Welcome back to The Three Reasons Why. In my last post, I told you the first reason – the lawyers made ’em do it. Today I’ll share the second, which came to me in the grocery store.
The year was 1999, just a few short months after suffering a heart attack. Since then, I’d been learning about nutrition and making changes to my diet. I discovered that the USDA regulated the terms “low fat” and “reduced fat”. According the USDA, to qualify as low fat, a serving must contain 3 grams or less of fat. Reduced fat, on the other hand, is a rather low hurdle. To use this phrase on packaging, food must have at least 25% less fat than the so-called regular recipe. So, if your favorite cookie contains 100 grams of fat per serving and the bakery comes out with a similar cookie containing 75 grams of fat or less, it qualifies as reduced fat.
If you want the details, check out this reference from the USDA.
I read the label of Townhouse reduced fat crackers. They contained 1.5 grams of fat per serving, well under the legal limit for low fat, yet were marketed as reduced fat crackers. Why, I wondered, would the Keebler Elves use “reduced fat” labeling when the product in question qualified as a “low fat” food?
Then, reason #2 struck me. It’s all about marketing. After undoubtedly conducting focus groups, market research studies and cross referencing customer demographic and psychographic data, Keebler must have come to the conclusion that they’d sell more Townhouse crackers using reduced fat packaging.
Our biases and experiences affect our perceptions. Seeing the words low fat on a package triggers an emotional response. They might make some people more willing to buy the product. For others, the words low fat might be a euphemism for tastes bad. I’m sure there is a certain segment of the population that would buy reduced fat crackers and pat themselves on the back for eating healthier. These same people, however, would never buy the low fat version of the product, convinced that whatever spread of choice they preferred, be it Cheese Whiz, Jif or Nutella, couldn’t possibly taste as good on a low fat cracker. Obviously, the wise and learned Elves at Keebler opted out of low fat packaging in favor of the higher sales generating reduced fat option.
Crackers. That’s what drove the lesson home for me. Go figure.
Till the next post, chris