It’s a tricky time to be a food marketer. How consumers define what it means to be “healthy” is in flux. As a food marketing friend pointed out, consumers are increasingly prioritizing food purity over calorie count.
Chipotle is the poster brand for the current state of health positioning. They’re taking a leadership role in progressive stances like GMO-free and sustainable sourcing. And this obscures the fact that an average meal at Chipotle packs a whopping 1,070 calories, close to a full day’s worth of salt, and 75% of a day’s worth of saturated fat. A Chipotle burrito has more than double the calories, cholesterol, and grams of fat than a Taco Bell Supreme Beef Burrito.
It’s similar to soda makers that tout being “made with real cane sugar” or granola bars that are really glorified candy bars. There’s an aura of health that distracts from the actual nutritional picture. Researchers refer to this as a “health halo.”
Meanwhile, traditional diet brands like Lean Cuisine, Diet Coke, and Special K have been struggling.
It will be interesting to see how consumers continue to evaluate brands that are perceived as healthy. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how food brands should navigate this constantly changing environment of what defines healthy. There’s a fine line between a health halo and health washing.
It reminds of this cartoon I drew in 2007 on the art of green washing.