November 19, 2009
WASHINGTONNew research by the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) shows that marketing tactics used by many food companies to promote their HFCS-free products may confuse and mislead consumers.
Results of a consumer research study and analysis of marketing claims for products free of high fructose corn syrup found that nearly half (46.9%) of consumers surveyed feel misled by food companies making high fructose corn syrup-free claims, and women (29.2%) and parents (34.2%) are most likely to feel strongly misled by food companies making high fructose corn syrup-free claims.
The CRA survey also revealed that while the majority of consumers (54.4%) indicate they always or usually read food labels, women (60%) are more likely than men (45.5%) to examine food labels. According to those surveyed, fat (59.3%), followed by calories (52.3%), sugar (36.8%) and salt (30.9%) topped the list of nutrients shoppers were most likely to be concerned about in making food choices. Concern over calories made a significant jump from earlier research by the CRA, up from 31.8% in 2008.
The overall nutrition message that calories count is coming through, said Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association. When it comes to calories from sugar or high fructose corn syrup, theyre exactly the same. Food shoppers are increasingly aware of that fact, and seeing through marketing tactics that might suggest otherwise.
CRA also reviewed publicly available news releases and/or Web sites of nearly 175 food products and companies that made claims or statements regarding products being high fructose corn syrup-free from February 2007 until present.
CRAs analysis showed that while nearly half (44%) made simple statements without health judgments in calling out products as high fructose corn syrup-free; others mischaracterized HFCS in their materials: 33% used negative language to characterize high fructose corn syrup; 5% touted sugar as healthier; 18% claimed high fructose corn syrup is not natural; and, 19.5% used qualifiers to imply that products are more healthful without high fructose corn syrup.
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