Brand Spin Swamps Vitamin Waters

A recent report by CHOICE in Australia has once again highlighted the difficult road that brand owners have when they have a product with legitimate health claims. The difficulty does not reside with articulating the health claim, rather with whether target consumers will believe the claims. This is because consumers a bombarded with so many bullshit claims, and there is no better example than the vitamin/nutrient water category.

CHOICE’s review of the category revealed that the majority of brands on offer were full of sugar, or at least enough from a 500ml bottle to provide the average woman with a third of her recommended daily intake. Rather than vitamin enhanced water, perhaps the claim should be ‘sugar’ enhanced water. Certainly some brands are not short on big claims. The Nutrient Water brand claims that drinking its Cranberry Grapefruit Multi-Vitamin product will give you the same benefits as ‘eight hours of sleep, a bowl of steamed greens and pre-dawn power walks’.

Such ridiculous claims that I am sure there is no right minded consumer currently guzzling one and thinking they can now forgo their 8 hours in the bunk tonight. But what it is doing is trivializing the functional foods and beverage market. When someone has a half serious positive health claim who is going to believe the proposition.

Even what one considers should be straight forward claims on packaging, such as the Australian Made logo there is a huge mismatch between what is being said and what the reality is. To the average punter, Australian Made suggests a product carrying the logo has been made in Australia. However the reality is only half the production costs need to have been incurred in Australia.

It would appear that there may be  more brand managers out there who benefit for having some grey area around labeling, otherwise you would expect a little more lobbying happening to support the failed ‘Truth in Labeling Bill’ put forward by an unlikely trio of parliamentarians, namely Bob Brown, Barnby Joyce and Nick Xenophon.

The real losers in all this are consumers, not to mention brand managers with a legitimate and positive attribute claim! Our labeling laws should be making it easier for authentic brands to stand out from the pack, not increasingly more difficult.

Peter Singline
Brand Scientist

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  1. I agree that Vitamin Waters do need to provide the “truth”. It is concerning that sugar can be attributed to “eight hours of sleep, a bowl of steamed greens and pre-dawn power walks”. Authentic brands should hold their heads high and re-enforce in their brand messaging that they are 100% truthfu.

  2. These are great examples of branding gone mad. This old-school approach of ‘making up a brand message to convince people to buy – the bolder the claim the better’ has surely seen its day come and go. Brands need to shift to authenticity before they are all shoved in the ‘bullshit basket’.

  3. Great article Pete. Consumers are the real loses in this whole situation. They suffer at the hands of money hungry companies that will spin anything for a sale with no consequences. Meanwhile we are lead to believe that we are doing something good for our bodies and are completely oblivious and miss out on an opportunity to actually find products that are good for us.
    To Bob Brown, keep fighting the good fight.

  4. A great post Peter, thanks for sharing it! It’s incredible when you think about damage this may be doing to one’s brand. I’ve never really been one to go for these ‘bullshit’ vitamin waters and I sure as hell won’t now!

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