Are You Being Conned By Slick Food Marketers?

by Simona Terron

Don’t you just hate it when you pay a premium price for food that you believe is "artisenal," "small batch," "heirloom," or even just plain old "organic," just to find out you may not have gotten exactly what you paid for? Chances are in this day and age, you've been conned by a food marketer, and they no longer only come wearing corporate business suits peddling burgers, fries and sugary softdrinks; now they also come riding fixed gear bicycles, wearing suspenders, ironic beards and fedoras, yes we're talking about hipsters. 

Not too long ago the Mast Brothers made a lot of waves, but not for their "bean to bar" chocolate that was selling for $10 a pop. The bearded bros were exposed as not being completely honest about their chocolate production practices and supplementing their chocolate with pre-bought (albeit high quality)Valrhona chocolate, a common enough practice among chocolatiers. This didn't go over well with their fans who had not only bought into the chocolate itself but the entire story behind their food. 

Several investigations and exposes by well-regarded culinary publications followed and revealed that the Mast Brothers' claims of always having been a ‘bean to bar’ chocolate company had, at some level, been a lie from day one. 

The media had a field day with the story dragging the Mast Brothers name through the mud and back again and leaving the authenticity of the brand pretty much gutted. It revealed a lot about the not always honest ways of business-savvy food producers and they’re ability to dupe so many trusting customers into buying into a story that may turn out not to be as authentic as they claim.

But instead of getting upset, we think it makes more sense to focus on the fact that there’s a lesson for us here: we can be more vigilent and require our food producers to back up their claims, instead of just slapping a buzz-wordy label on a package and jacking up the price. 

We get it; it's hard to avoid succumbing to the lure of eating produce that asserts it's been sourced locally, from sustainable farming operations, or through the efforts of cooperatives that benefit communities normally sidelined by large food production companies. If it looks rustic, has been packaged in natural materials, and costs the earth, we are even easier to fool.

However, our need for better vigilance is very real; we need to ask the hard questions of the people producing our food and ensuring that our wellbeing and not their bottom line is what’s driving their decision dictating what to put into our food and ultimately our bodies.

Here are some simple ways that you can begin to practice better food vigilance on a daily basis. Feel free to share this with friends and family if you feel this is a movement worth supporting:

  1. Verify claims: Do your due diligence and check whether they mean it when they say they are locally sourcing their raw materials or practice fair trade. <INSERT LINK: TRUSTED SITES PEOPLE CAN USE TO VERIFY CLAIMS OF FOOD PURVEYORS>
  2. Show your love to the real deal-ers: Supporting genuine folks and brands is important and now easier thanks to social media. So why not use your social power for good and give a thumbs up when you encounter a great and authentic food purveyor? <INSERT LINK: AWARDS FOR TOP ORGANIC, ARTISAN etc BRANDS?>
  3. Don’t fake it: A desire to be on trend with your food purchases can cause you to patronize brands or products without really knowing what they're all about. Don’t be one of those people. And if you know anyone who is, gently guide them back toward the light... of course, if they’re wannabe hipsters who aspire to be popular instead of sensible, maybe just let them be.
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