What’s Quaker Really Selling?

What's Quaker Really Selling

Part III of the series on Quaker, Are All Marketers Liars?

Does Quaker sell the goodness of whole grain oats or the addictive taste of sugar? If you believe their advertising, packaging, and 150+ year history, health and whole grain oats would win. But as my last couple of posts on their yogurt bars and instant oatmeal cups have pointed out, Quaker has become quite the shill, pushing sugar-laden snacks at every turn.

Certainly selling sugar isn’t new to Quaker. After all, Quaker launched Cap’n Crunch almost 50 years ago. I must admit, the original Cap’n Crunch and its sibling Peanut Butter Crunch where my childhood favorites (I know … embarrassing, right?) But in those days most moms knew “pre-sweetened” cereals were sugar bombs, and my mom was no exception. She was a kindergarten teacher at the time, and she had firsthand experience with what happened to kids who regularly ate sugared cereals. So she restricted my access to the Cap’n, only allowing me an occasional bowl.

Although food manufacturers have never liked criticisms about the sugar content of their products, for decades they fought back by trying to downplay the issue. But something happened in the 1990’s with the advent of nutraceuticals and superfoods. Now every Big Food manufacturer decided their junk food could be transformed into something healthy with a single, nutritious ingredient.

And for companies like Quaker, it gave them license to create “healthy” junk foods by leveraging their equity in whole grain oats. So in my final, up-close look at Quaker, I’ll review three more products in Quaker’s portfolio to see if they live up to Seth Godin’s audacious statement, All Marketers Are Liars:

Quaker Breakfast Cookies

Quaker Breakfast Cookies:

Cookies for breakfast?!?!?! Yes, Quaker has done it. As Quaker proclaims in its marketing:

Your childhood dreams have come true, you can have a chocolate chip cookie for breakfast. Indulge responsibly with Quaker’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Breakfast Cookies. Made with whole grain Quaker Oats and sprinkled with chocolate chips, Quaker Breakfast Cookies are a good source of iron, calcium and fiber. Your mouth will think it’s a chocolate chip cookie, but your body will know better.

Indulge responsibly? With 14g of sugar, 190mg of sodium, 6g of fat, trans fats, and several GM (genetically modified) ingredients in a 48g cookie, I think my body is going to know this is one of Big Food’s cookies. Don’t believe me? A serving of Oreos (3 cookies) contains 14g of sugar, 160mg of sodium, and 7 g of fat. Yes, Quaker does have more fiber (5g vs. 1g), but the bottom line is this cookie looks more like an Oreo than truly healthy food (click here for more details from the ingredient label).

 Quaker Oatmeal To Go

Quaker Oatmeal To Go:

What does Quaker claim on this breakfast item?

Now you can enjoy the same health benefits as a bowl of Quaker Instant Oatmeal in a convenient breakfast bar. With the delicious flavors of brown sugar & cinnamon baked right in, you’d swear it was a treat. But with the goodness of whole grain Quaker Oats in every bar, this is one snack you can feel good about craving.

And is Quaker true to their words? Not really. Although Quaker does have 5g of fiber, it comes with 19g of sugar, 230mg of sodium, 4g of fat, some trans fats, and lots of GM ingredients. Sorry Quaker, my bowl of oatmeal is MUCH better for me than this! (click here for more details from Quaker’s Oatmeal to Go’s ingredient label).

 Quaker Soft Baked Bars

Quaker Soft Baked Bars:

In yet another version of a breakfast cookie, Quaker tempts your palate with some new banana bread and cinnamon pecan bread “analogs” (marketing-speak for an item that tries to taste like one of your favorite foods, but falls desperately short in a very processed way). These breakfast bars claim to “help provide the fuel you need to start your day, all in a delicious, bakery experience!”

Although not quite as unhealthy as Quaker’s Breakfast Cookie or Oatmeal To Go, these bars fail my sniff test. With 11g of sugar, 140mg of salt, and 4g of fat, they really aren’t worth the 5g of fiber. Sprinkled with B vitamins, fortified with protein, and filled with GM ingredients, Quaker’s Banana Nut Bread bar just doesn’t come close to real food (click here for more details from Banana Nut Bread bar’s ingredient label). So rather than pretend you’re being healthy by buying these highly processed bars, eat a real breakfast. And if you’re craving some real banana bread, check out this delicious option by Carrie Vitt at Deliciously Organic. If you haven’t visited her site, you’re definitely missing out–she has some truly amazing recipes.

So as I wrap up my series on Quaker, I will let you decide if “Are All Marketers Liars.” Just remember–never assume one healthy ingredient automatically makes any food item good for you. After all, a whole grain cookie is still a cookie–especially when it’s from Quaker.

Want to help me change the conversation about food? Share my blog with your friends and family. And if you haven’t checked out my novel, Fat Profits, please do. Not only is it a fun, suspenseful read, but it also brings to life the corporate greed and corruption that’s endemic in the world of food marketing. And with the holidays coming up, it also makes the perfect gift for anyone you know who loves a good thriller!

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11 thoughts on “What’s Quaker Really Selling?

  1. Great post, Bruce, as usual. It’s so disheartening when a company name that seems like it should be synonymous with good health starts pushing out processed, sugary foods like this. No wonder it’s so hard for people to make good choices about the foods they eat.

    • Thanks, Tora. I completely agree. I know many of my readers feel like “people should know better.” The fact remains … for the majority of consumers advertising and packaging claims influence purchase decisions. Until we can level the playing field and make what’s in packaged foods more transparent and end misleading marketing, consumers will continue to unwittingly purchase food that claims to be healthy but in reality isn’t very good for them.

  2. Great series Bruce! Quaker, like so many other companies, is making billions selling candy bars disguised as health food. You are very brave exposing these companies…

  3. Hi Bruce, I just noticed your blog through 100 Days of Real Food an I already know I’ll be following you! As far as quaker oats go, do you know if the old fashioned or quick oats are genetically modified? I’ve had that on my mind. Also I just read 2 of your blogs regarding baby snacks and I am so upset with myself! It’s so obvious to me now! But like you say, it’s a journey and now my kids (2 and 4) are eating more whole:) Thanks for sharing your insights! Lisa

  4. Hi Bruce – thanks for your insight – being ay EX employee of CocaCola and Unilever and born again foodie – I am aligned – I am interested in your views of a product i consumer – how do i best communicate with you?

    • I just looked at the ingredient label for Quaker Steel Cut oats. It reads: “Ingredients: Steel Cut Oats”. Can’t get much simpler than that.

      Thanks for stopping by my blog! Hope to see you come back again.

      Bruce

    • Quaker Old Fashioned oats are still good and just have oats in them. Unfortunately most of the new products Quaker (owned by PepsiCo) is introducing have tons of sugar and other processed ingredients that really aren’t very healthy.

      Thanks for your question, Mary!

      Cheers!
      Bruce