Last month in The Slow Lane, my monthly Uptown News column, I wrote about legislating food marketing aimed at children. Take a peak. Admittedly, children are not the only targets of crafty food marketers, who seem to promise nothing short of euphoria if we’ll just ingest whatever they’re pushing. (Had I known I could fly simply by drinking a glass of Joe Schmoe’s All-Natural Orange Juice, I would have done it years ago.) There’s little more disingenuous than prose designed to make us believe something is as it isn’t. (Listen to radio commercials for half an hour today and count the puffery.) But nowhere are shifty marketing terms used more than in the natural foods industry. Here are two of the most common exaggerations of which you should be wary:
Ever ordered fresh-squeezed OJ from a restaurant, only to be disappointed by a glass of “from concentrate” nonsense? Most orange juice manufacturers have mastered making orange juice taste nearly fresh-squeezed, and many restaurants think nearly is good enough. I almost always ask my server if the oranges are squeezed at the restaurant; you’d be surprised by how often they aren’t. True story: Two days ago, I met my dad for lunch at Daily News Cafe in Carlsbad, Calif. and queried our server about the origins of the juice before paying $2 for a wee-ounce glass. ‘It’s Evolution brand,’ she said ‘and it’s like drinking a glass of juice made from a batch of fresh oranges’. Or something like that. Man, she was selling it, but I was privy to the brand, which is good, but not literally fresh-squeezed. People have the right to know their juice is not really fresh-squeezed, just as they had the right to know Rob and Fab were not really songsters.
$50 to anyone who can name a place, other than a farm, where produce is grown. Anyone? Anyone? It’s a superfluous term but, boy, does it sound appealing. True, not all farms are created equal and you should support small or mid-sized local farms over big ag, when possible, but the fact remains: Both are still farms.
If I were creating a category for each of these irritating marketing terms, this one would fall under Stores Behaving Badly. San Diego is home to more small farms than anywhere else in the nation, so a good rule of thumb for anyone who breathes and chews in the county is: Local produce = crops grown in San Diego County and maybe Southern Riverside County. Vons, in particular, has been sporting Local Grown signs for over a year now, but most of the “local” produce in its San Diego stores comes from north of Los Angeles. With so many farms in San Diego and South Riverside, like Suzie’s Organic, Crows Pass, Stehly Farms Organics and an abundance in Vista, Calif. alone, it’s difficult to make the case that those in the San Joaquin Valley, too, are local.
What food marketing gimmicks get your goat?