Organic Celery

Academic Collaborators of Food and Beverage Marketers

Food and beverage marketers have one very clear mission. Encourage people to drink and eat more. Thus, they innovate, they formulate, and they communicate. And it all advances a singular purpose – sell more.

Superfood, healthy food, food fads – they’re all part of the marketing machine. More than ever, that machine relies on academic nutrition advocates supplying fresh ideas about what’s healthy and what’s not. Those ideas – even if they later prove to be wrong – equip food and beverage marketers with tools for making products fly off the shelves.

Selling Superfoods

A prime example is the concept of superfoods. “Superfoods offer some very important nutrients that can power-pack your meals,” says the Harvard Medical School’s health blog. It’s a durable concept that serves the marketers well. An academic endorsement is fuel for the marketing gas tank.

As a result, marketers can bounce from one fad to another. For instance, Acai berries gained the health halo of superfood status a few years back. So now food marketers are ready to sell us an overwhelming array of super healthy acai bowls. Packed with powerful antioxidants, they can also deliver 50 grams of sugar or more. Superfood becomes junk food.

The latest superfood fad is organic celery. Live Science tells all about its health benefits. With modest fuel from science, health fad marketers like Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony William take over. So now, as the New York Times explains, “everyone is drinking celery juice as if it will save them from dying.”

It works for celery farmers. The price they can get for organic celery has gone up 670 percent. Sales are booming. From the slimmest sliver of science, a superfood marketing bonanza can explode.

Opportunities for Innovation

Canned Water

You might think beverage marketers have a tough row to plow. Maybe. But then again, all the grief that’s coming their way on sugary beverages also creates opportunities for innovation. People have to drink something. So how about some canned water?

Pepsi will sell it to you in the purest form under the Aquafina brand. LaCroix has been so successful with its flavored seltzers that it’s attracting big competition. Maybe beverage marketers will sell us more water with less sugar.

But then again, Starbucks is ready to sell you an Iced Cocoa Cloud Macchiato. It’s a cool 29 grams of sugar in a Grande. Marketers can bury us with so many options that we’re bound to buy more.

Unpredictable Outcomes

No longer are people content with food and drink that simply brings them pleasure and sustenance. Food and beverages with functional health benefits have a marketing edge. When academic nutrition advocates pump out “superfood” stories or inflated claims about coffee, they are collaborators with food and beverage marketers.

It might not be the intent. But it’s an unfortunate, unintended consequence.

Click here for more on the origins of the celery juice fad and here for more on the problem with health claims for food.

Organic Celery, photograph © Will Power/ flickr

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June 29, 2019