Nutrition Marketing That Makes a Fool of Neither the Consumer nor the Brand

Want to take loyalty from the guy next to you on the shelf? Find smart, simple ways to help confused consumers understand your buzz words.

Anaheim, California. Natural Products Expo West, the site of the Earth’s largest concentration of innovative food brands — and confounding buzz words.

Sorry, but on this site, I position myself as a helper — a teacher if I’m being bold. And sometimes teacher has to scold the class. So, Expo West Class of 2018, you need to back up those buzz words with some actual knowledge surrounding how these miracle ingredients work. Here are snippets of a few of my conversations

  • Her: “Our new cereal is packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories!” Me: “What’s an anti-inflammatory?” Her: “You know, like when you have a sprained ankle.” Me: Face palm.
  • Me: “My site is based on the theory that people are really confused about what food does in their bodies.” Him, “I couldn’t agree more. That’s why our new beverage is loaded with Adaptogens!!”
  • Him: “This is the world’s healthiest (category name withheld out of respect), because it has so many antioxidants.” Me: “What’s an antioxidant do?” Him: “Well I think it’s good for your skin — and your heart!!!”

At the end of each of these buzz-word-oriented statements, the booth-tender would look at me the way one looks when one completes a particularly corny joke. Eyes dramatically agape, grinning like an idiot. “Get it? Get it?” Chris Rock also completes a lot of bits this way, but he’s one of the funniest freaking humans on Earth. And he’s not hawking super-adaptogen-boosted-prebiotic peanut butter.

And yeah, I do get it. I know antioxidants fight oxidative stress that damages cells, especially the mitochondria, the little rascals that give our cells energy. I know an anti-inflammatory diet can eliminate bloating, brain fog and plaque build up on coronary arteries.

I also know the FDA takes a seriously harsh view of food brands that make what sound like drug claims.

So what’s your well-meaning, super-competitive food brand to do?

  • Put your money where your mouth is, do a clinical study that proves the stuff you’re talking about actually enters the bloodstream. Then tell people that.
  • Use a general, accepted fact that works around what you’re trying to promote, as in, “Most people in America only get __% of the antioxidants they need on a daily basis.” At least people will see you as generically “healthy.”
  • Be honest by telling people the FDA won’t allow a food company to make claims about certain product benefits and invite them to use the super computer in their pockets to discover how amazing antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, adaptogens or whatever — are.
  • For crying out loud, give your booth-tenders a cheat sheet they can memorize before they talk to people like me — who don’t laugh at every corny joke.

Just remember, there are two ways to sell someone — the first is to trick them; the other is to help them understand. And I’d argue they both take about the same amount of effort.

Be digestible. And thanks.

Eric Kiker: Speaker

Author of The Digestible Brand: The Secret Sauce for Marketing Nutrition to the Confused Consumer

Agency Principal/LRXD

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