If you're a health-conscious and brand savy consumer then you're part of a growing niche of people who buy products labeled 'organic' or 'natural' at high prices. In the last few decades we've been told over and over again that organic or natural foods are a healthier alternative to regular food. Is this true or is it just a marketing gimmick?
Organic foods are basically those produced using animal and environment friendly farming methods and are devoid of chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides. According to a 2012 report published by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the organic food market has been growing at a staggering 400 per cent every year.
Many studies claim that you should be eating certain organic or natural foods but a a recent study has concluded that not everything labeled 'organic', 'natural' or 'gluten-free' is healthy and could in fact make you put on extra few kilos. The research examined the degree to which consumers link marketing terms on food packaging with good health and stated, "That false sense of health as well as the failure to understand the information presented in nutrition facts panels on packaged food may be contributing to the obesity epidemic worldwide." (More: Read your labels - Top 10 things to look out for)
Temple Northup, assistant professor at the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, University of Houston (UH) said, "Food marketers are exploiting consumer desires to be healthy by marketing products as nutritious when, in fact, they are not."
The research found that consumers tend to view food products labeled with health-related euphemisms as healthier than those without them. The nutrition facts panels printed on food packaging do very little to counteract that buzzword marketing.
Northup added, "When people stop to think about it, there is nothing healthy about antioxidant drinks as they're mostly filled with high fructose syrup or sugar. But the name is giving you a clue that there is some sort of health benefit to something that is not healthy at all."
The study asked 318 participants to rate various products on how "healthy" they were. Northup found when participants were shown the front of food packaging that included words like organic, antioxidant, natural or gluten-free, they would rate the items as healthier. The researchers concluded that the study would help people understand the effects of marketing practices on the choices and decisions of the consumers.