Advertising agendas: How food is marketed

woman choosing food

Learning the ins and outs of food marketing can help you distinguish between truly healthy products and overblown claims. Here are some things to know:

  • “Natural” just means no artificial flavors or colors. These foods may still contain preservatives, genetically-modified ingredients, and other additives.
  • “Whole” describes foods without anything removed or added. For example, brown rice still has all parts of the grain while white rice doesn’t. Many packaged foods say “whole grain” on the label, but they can still be packed with preservatives, artificial ingredients, sugar, and salt.
  • Watch out for claims like “New and Improved!” Often there’s only been a slight change in recipe—or even shape—but new packaging means more cost.
  • Coupons may tempt you to buy a certain brand, but still look at prices and ingredients. Often the store brand will still be cheaper.
  • Most stores have big displays on the ends of each aisle. Avoid impulse buys here and at the register—where pricey foods are often pedaled.