This month’s Food Product Design trade magazine shares consumer, media, and market research giant Mintel Solutions’s 2008 statistics on product development in the food industry.
Much to my initial surprise, “during 2008, ‘natural’ was the most-frequent claim on new foods and beverages. [In the United States,] one-third [of products sported] the claim, up 16% from 2007.”
I scratched my head pondered over this factoid for a few minutes. Why would food companies choose “natural” as a selling point? Why not brag about Omega-3 fortification or whole grain inclusion?
Then, it hit me.
There is no legal definition for “natural.” The Food & Drug Administration has not defined what products can — and can’t — use that term in their advertising.
Much to food companies’ liking, consumers associate “natural” with healthy, low in calories, and nutritious. While that is certainly true if you’re talking about pears or tomatoes, it doesn’t apply to other “100% natural” products like high fructose corn syrup, 7Up, and Cheetos white cheddar puffs.
This phenomenon is not contained within the 50 states. “On a global scale, ‘natural’ claims appeared on almost one in four (23%) new products.”