How the Canadian Food Guide Addresses Food Marketing for Better Health

The new Canadian food guide has taken a stance on the food products available in Canada. The new guide says that not all food is what it claims to be, and that it is up to the consumer to ensure that a product is healthy. It hints that food companies are using food marketing to affect a buyer’s decisions.

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Is this a “Good source of 7 Vitamins and Minerals?”

Most organizations (the Canadian government included) use marketing to have an effect on people’s decisions; but in the world of food, flashy packaging and good use of buzz-words can be all it takes to sell a product. Highly processed foods are often high in sodium, sugar, and saturated fats, and are marketed as “convenient.” The packaging will often have “A good source of [insert food health trend here!]” tagged aside a too-good-to-be-real image of something that only the deepest darkest part of you will admit to craving.  

But does Canada get it?

Marketing vs Advertising

On the first line of the “Be aware of food marketing” section in the new Canadian food guide, they say that “Food marketing is advertising that promotes the sale of a certain food or food products.” It’s important to note an error here. Food marketing is not advertising. Advertising is just one element of marketing that accompanies: public relations, media planning, product pricing and distribution, sales strategy, customer support, market research, and community involvement. It is something that you pay for on top of organic activities like public relations and social media.

An infographic outlining the differences between Marketing and Advertising.
 Image by © The Balance 2018

However informative the new Canadian food guide may be about common marketing activities, they appear to have missed the mark slightly by using advertising and marketing synonymously.

Aside from this small oversight, the food guide is correct about the effects of food marketing. But what about food products that are healthy, and should be taken at face value?

Good Food Marketing

Packaging designed by Lien Design

Aquaponic growers, farmers, and many food producers know that their products are of the highest quality. They know that good food is a whole food. They know that they can be proud of their business and its products. But if they want to make a living off of their products, they have to stand out in an over-saturated food market –  a market that is filled with flashy packaging and buzz words. These food growers and producers are often small businesses that don’t have the same marketing capital as big food companies.

The inability to play in the big leagues limits the reach that many small businesses can have in the food market. With limited reach comes limited access, and limited access to healthy food options can lead to food insecurity. It starts to infringe on Canadian’s right to food.

So how does this affect isolated communities? It means that only the largest food companies can afford to get their products on the shelves. It means that locals in small and isolated communities might find it difficult to live up to the recommendations of the new Canadian food guide. It means that bad food marketing becomes nearly the only food marketing.

The Aquaponic Solution

Micro greens being grown on an aquaponic raft bed.
Aquaponic System

Aquaponic growing provides a unique opportunity for Canadians. Aquaponic facilities:

  • Can be built anywhere
  • Can operate every day of the year
  • Uses up to 95% less water than traditional growing practices
  • Grow more in less space
  • Are usually organic
  • Are energy-efficient
  • Grow highly nutritious food
  • Are sustainable
  • Have a low carbon footprint from seed to store

Aquaponic growing can be the solution for small health-focused businesses to succeed in markets outside of major population hubs. By growing a variety of essential ingredients, it could allow whole plant-based food options that would otherwise need to be transported a long distance. Transporting food long distances increases the carbon footprint and the cost, which can make cheaper unhealthy food choices seem like a better option for low-income families.

The Take-Away

The new Canadian food guide has good reason to say that Canadians should beware of food marketing. However, there are healthy foods that are being marketed too. Healthy food producers may use the same marketing techniques that other food producers do in order to grab consumer’s attention. Breaking into the Canadian food market is difficult for young health-focused businesses.

A difficult food market forces young businesses with good intentions to market their products in areas where they know they can make a profit. The result? The Shop Easy in Tumbler Ridge, B.C. might not have the same variety of healthy foods and supplements found on the coast. The market pressure caused by massive food marketing efforts of large organizations can limit food insecure communities, families, and individuals to choose to eat unhealthy food products.

What kind of food options do you have access to? Are they affordable? Be a part of the conversation and leave a comment below!

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