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Food Marketing Tricks

It's time for another trip into the Far, Far, Far, Far-out World of Free Enterprise.
 
 
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Today, Spaceship Hightower takes you into the tangled, often-confusing world of food marketing, with Consumer Reports magazine serving as our guide. Let's first probe a new product being promoted under a brand name spelled G-r-a-p-p-l-e. You would naturally pronounce that "grapple," as in to wrestle with. But the label instructs us to say, grape-l.

By whatever name, what is it? An apple. A tortured apple that's been given an artificial grape flavor. The company says: "The apple is bathed through a patented process and in a few days the entire apple takes on the essence and mouthwatering taste of Concord grapes." Excuse me. If you want the flavor of grapes, why not buy some? Speaking of buying, the price of four Grapples is three dollars more than four unadulterated apples. Go figure.

On to an old favorite, the Hershey's chocolate bar. This sweet treat has long been seven ounces in weight, but Hershey has now quietly reduced it to six ounces. You wouldn't notice getting shorted, for Hershey packagers cleverly kept the six-ounce wrapper the exact same size as the old seven-ouncer. They also kept the price the same.

But when it comes to raw chutzpah in the category of product dilution, Hershey is a piker compared to Tropicana and Minute Maid, the two top purveyors of processed orange juice. Both are marketing "light" versions of their juices, with Tropicana boasting on its carton that "Light 'n Healthy Original" has one-half less sugar and calories than regular orange juice.

What's the trick? Both companies are simply giving you less orange juice, replacing it with water and artificial sweeteners. Yes, they charge you the same for the watered down version as for 100-percent juice.

To learn more about the fast-moving world of commercial gotcha's, check out ConsumerReports.org

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of "Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush," from Viking Press. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.