Sunday, 19 July 2009

UK Supermarket Redefines the Word 'Healthy'

Outraged by what I found when I examined the difference between UK supermarket Somerfield's standard garlic bread and so-called 'Healthy Choice' garlic bread, I decide to initiate a new campaign:

Dear Somerfield,

Based on the differences between your standard and 'Healthy Choice' garlic bread products, I believe the premise behind your 'Healthy Choice' range is deeply flawed.

I also believe I have an excellent opportunity for you to lead the way on healthy eating.

The differences demonstrates one of two things.

Your marketing and product development departments are either…
  1. …cynically exploiting consumer ignorance (which is despicable) or…
  2. … themselves ignorant (which is lamentable.)
Using the phrase ‘Healthy Choice’ is flawed on a number of levels:

White bread is not a healthy choice, regardless of how you tinker with the ingredients.

Reduced fat is not healthier - the only significant difference between the macronutrient composition of your standard garlic bread and the ‘Healthy Choice’ garlic bread appears to be that the latter contains less fat. This suggests you regard fat as unhealthy. This is not necessarily true. More on fat in a moment.


Healthy Choice

Less healthy ingredients - there is only one difference between the ‘Healthy Choice’ ingredients and the standard:

Standard: Butter

Healthy Choice: Low Fat Spread [Vegetable Oils (rapeseed oil, palm oil), Emulsifiers (E471, E476), Water, Milk Proteins, Salt, Stabiliser (E401), Preservative (E202), Flavourings, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Colour (E160a)]


Healthy Choice

Ironically, the low fat spread is less healthy. First because it contains vegetable oils (not healthy) instead of saturated fat from butter (healthy). Second because it contains 5 additional e-number additives.

On the package you say

Somerfield Healthy Choice can only aid weight loss as part of a calorie controlled diet. Healthy Choice can help maintain your health as part of a healthy lifestyle including an appropriate level of exercise.

Nothing we have seen so far suggests this would be true – please provide some evidence – how does it help?

I cannot emphasise enough what an opportunity this is for you.

All the other supermarkets remain behind the curve. They are also selling low fat alternatives under the banner of healthy eating, pumping them full of garbage ingredients to make them palatable.

I am not suggesting you make an immediate u-turn; but if you start researching this now and thinking about ways to engage the customer with the realities of healthy eating rather than pandering (wilfully or otherwise) to their misplaced perceptions, then when the mainstream finally realises what genuinely constitutes healthy eating , you will have started making the changes already.

You could be forgiven for dismissing me as a crackpot – but I assure you I am not; and nor are the highly respected doctors and researchers whose references I can provide.

I challenge you to take one small step – ask me for references. To make it easy, let’s pick one of the issues only: saturated fat. Email me and request a couple of articles or papers.

Maybe you are not the right person. Maybe you are in the PR department. In that case, I challenge you at least to pass this onto someone at Somerfield whose expertise lies in this area.

Of course this would ultimately be important to the PR department, too – after all, there is great PR to be had from being the first to get it right.

I await your response with eager anticipation.

Yours faithfully,


Jedidja said...

Awesome :) Maybe you can tweet to Jamie Oliver and see if he can do something with Sainsbury's ...

Nelson Beads said...

The food industry isn't interested in health. They're just interested in cheap ingredients that make their products last longer on the shelves. "Healthy choice." "All Natural." It's all a bunch of crap.

Asclepius said...

This should be good! I was thinking recently about this very word and how redundant it has become in the field of 'groceries'.

You could add 'whole', 'reduced', 'simple' and 'natural' to the list. In fact it works the other way and I do not buy anything with these words on them!

guy said...

Fantastic, I cannot wait to see the response(or lack thereof) to this.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely spot-on and very, very necessary. But Somerfield is not to blame: 20 years of government-led campaigns on "Healthy Eating" are the real culprit. Can you blame the industry for following profit?

Methuselah said...

Thanks for your comments everyone.

Anon - I agree - in a way that's why I took the angle that this is an opportunity for them rather than just bashing them - at the end of the day they respond to market forces which we the consumer generate so there's only so mad with them we can get.

I will of course post any response I get. said...

Do you really expect a meaningful response?

Methuselah said...

Jim - well, the odds are not in favour of it, but Marks and Spencer did demonstrate last year (see here) that some companies will have a meaningful dialogue, so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

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