Several days ago Seth Godin’s blog caught my attention. He had a post about marketing and promises that said:
Marketing is about making promises and then keeping them. The marketer comes to us and makes a promise. If we accept the promise, a sale is made.
If we seduce ourselves into accepting small promises, we let everyone down…
The big promises of transparency and care, of design and passion, of commitment and stewardship–we ought to be demanding more of this.
We get what we settle for.
After spending the past couple weeks working on my series, Baby’s First Encounter with Big Food, I couldn’t agree more. Why? Because I believe Big Food has broken some sacred promises. While they may make and keep some smaller promises, they’ve lost sight of the bigger picture. And although many companies are guilty of this in the baby aisle, one company in particular stands out–Nestlé, the owner of the Gerber baby brand.
The Gerber brand was established in the 1920’s and has been a trusted friend of parents for decades. Originally launched with only five items (peas, prunes, carrots, spinach and beef vegetable soup), Gerber’s lineup has diversified and become the dominant US baby food brand.
Over the years the Gerber brand has built a remarkable level of trust that has led to almost instinctual purchases by parents. And since purchasing Gerber in 2007 Nestlé has continued to invest in deepening that commitment through ads like this one:
Featuring an adorable slideshow of babies, Gerber connects with parents by saying:
Say hello to the Gerber generation. They have some BIG news to share. The nutrition children get in the first 5 years can affect their health forever. Think about that. Together we can create a healthier generation. And it all starts with you. [Baby coos] Welcome to the Gerber generation.
Pretty inspiring words. I know as a parent I want to create a healthier generation. But is Gerber living up to this big promise?
In Part III of this series I take a look at several products Gerber has developed for toddlers and preschoolers. As we examine them, think about the “big promises” Gerber has made. Has it been transparent about what’s in its food? Furthermore, has it demonstrated commitment and stewardship that is deserving of our trust?
Everyone loves fruit smoothies, right? So isn’t it time we start serving them to toddlers? Ummm, probably not. I’m guessing most parents by now have heard their pediatrician warn against excessive sugar consumption. So what does Gerber do in its fruit & yogurt lineup? It packs them full of sugars. These little 120g drinks pack 16g of sugars–that’s more sugars per fluid ounce than Nestlé’s Nesquik bottled chocolate drinks. If that weren’t enough to scare you, Gerber uses GMO ingredients, milk from cows that are treated with growth hormones, as well as some “natural” flavorings which may not be quite so natural. Of course, none of these disturbing facts are mentioned by Gerber. I wonder why?
Cereal bars have become such a popular item with adults that Gerber has decided your preschooler should eat them too. But are Gerber’s Cereal Twists truly healthy? With each 20g bar containing over a third of its weight in sugars and 0g of dietary fiber, it’s hard to understand Gerber’s logic. When you look deeper, the story only gets worse with ingredients that contains GMOs, dairy from cows treated with growth hormones, and more so-called “natural” flavorings. So how are they healthy? They’ve been fortified them with a variety of vitamins and minerals and claim “nutrition for healthy growth and natural immune support.” But really, shouldn’t your preschooler be getting those vitamins from a nutritious diet and a good multivitamin instead of a sugary cereal bar? If so, has Gerber violated our trust?
At last, a product every preschooler needs … juice treats. With product claims like specially made for preschoolers, excellent source of Vitamin C, made with real fruit juice, and no artificial flavors, some might think these are actually healthy. Unfortunately, they’d be wrong.
Gerber’s juice treats are a scary assault on preschoolers. Just like “fruit snacks” that are targeted at older kids, Gerber’s juice treats are simply candy that pretends to be healthy. Made with fruit juice, lots of sugar, carrageenan (a possible carcinogen), a variety of GMOs, “natural” flavorings, and hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats), this snack is a nutritional train wreck. I’m sorry, Gerber, but exactly why do preschool-age kids need sugar and empty calories? With more and more studies showing sugar is addictive, why do we even want to expose our little ones to these types of foods?
So what do you think? Has Gerber earned our trust? Have they kept their “big promises” of transparency, passion, commitment and stewardship? Or have they sold out and become one more Big Food brand focused on profits? I know what I think, but I’d love to hear your comments below.
As always, thanks for visiting my blog. If you haven’t had a chance to check out my novel, Fat Profits, you can download your FREE chapter here. With the holidays just around the corner, it might be the perfect gift idea that gets your friends and family members asking, “do I really know what’s in my food?”
Finally, if you’re new to my blog and you’d like to learn more about the tricks, traps, and tools Big Food uses to get people eating more processed food, please subscribe for the latest updates.
If you’re interested in reading other posts in this series, here are the links: