Another re-emerging trend along the Flexible Flux™ wave is medicinal claims on mass produced foods. We know menu labeling is impacting foodservice menus as highlighted in The Skinny on Menu Labeling. In concert with that, on the retail grocery side, is a re-emergence of medicinal claims on food labels. For years, we have witnessed better-for-you claims of a more general nature on foods, but in the current rendition, they are getting even more specific.
The government is closely watching this trend, too. Recently, the Federal Trade Commission called Dannon to account for its claims that yogurt products DanActive and Activia can promote digestive health and boost the body’s immunity system. Although many consumers believe eating the yogurts did provide enough probiotics to effectively meet Dannon’s claims, many others think there is not enough scientific evidence to support the company’s medicinal boasting.
Nestle ran into the same issue with its claims that a children’s milk shake product could boost immunity. The FTC got involved and Nestle stopped making the claim. But that has not stopped the food company from delving into medicinal foods, especially products aimed at fighting diseases. It recently purchased CM&D Pharma, a company which focuses on medicinal food products and currently developing a chewing gum to help fight kidney disease. The difference with this new Nestle company will be scientific research and credibility backing its claims, according to a Nestle spokesperson.
The study of foods to combat medical problems is also overlapping with other areas of the scientific world. A research team at the University of Texas is looking at chilli peppers for that purpose. They have discovered a substance in the peppers that is also present at the site of pain in the human body. This evidence is now being used to transform what scientists know about the food into medicine for chronic pain sufferers.
Consumers have always been aware of the link between their eating habits and health, but the recent claims of food manufacturers are trying to bridge the gap and close the sales. In a sort of reverse twist of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” trend uncovered by The Food Channel’s editor Kay Logsdon, consumers are buying into what the labels and packaging tell them, whether the claims prove to be true or false. It seems these claims of health benefits are altering consumers’ purchase behavior.
Maybe consumers really want to be told about the positive health claims of food products and just don’t want to ask or be told about how their bad eating choices can affect their bodies. As the Flexible Flux continues, there is more mounting evidence to prove people do want some good mixed on their plates with bad.