I’ve noticed over the past few years that the importance of what’s in a product has taken a back seat to what’s not in a product.
It hit me hard in the grocery store yesterday. I went to get a bottle filled with water that had been purified beyond belief by reverse osmosis, infra red rays, charcoal filtration, and love, sweet love; there was a new label on the bottle, stating that it was BPA-Free. I wish it had just stated “Free”— do you know what bottled water costs nowadays?
But this label proudly announcing that the purchaser would be safe from the dangers of bisphenol-a, a danger I hadn’t even been aware of until recently.
I first realized this phenomenon some years back when many laundry detergents started bragging about the fact that they did not contain bleach. Then they upped the ante with “phosphate-free.”
I think it started when learned that our paint should be lead free, and our insulation asbestos free.
Then when we learned what we had long suspected, that sugar wasn’t always the best thing for everybody, “sugar free” products starting jostling each other for space on the supermarket shelves.
Inevitably, sweeteners came along, proclaiming proudly they did not contain whichever sugar alternative had fallen into disfavor.
Certain mouth washes proclaim they’re alcohol-free. If you ask, me, if you’re ordering a fashionable designer cocktail, it would be helpful to be able to identify one that will taste like it’s mouthwash-free.
Sodium free foods, at first of interest only to those on cardiac diets, became a selling point to all consumers, even those who did not need to drastically reduce their salt intake.
“Fat free.” That’s a huge seller now. However if you look closely at the ingredients listing on the label, things like sodium and sugar might increse their percentages to make up for the taste loss inherent in fat free products.
Oh, and then there’s choleserol free. That’s good. But I don’t know which is better—cholesterol-free or fat free, and which one impacts the other.
How Low Can You Go
When they couldn’t do the free part, they went to “low,” as in low fat, low sugar, low sodium. We love compromises, thinking that 2% Milk, while not entirely fat free, is at least better for one than fat, fatty fat milk.
Even some manufacturers trumpeted that their cigarettes were low tar, blithely ignoring the fact that they still had all the carcinogens.
Lately, anti-biotics-free and hormone-free chicken, pork, and beef have become the fastest growing segment of the meat market, while pesticide-free produce is certainly more appealing to the average customer than the oh-so-trendy, “organic.”
Buying local supposedly helps consumers be assured that the missing toxins are really missing.
And all this is just the beginning
Let’s take a peek at what’s on the horizon:
SCENE—CORPORATE OFFICE—SOMEWHERE IN CORPORATE AMERICA
CEO: Well, Farnswold, I understand you marketing fellows, oh, sorry Betsy, “you marketing folks” have come up with something that will kick a little life into many of our stagnant products.
FARNSWORTH: Yessir, Betsy show him the new label for our cookies.
BETSY: TA DA!
CEO: Ta da?
BETSY: Trust me, sir, it deserves it. (TAKES COVERING OFF A PACKAGE OF THE COMPANY’S COOKIES, PUSHING A BUTTON TO ACTIVATE A SPOTLIGHT ON THE PROMINENT LABEL)
CEO: What does that say, “Arsenic Free?” What are you, nuts? Why would our cookies contain arsenic?
FARNSWOLD: That’s just it, sir. They don’t. And we’re telling the people that. It will kick our sales through the roof.
CEO: Well, the other manufacturers’ cookies don’t contain arsenic either.
FARNSWOLD: We’re not saying they do. But the average consumer will not see anything about that on the other cookie packages. If they’re concerned, let those guys put that on their labels. By the time they do, we will have cornered the market.
CEO: Brilliant.(HANDSHAKES—TO BE FOLLOWED BY BONUSES ALL AROUND)
There you have it. If you have questions, call me. Feel free.
But I really have to leave now. There’s a big sale down the street on tires. I hear they’re gluten free.