How our food is marketed was the topic of the latest food dialogue, sponsored by US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. The food dialogues bring together farmers, food industry experts, and consumer activists for a live panel discussion on some of the food topics of the day. The event, held in Chicago on Tuesday, covered marketing claims made about food by both food companies and activists. The activists were quick to ridicule food companies for what they called harmful marketing tactics.
Michael Dimock, from the California group Roots of Change, said marketing sugar cereals to children or soft drinks to anyone is bad, “Sugary beverages are among the leading causes of obesity, so that kind of marketing is hurting us.” Connie Tipton, CEO, International Dairy Foods Association, countered, “I do not think there is any single food category in the food industry that is responsible for obesity.” She added there are many factors that contribute to the obesity problem including lifestyle and lack of exercise. Other panelists commented that parents have responsibility for monitoring and guiding what their children eat.
Chuck Wirtz, an Iowa pork producer, said many of the marketing efforts of organic food companies are also misleading, using such terms as hormone free, “None of us in the pork industry produce pork with hormones, so to say a certain kind of pork is hormone free, while it is true, it implies that other kinds of pork have hormones, and that is just not the case.” This led to a discussion of the term “natural” which is used by many food products. It was pointed out that the FDA has very vague regulations on the use of the term in food marketing.
There was a lot of discussion about how the food and agriculture sector needs to be more transparent; but Allen Maskowskitz, Director, Communispace, a consumer research firm, pointed out that some transparency provides consumers with too much information, “What consumers want is to see some image behind the scenes, to get some idea of what kind of conditions animals live it, but not necessarily know everything.”
The dialogue was streamed on-line and can be viewed at https://www.fooddialogues.com/events/fd-chicago