Using Health Claims For Marketing

With the internet comes a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips. And some of that knowledge comes in the form of research and studies that focus on the positive health aspects of the products we sell in vending, micro markets and coffee service. Great – we should be touting this information, especially via social media. It will help consumers make informed decision and increase sales. WAIT - it’s not that simple. There are risks involved.

Litigation

We’ve all seen the health claims on consumer packaging. And we’ve all seen the lawsuit announcements on VendingMarketWatch when a consumer group challenges one of those health claims. So which is it? Are the manufacturers filling an important consumer information void or are they misleading the masses? I read a 2009 statistic that only 4.6 percent of product packages use qualified health claims, defined as those claims that have specific definitions from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That’s not many.

I’ve had some experience with product manufacturers trying to get marketing through their legal departments – it’s not easy. With the required level of scrutiny, I’m surprised manufacturers ever use health claims on their packages, or if they do, that a lawsuit is ever able to be brought against them. But they most certainly do.

Just recently ConAgra praised the FDA for approving its petition for a qualified health claim that links whole grain consumption to a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. “For the 79 million Americans who are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, this claim will provide easy, at-a-glance guidance for foods which can help reduce their risk,” said Mark Andon, Ph.D., vice president of nutrition at ConAgra Foods in the press release. The company plans to use the health claim on its whole grain Orville Redenbacher's popcorn and ultra grain whole wheat flour.

The safe way

Vending operators don’t have large legal departments or teams of lawyers to help fight litigation, so more transparent claims are necessary. VendingMarketWatch has always taken the view that an operator wanting to use a healthy claim needs to source it. It needs to be clear to the end user that the claim is not being made by the operator. This covers your…um, bases. It plays it safe and in this world of increased litigation, it’s probably for the best. Operators can still reap the rewards of positive press about the products they sell. No one is going to cast an operator out for being too honest.

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