One quarter of new foods are “natural”

Just came across this from Mintel. Apparently the most common way to get you to buy a new food product is for manufacturers to put the word “natural” somewhere on the packaging. That word was used to sell almost a quarter of all new food launches worldwide in 2008, up nine percent from 2007. I the U.S. “natural” is even more powerful – it was on a full third of new launches, up 16 percent from 2007.

I’d now like to make up a new law – Nate’s law if you will. I haven’t thought about this at all and have no idea if it’s really right – but hey, isn’t that what blogging is all about?
Nate’s law: Whenever a simple gesture toward a concept creates massive sales, it means we must have deep and (crucially) unexamined associations with that concept. ie, it’s gotta be universal, and vague.

My explanation for the appeal of natural is that the pendulum swings back and forth between the desire for “natural goodness” (pristine waters blessed by the singing of tree sprites), and mechanical control. (Glaceau manages to have it both ways – check out this brilliant copy: smartwater is inspired by the way mother nature makes water, known as the hydrologic cycle (you remember the ocean, cloud, raindrop diorama from fifth grade right? Actually, it’s how we got our name too (hydro=water/logic=smart).” But then they “one up ma nature with electrolytes.”) Anyway – I think we are still swinging toward natural but as we do we are going to see a lot more mixing like this – where products are going both back to the land and back to the lab. With any luck that will lead to confusion and a lot of tough questions about what’s actually natural and what’s not. Science is going to be prominent in this confusion: Is science natural? any sane smart person is on the side of science right? But as the graf below demonstrates (also from the Mintel presser) science (ie calorie, fortified) easily falls into the role of opposite to nature (ie pure, holistic, genuine).

"In the past, low-fat and low-calorie were the hallmarks of good nutrition and
dieting, but today, that lifestyle seems passé. On top of this, fortified
products are falling out of favor," comments Lynn Dornblaser. "Food and drink
manufacturers today realize that natural and pure have become healthy eating
ideals, as people look for holistic, genuine nutrition they can trust."

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