PERSUASION

Processed food makers kneading in some feel-good veggies and fruit

The Globe and Mail

On Monday, Dempster’s launched its new Garden Vegetable Bread, flecked with pieces of carrot and pumpkin. It is the latest move in a trend of food marketers promoting products with nutritional extras hidden inside.

Wheat fields, kitchen tables, and moms gazing approvingly at their sandwich-eating children: the conventions of bread advertising are well entrenched. But figure-conscious fashion models and bread products, usually, do not mix.

Nevertheless, that’s the scenario offered up in the newest ad from Dempster’s bread, which features models on set approvingly munching on formerly forbidden carbs. The ad was created to promote a new product development that is part of a major marketing program at Dempster’s, designed to make people think differently about the much-maligned wheat product.

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On Monday, Dempster’s launched its new Garden Vegetable Bread, flecked with pieces of carrot and pumpkin. It is the latest move in a trend of food marketers promoting products with nutritional extras hidden inside. Mott’s line of apple sauce and other blended fruit cups has added Fruitsations + Veggies, which it advertises as an “undercover” source of vegetables for kids. Kraft Foods Group Inc. has KD Smart, which promotes the cauliflower blended into its macaroni and cheese.

As consumers become more pressed for time, food companies are seeing the power of advertising easy ways to sneak nutritional benefits into their day.

“It’s definitely a trend. All of us don’t have enough time to plan, to manage, to prepare foods that give us the full range of benefits,” said Connie Morrison, senior vice-president of marketing for Fresh Bakery at Canada Bread, a subsidiary of Maple Leaf Foods Inc., which markets the Dempster’s line.

“If you can take something as simple as a sandwich and add hidden benefits, then the mom preparing lunches for her kids doesn’t have to worry about how to get her kids to eat more vegetables and fruits.”

The campaign, however, targets a wider consumer group as well. Unlike Kraft or Mott’s, which emphasize that hidden vegetables can fool picky kids into eating healthy, the Dempster’s ad tackles a bigger problem: weight-conscious adults who have negative perceptions about bread.

In the TV spot, a woman at a fashion shoot asks another model, incredulously, “Are you eating a sandwich?” Once the product is explained, the two women enthusiastically partake together.

“Seeing the disconnect of models together with sandwiches creates a visual tension and makes you look and think twice,” said Brent Choi, chief creative and innovation officer at Dempster’s ad agency, JWT Canada.

In fact, because the ad is such a sharp departure from the wheat field imagery and other conventions of the category (which JWT has also used in Dempster’s ads in the past), the team was hesitant to pitch it to the client.

But it fits into a strategy the company has been pushing for roughly a year now to counter bread’s bad rap.

For example, earlier this year, Canada Bread’s digital ad agency, Cundari, launched a campaign featuring comedian Gerry Dee emphasizing bread’s nutritional benefits. The company’s consumer tracking studies have shown an improvement in sentiment toward bread in the past six months, Ms. Morrison said, and sales in the commercial bread category as a whole in Canada are seeing slower declines.

The new ad concludes with a male crew member eating a salad and marvelling at his colleague’s sandwich as well – a sign of just how widespread the suspicion over bread has become. Canada Bread is hoping that tapping into the wider trend of built-in nutritional extras will help in its efforts to combat that suspicion.

“We still see a lot of consumers talking about gluten free, ‘carbs are bad,’ ‘bread makes you fat,’” Ms. Morrison said. “We’re trying to turn it on its head.”

Indeed, many marketers are attempting to fortify their products as scores of dieting books, nutrition advice on television and online, and the implicitly judgmental missives of celebrity lifestyle guru Gwyneth Paltrow make consumers wary of a wider array of foods. While carbs from bread used to be the biggest evil, many dieters have turned their attentions to sugar as well, lending a sinister air to that wholesome glass of orange juice.

PepsiCo Inc., which owns Tropicana, launched the Tropicana Essentials line of juices that advertise extra calcium and vitamin D, in 2002. It also launched the Trop50 line of juices with less sugar and calories, and has recently launched a version with the same nutritional extras.

“Our research suggested that consumers are looking for foods that deliver more nutrition,” said Meghan Savage, senior marketing manager for Tropicana. “Innovation is a proven driver in helping us to grow the Tropicana brand. Tropicana Essentials is a great example of a successful innovation that meets the needs of consumers that has helped to grow our business.”

It’s a popular tactic to market to parents as well. Since KD Smart launched three years ago in Canada, it has seen growth in household penetration among families with younger kids, said Kathy Murphy, director of corporate affairs at Kraft Canada.

“Parents have long told us that mealtime can be challenging,” she said. “They want their kids to eat nutritious meals and they want those meals to be convenient. The whole idea behind KD Smart is to offer products that make it easier for those parents to deliver on both.”

However, obesity expert and professor in the department of medicine at the University of Ottawa, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, is skeptical of foods that claim to have nutritional extras.

“It’s playing into society’s desire for convenience, and it’s also playing into the naturalistic fallacy, that if you write that it has a vegetable in it, suddenly it makes it healthful,” Dr. Freedhoff said.

His forthcoming book, The Diet Fix, explores the problems of a dieting culture.

He has a problem with products such as KD Smart – “anything but smart” – and Mott’s cups, which have so little of the nutrients from the vegetables they claim to include as to make them almost negligible.

“When you process things, you lose a huge amount of nutrients that came with them in the first place. Simply because they were once of carrot or pumpkin origin, does not mean that’s what you’re getting in that bread. You’re getting a faint shadow of what those vegetables once were.”

Bread has its own legitimate merits, but he suggested consumers should take this kind of hidden-nutrition advertising with an extra grain – of salt.

“The inconvenient truth of healthy living is that it does require effort.”

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