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Food Packaging and their Marketing Goals

January 2019

Written by Jessica Worth, Nutritionist, Sydney, Mona Vale

The simple fact of life is, food packaging is designed to be attention grabbing and attractive so you buy it. The end goal is always for it to sell. The food industry is  particularly clever at this, they have whole marketing teams dedicated to the packaging look and feel.

Beyond food packaging appearance

Beyond the appearance of the food packaging,the words used to grab your attention are marketing “buzz words”. Some examples are:

– sugar free
– gluten free (helpful for those who are coeliac, but not the driving force behind them highlighting it on their packaging)
– low fat
– gut health
– 100% natural
– organic
– superfood
– no hidden nasties
– no added sugar
– guilt free

In today’s modern society it can be hard to avoid packaged foods, I mean even some of the supermarkets package up bananas! WTF is with that?!? So when you’re looking at a particular packaged food, this is what I want you to look at.

The ingredient list.

That’s it. Ignore the rest of the hype. Flip it over, turn it round, do what you have to do to read the ingredients.

Side note: when I was much, much younger, I used to be embarrassed to do this in a supermarket. I though people were looking at me funny, now I have no issues. You do not need to be embarrassed to read the ingredient list. You are choosing to read it so you can decide if it is the right product for you and your family. Nothing wrong with that.

What are you looking for?

So you’re learning to read the ingredients list, but what are you actually looking for. Here are four simple tips:

  1. A limited number of ingredients. Five or less is amazing. They are listed in order of quantity, largest to smallest. The first ingredient means there is more of this than anything else.
  2. Ingredients that you can pronounce and recognise.
  3. No numbers, as these indicate additives, colours, preservatives and thickeners.
  4. Sugar and salt are not the first, second or third ingredient. Or worse yet, named different things and added more than once (eg, sugar is one ingredient, with glucose syrup added as another).

If comparing similar products, look at the Nutrition Information Panel (usually near the ingredients). This will list protein, carbohydrates fats, sugar, sodium etc. In Australia, our food labeling laws mean that the packaging must list serving size values and also 100g values. To compare, look at each 100g column and choose the product that has less or more of what you’re looking for.

In a perfect world, you won’t be eating any packaged foods. But let’s be real, it is not always possible. The more you eat from nature the better for your health. When you do need to buy packaged foods, use those tips above and you’ll be on your way.

Until next time… x


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