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Dear Convenience Food Marketers

MacDear Junkfood Convenience Food Marketers,

In this economy, I feel it is my duty to provide you with some valuable feedback that can help you cut your costs. You see, I’ve noticed some changes to your packaging. Lately it includes copy intended to market to someone looking for a healthy meal.

Consider the following two standard favourites: Kraft Dinner Original and Chef Boyardee Ravioli.

The Kraft Dinner package is now sporting a substational bright green call-out box on the front which reads:

Sensible Solution:
Source of Calcium and Iron
Good Source of Protein

The Chef Boyardee packaging, for its part, has allocated an entire panel on its paper wrap to share the following information:

Thank Goodness for Chef Boyardee!
When you serve Chef Boyardee to your family, you give them more than great taste — you give them a wholesome, nutricious meal as well. Because Chef Boyardee is made with fresh beef and enriched pasta, it is a delicious combination of protein and carbs. And Chef Boyardee has no preservatives. Serve Chef Boyardee. The good, hot and hearty meal that your entire family loves.

But let’s be real my marketing friends — I’m not buying these foods for their health benefits. It’s because I’m being lazy. Or indulgent. Or both.

I am very aware that whenever I veer away from the perimeter of the grocery store and down the centre isles that I am entering into different territory. Territory in which a pasta can be magically created from florescent orange powder. Or where there is no need for an expiry date, even though the food inside contains meat.

However, this little “health” promo on your packaging caused me to take a closer look at the ingredients. Here’s what I found:

  • Kraft Dinner contains tartrazine. This additive is a synthetic dye used as a food colouring. Norway and Austria banned the use of tartrazine and other countries issued warnings after it was found to cause hyperactivity in some children. In addition to hyperactivity, research has also linked tartrazine to asthma, skin rashes, and migraines. While the United States and Canada have not banned this additive, it is now mandatory for it to be clearly labelled on a product’s ingredient list.
  • Chef Boyardee’s ingredient list includes the infamous “MSG,” or Monosodium Glutamate. Although you’ll find virtually every Chinese food take-out place defensively advertising “No MSG” in their foods, there is no real answer as to whether this ingredient is harmful or not. Countless research studies have shown only that it can cause a reaction in some people that is similar to an allergic reaction. But one thing is for sure: MSG is used to enhance the flavour of food. Why? So you’ll eat more of course! Just what us chubby first-world folks need. In addition, Chef Boyardee contains glucose-fructose, more than one type of salt and caramel. (I don’t know if caramel is actually bad for you but I thought it was so wierd that it was worth mentioning).

This brings me back to my starting point, which was how you could save yourself some money.

And here’s how: don’t bother hiring any more copywriters to develop “healthy messaging” on your packages! It is completely unnecessary. Perhaps even counter-intuitive.

If you must keep adapting your copy on your packages, here are my suggestions:

  • Feed this at dinner tonight and you won’t have to endure any whining or make idle threats related to dessert!
  • If you make this for dinner, you can get the kids into bed before “So You Think You Can Dance” starts!
  • This requires only one pot — that’s right, only one pot to clean!

I know, I know. You’ve likely spent thousands and thousands of dollars on market research that told you to include that health-conscious messaging. But trust me — don’t bother. It just makes you look silly.

A sometimes lazy and indulgent mother.

Note to Husband: Er, you’re actually reading my blog?? Okay, this post has absolutely no connection to the fact that you’ve been away. I’ve been cooking up all those frozen homemade casseroles you left me. Honest.

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  1. I love this post, Julie. LOVE it. Can I put a link to this on my blog? I would love for others to read it. Well done, my friend, well done!

  2. I don’t think any of us are fooled. I just wish they’d stop trying to placate me. The Boy flat out refuses to eat Chef Boyardee… he prefers the sodium fest that is the PC Ravioli.

    (PVR for SYTYCD… so upset about Janette.)

  3. Jules-
    Try the PC mini chefs version of KD – no tartrazine, kids and hubby insist it tastes better. But sadly lacking in fluorescence!

  4. Don’t forget the sodium. Almost everything canned or packaged or frozen has an astronomical sodium content which will give your kiddies equally high blood pressure and stroke by the time they’re 30 (give or take). How difficult is it to make noodles and cheese from scratch? My kid could do it when she was 7. Or pasta and tomato sauce? Excellent post! And thanks for visiting my blog today.

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