that nutrition!

    I also await the day when Fiber One ditches the obnoxious “Cardboard no.  Delicious yes.” tagline.

    The grammar teacher in me wants to add the necessary missing punctuation marks.  The nutritionist in me finds the “fiber tastes like cardboard” message ridiculously old school — and untrue.


    Manwich’s Fuzzy Math

    IMG00014-20091028-1927Many thanks to eagle-eyed Small Bites reader Nilsa Duran who sent me the accompanying screen capture of the latest Manwich commercials.

    In case you can’t read clearly, the image contains the following statement:

    Each 1/4 cup serving of Manwich contains a 1/2 [sic] cup of vegetables.

    Huh?  How, exactly, does a quarter-cup serving of Manwich deliver a half cup of vegetables, you wonder?

    I was perplexed at first, too.

    However, a look at the Manwich ingredient list revealed what I believe to be the answer.

    Apart from the tomato puree — which makes up the large majority of this half-cup serving of vegetables — all other vegetables (mainly peppers and onions) are dehydrated.

    My guess is that the half-cup measurement refers to pre-dehydrated vegetables.

    While that’s fine and dandy, let’s not forget that each quarter-cup serving also offers 380 milligrams of sodium — slightly more than a large order of McDonald’s fries.

    Additionally, Manwich contains more added sugar (in the form of corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup) than peppers or onions.


    What Gender Is Your Soda?

    roadtrip-los-angeles-001Last week, one of my posts analyzed the cultural and gendered implications of President Obama’s hamburger run featured in the NBC White House special.

    Whether or not they agreed with my my viewpoint of what I perceived as subtle messages sent out by the Obama camp by selecting Five Guys hamburger chain as their to-go lunch spot, many readers have mentioned they have become more aware of the social constructions and symbolisms attributed to food.

    In any case, Small Bites reader Quinn Andrus was reminded of my “food and gender” post (and generous enough to e-mail me!) when she came across the billboard you see in the accompanying picture while traveling in Los Angeles.

    Apparently, even soda is gendered (or at least that’s what Pepsi wants male consumers to believe).

    To prove this point, the ad features a crushed soda can (Arrrrggghhh!  Me man.  Me mad soda is done.  Me crush can!!!).

    What apparently makes this zero-calorie, sugar-free soda “manly” is its increased caffeine content.  Interestingly enough, Pepsi Max wasn’t advertised this way under its previous name — Diet Pepsi Max.

    So, basically, we come back to the idea of heathy eating and caloric restriction as “womanly.”  A “real man” would never be seen drinking something with the word Diet on it.  Apparently, playing into those stereotypes makes some advertising executives very rich, folks.

    And while we’re on the topic of gender, how amazing is the advertisement directly below the Pepsi ad?  Why do I have a feeling it’s not a coincidence, either?


    Advertising the Artificial

    ellie_kriegerThe National Dairy Council’s latest “Got Milk?” advertising campaign (seen here at left) is the first in its 16-year history to feature a Registered Dietitian.  Golf clap.

    Forgive my lack of enthusiasm, but it’s the ad’s accompaying text that I have a serious problem with:

    When it comes to wellness, little things really make a difference.  Like drinking three glasses of lowfat or fat free milk a day.  It’s loaded with Vitamin D, the sunny super nutrient whose preventing health benefits have everyone buzzing.  Just think of it as liquid sunshine.”

    Bad grammar apart (starting a sentence with “like”?  Really?), I  take issue with the fact that the advertised nutrient is simply tacked on.

    Vitamin D is not inherently present in milk — or any dairy product, for that matter.  It just so happens that in the United States, as a result of fortification laws passed in the 1930s, a cup of milk currently provides 100 International Units of Vitamin D (that’s a quarter of a day’s worth of the considered-by-many-to-be-low requirement).

    This advertisement would make no sense in a country like England, where milk is not fortified with Vitamin D.

    Besides, almost every non-dairy milk product (almond, soy, oat, and rice) is also fortified with the vitamin.  So what makes dairy milk special in that regard?  Nothing.

    In fact, a serving of sugary cereal like Lucky Charms offers as much Vitamin D as a cup of milk.  Imagine how silly this advertisement would look if it featured a big box of Lucky Charms.

    Why can’t the National Dairy Council keep it honest and make it clear that milk is “loaded” with Vitamin D as a result of fortification?


    Say What?: Define “Well”

    036200002506Ragu’s latest advertising campaign, titled “The Taste of America”, praises Michelle Obama’s advocacy efforts towards healthier eating and home vegetable gardens.

    The two-page spread features an advertisement for a new flavor of their Old World Style sauces and reminds parents that a half cup of this pasta sauce offers a full serving of vegetables.  “Feed our kids well” is the emphasized slogan.

    The advertisement also offers a supposedly healthy “American classic” recipe, which bares the “feed our kids well” tagline.

    The version I came across in this week’s Time Magazine shares the recipe for Upside Down Deep Dish Pizza.

    A quick glance at the ingredients — ground beef, jarred pasta sauce, full-fat cheese, and refrigerated refined pizza dough — and the amounts used did not jive with the idea of feeding children well.

    Alas, I crunched some numbers and here is what this particular recipe offers per serving:

    • 857 calories
    • 15.8 grams saturated fat (80% of a day’s worth)
    • 2,404.5 milligrams sodium (100% of a day’s worth)

    No wonder the recipe’s nutrition information is MIA!


    Things That Make You Go… "Oh No, They Didn’t!"

    Food advertising is always…. interesting.

    That’s not to say it can’t also be horrifying and disturbing.

    Consider, for instance, this McDonald’s advertisement that was prominently featured in Austrian billboard a few years ago.

    Yes, this was a real advertisement!

    Once your eyebrows return to their original position, feel free to post your thoughts.


    In The News: Vitamin Water Called To The Mat

    Less than two hours ago, Reuters reported that The Center for Science in the Public Interest “filed a class action lawsuit against Coca-Cola Co, accusing the company of making deceptive health claims about its Vitamin Water beverages.”

    Can’t say I disagree.

    It is precisely Vitamin Water’s cutesy and health-oriented advertising that has resulted in “I don’t drink soda” types buying into what is, essentially, vitamin-fortified sugar water.

    For more information on this beverage, please read this “You Ask/I Answer” post
    from August of 2007.

    Coca Cola, meanwhile, is dismissing this as an attention-seeking move by CSPI, claiming their nutrition facts label tells an accurate tale.

    Okay, but that is not what CSPI is challenging.

    Rather, it is “the company’s claims [that] the drinks reduce the risk of chronic disease and eye disease, promote healthy joints and support immune function” that are being called out as deceptive.

    There is also the issue of the particular names attributed to each flavor (including “defense”, “energy”, and “rescue”).

    Obviously, Vitamin Water depends on those healthy-sounding terms for sales.

    Otherwise, their fruit punch flavor would simply be named “fruit punch” rather than “revive.”

    I strongly support more regulation surrounding health claims on these types of products. What are your thoughts?


    Numbers Game: Answer

    In 2007, Masterfoods USA– a division of Mars, Inc. — spent $ 100 million advertising M&M’s chocolate candies in “offline” media (AKA everything except the Internet).

    That’s actually a pretty standard expense for the top candy and chocolate manufacturers!

    Meanwhile, the Five A Day campaign (advocating the consumption of at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day) had a $4 million advertising budget to spread their message across the United States in 2004.

    By the way, that campaign was relaunched in 2007 after 15 years under the name “More Matters.”

    Rather than focus on one set number, consideration is given to individual guidelines based on varying calorie levels (some people only require four servings a day, while others should be getting eleven.)

    This campaign’s annual advertising budget? $3.5 million.

    SOS, anyone?


    Numbers Game: Adverti$$$ing

    In 2007, Masterfoods USA — a division of Mars, Inc. — spent $ ______ million advertising M&M’s chocolate candies in “offline” media (AKA everything except the Internet).

    a) 40
    b) 75
    c) 100
    d) 84

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Saturday for the answer!


    Shame On You: The Results Are In

    I am sure you have all been on pins and needles awaiting the results of Burger King’s Whopper Virgins experiment. Or not.

    Well, the wait is over!

    And wouldn’t you know it — the majority of those “weird third world villagers who have never heard of a burger” prefer the Whopper to rival McDonald’s Big Mac.

    Wondering how the burgers stayed hot and palatable in desolate areas of the world, far from any Burger King?

    Turns out the “expedition team” shuttled villagers to the closest city and had them bite into their first Whopper — in front of a video camera no less — in some sort of warehouse.

    Supposedly, said warehouse had both a Burger King and McDonald’s nearby, ensuring that both chains’ offerings would be in a participant’s mouth no more than 15 minutes after being purchased by the expedition team.

    All this trouble to find out which corn-fed beef patty topped with high-fructose corn syrup ketchup and a single pathetic wilted leaf of lettuce is the more superior one? I don’t get it.

    Burger King chronicles their worldwide journey in this 7 minute, 8 second “cinematic piece”.

    Apart from seeing images of these “researchers” in remote third world areas (including scenes where they cook Burger King hamburgers for a small village in a portable broiler displaying the fast food chain’s logo), we get to hear choice quotes like:

    “[Some of these people] didn’t even know how to pick [a hamburger] up.”

    Oh, wow! How backwards! And the majority of Americans don’t know how to hold chopsticks properly. Your point?

    The team is incredulous when a man practically missing all his teeth chooses to tear off a part of his burger rather than bite into it.

    So incredulous, actually, that they instruct him to take a bite.

    I cringed.

    “You can not get an entirely pure taste from a group of Americans because they have been exposed to so much advertising.”

    Partially true, but this isn’t only a problem in the United States. Fast food and soft drink advertising crosses borders and makes it to some very remote areas.

    Have these people never heard of blind tastings? Simply blindfold your subjects (right here in the USA!), ask them to take a bite of Burger 1, a bite of Burger 2, and tell you which one tastes best to them.

    And for all his “marketing virginity” talk, isn’t “rewarding” those who selected the Whopper as their favorite of the two burgers with their very own Burger King cookout a form of advertising?

    I am still waiting for the press release informing everyone this is a spoof along the lines of Waiting for Guffman or This Is Spinal Tap.


    Looking To Have Your Intelligence Insulted?

    Then please check out Burger King’s latest shameful advertising attempt — The Whopper Virgins.

    Here is one of the television ads, too.

    In an effort to find out whether the Whopper is superior to the Big Mac (does anyone seriously care?), the folks at Burger King have taken to remote villages in third world countries and videotaped people’s first bites into 100% American fast food.

    You know, because the “poor indigenous” people living in “those weird countries over there” don’t know what they’re missing!

    I mean, come on, who wouldn’t go nuts for a Whopper, right?

    Okay, back to reality: this is one of the most pathetic food-related advertising campaigns I have seen in a VERY long time.

    Burger King is actually proud of the fact that they are bringing Whoppers to parts of the world that don’t have a word for “burger.”

    Hmmm… do they have a word for “trans fat”? I hope so, because the Whopper contains 1.5 grams (along with half of the daily maximum recommendations for sodium and saturated fat.)

    I truly don’t know what’s worse — the cultural arrogance, the complete disregard for local culture, or the idea that third world villagers are the equivalent of lab rats.

    Besides, why not target their main demographic by simply asking random adolescent and twenty-something men in the United States to participate in a blind tasting?


    Numbers Game: Answer

    According to the latest Federal Trade Commission figures, food and beverage companies spent a total of $ 492 million in 2006 to advertise soda to children between the ages of 2 and 17.

    That is a higher advertising budget than Apple Computers’!

    Candy and gum advertising in 2006, you ask? Oh, in the $500 – $550 million range.

    Meanwhile, the Five A Day campaign, which promoted eating five servings of vegetables on a daily basis, spent slightly less than $10 million in advertising the year before.

    We are all susceptible to marketing, especially children. If something looks “cool,” they will want it.

    Yes, that even applies to healthy foods. Remember the Dancing Raisins from the 1980s?

    I sure do — it seemed every commercial break from Captain Planet had those raisins in it! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I have provided an image with this post.

    The clay-animated spots clearly worked. The California Raisin Board credits that campaign for increasing raisin sales by ten percent.


    The Dirty Details

    The latest issue of Details magazine features a short health piece titled “How Hard Can You Play”, in which readers are informed of just how much of a good time they can potentially have with popular vices before guaranteeing themselves a nasty hangover.

    Included in this piece is the following question:

    “How do you bounce back from a hard night out?”

    Here is the first part of the answer:

    “Heather Sachs Blattman, a dietitian in New York, suggests combating the dehydration and impaired metabolism… by eating a meal rich in fiber, protein, and antioxidants…. and drinking lots of fluids, preferably with electrolytes. ‘Vitamin Water’s Revive is great to get you back in balance,’ she says.”

    Eyeroll, please! Of course she does.

    What I happen to know — that Details does not tell you — is that Ms. Sachs Blattman is the in-house dietitian for Glacéau, the company that just happens to make Vitamin Water.

    My my, what a coincidence!

    Advertisements — and shameless plugs — are truly everywhere.

    And, no, you don’t need Vitamin Water to bounce back from a “hard night out.”

    Water will do the trick just fine. While you’re at it, munch on a medium banana to get plenty of potassium (one of the main electrolytes in sports drinks.)


    Also Going Bananas? Teddy Grahams!

    I suppose bananas are having “the best week ever.”

    A few hours after posting about the inane “morning banana diet” that has taken grip of Japanese dieters, I was browsing the aisles of a local supermarket when I came across… banana Teddy Grahams (so new they aren’t even mentioned on the Teddy Graham website!).

    For those of you visiting Small Bites from outside the United States, all you need to know is that Teddy Grahams are teddy bear-shaped cookies that are a big hit with young children.

    Although the actual product may be for kids, the advertising sure targets the parent/caretaker contingent.

    I noticed that plastered on each of these boxes, in very large font, was the statement: “Made with real fruit!”

    Oh, goodie. Real fruit! Nutrition! Vitamins! Minerals! Health!

    (Insert sound of record coming to abrupt halt HERE.)

    Not so fast.

    Sure enough, the third ingredient — before high fructose corn syrup, but after sugar and white flour — was dried bananas.

    “Well, they’re trying to make their cookies more nutritious,” some of you may think.

    Except that there is absolutely no point of putting real fruit into a product that is going to undergo that much processing.

    Remember, the more processed a food, the more nutrients it loses. This is why eating a baked potato with its skin provides more nutrition than a handful of Pringles.

    This particular flavor of Teddy Grahamas offers 80 milligrams of potassium and almost twice that amount of sodium (food label hint: the more processed a food product, the higher the sodium and the lower the potassium.)

    Keep in mind that a small (six-inch long) banana provides 362 milligrams of potassium!

    In essence, these dehydrated bananas are simply there to add flavor as well as an illusion of health and the “made with real fruit” tagline.

    If parents are looking to make a typically cookie-filled snack time healthier, I recommend gving a child half a serving of regular Teddy Grahams (that’s approximately 10 teddies) and a small banana.

    There is no reason why children should not be exposed to real pieces of fruit, especially when they have fun mushy textures.


    Buyer, Beware (And Be Smart)!

    The latest video on the Small Bites YouTube channel discusses four popular deceptive advertising techniques relating to nutrition:

    • “A daily dose of antioxidants”
    • “Cholesterol-free”
    • “0 grams of trans fat per serving!”
    • “Made with fruit”

    Once you’re familiar with these tricks, you won’t be a sucker at the supermarket!

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