Imagine for a moment that you work in a highly competitive, trillion-dollar industry. You are but one of a thousand competitors, vying for attention from millions of uninformed and unsuspecting consumers. Your objective is to make your product stand out among a large sea of fairly consistent, uniform products. How would you go about doing it? The most obvious solution would be to begin making claims about how your product is different or superior in some way. It wouldn’t necessarily have to be true; you just have to say it enough times, stoking public doubts about your competitor’s products, and their fear will do the rest. Of course, your competition is not about to be outdone, and so they also begin to make salacious claims of their own, raising the bar about what is actually true or not.
And this ladies and gentlemen, is how the food industry in America works. It is a $5.7 trillion dollar industry. Grocery stores on average sell over 40,000 products. If each product makes three different claims, that is 120,000 claims. It is not reasonable for someone to be able to research and verify each of these claims, and that is exactly what the food companies are counting on. They know that according to a study by Michigan State University in 2018, nearly 87% of consumers are influenced by food labels and what they initially read at the grocery store. They know these food labels will elicit an emotional response that will often utilize fear to shutdown common sense.
The use of false and unsubstantiated claims made by food companies is not anything new. They have been doing it for over 100 years, ever since entrepreneurs began to figure out how to broaden their consumer base beyond local markets and mass producing them consistently to customers across the world. Kellogg’s cereal was the super food of its day, alleviating indigestion and weak stomachs. Coca-Cola was famously originally marketed as a special health tonic that could alleviate headaches, body pains, or the common cold.
What has changed in the last ten years or more, is the rise in food “shaming”. Activists are increasingly using bullying tactics to impose their personal food preferences on others. As the internet and social media have increased our daily lives with information, it also allows for the increase of misinformation to seep in. According to author Michele Payne, author of the book “Food Bullying”, she says that “Bullying operates from a point of privilege, preying on fear. Food marketing is often fear-based. This misleading marketing has made food overly emotional, to the point where our nutrition is seemingly trumped by moral statements. If it is not socially acceptable to shame people on race, religion, or sexual orientation? Then why is a pregnant woman made to feel guilty if she’s not buying the “right” label of food?”
The book, “Food Bullying” by Michele Payne continues on by adding that…”bad behaviors, deceptive label claims, and marketing half-truths and other unnecessary drama surrounding our food plates” have become absolute nonsense. The actual word she used was “B—S—-!” An $8 gallon of milk from a specialty store is not superior to a $2.99 gallon of milk from a convenience store. Bullying someone because they want to buy conventional milk is no different than bullying someone on a school’s playground because they didn’t wear the “cool” clothes. I would say that this is worse, because it is done by adults, not prepubescent children.
Social media has created a new generation of keyboard cowards that attack and vilify those who don’t jump on the organic, non-gmo, gluten-free, all-natural, 100% sustainable bandwagon. They attempt to impose their own personal views on others, creating a sense of fear when none needs to exist. When the country was founded, 90% of the population lived in rural areas, surrounded by farms. Today it is the other way around. It is no coincidence that consumers are more curious than ever in wanting to know where or how their food is raised or produced. . .most of which having never visited a farm. Food activists and food evangelists know this, and so they look to capitalize on the unfamiliar. They use fear to impose their own uninformed opinions. Next week I will further discuss the misinformation they are putting out there to bully you.
David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.
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