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The candidates for the "Golden Windbag" 2023: "Just the tip of the iceberg"



More than 30 years ago, the Melitta man, of all people, stood out for his astonishing honesty. Egon Wellenbrink mused on the CRT screens of German living rooms about the ambivalence of advertising and advertised the aroma of coffee in a commercial with the sentence: "You just have to believe it."

Other food manufacturers are much more subtle in their advertising. It becomes particularly problematic for consumers when advertising does not deliver what it promises or at least suggests. For example, some products promise something good for your health, others an ecological conscience or, thanks to fluffed-up packaging, significantly more content than is actually in them. What exactly is included only becomes clear during an often tedious analysis of the fine print on the back.

Even though such tricks are often legal, they can still be an advertising lie, according to consumer advocates. For the twelfth time, Foodwatch is now nominating candidates who are particularly outrageous in this regard for the "Golden Cream Puff".

In times of high inflation, when manufacturers often raise prices much more than costs rise, it was easy for the nonprofit to find suitable candidates in 2023. A particularly large number of tips received by Foodwatch via the cheat detector portal dealt with the phenomenon of shrinkflation: the same or higher price with a newly advertised but shrunken pack size.

Rauna Bindewald of Foodwatch therefore criticizes: "Especially in times when people are already being asked to pay heavily when shopping, overpriced advertising lies are particularly outrageous." The five nominated products are "just the tip of the iceberg." Consumers have "little chance of keeping track of the multitude of deceptive tricks in the supermarket".

Consumers will be able to vote on which advertising scam is particularly brazen in 2023 from this Thursday onwards. A total of five products from Yfood, 24 Bears, Intersnack and Mondelez are available until 3 June. Here we present the candidates:

Mondelez: Philadelphia with goat cheese and rosemary

The food manufacturer Mondelez likes to use adjectives when advertising the new type of cream cheese. "Creamy Philadelphia combined with mild goat's cheese" and rosemary provide a "new taste experience," according to the company's homepage for the variety of the year. As is well known, taste can be argued about – but also about overly full-bodied advertising promises for the product, according to Foodwatch.

According to the organization, the name and packaging design gave the impression that it was a goat's cheese product: "It's only hidden in the fine print that you learn that the goat's cream cheese content is just three percent!" Foodwatch requires that the manufacturer must state the percentage of an ingredient in the product in percentages clearly visible on the front. And points out that it is also linguistically different: A comparable product from a competitor would advertise much more cautiously by merely stating that it was refined with goat's cheese. In the case of the Philadelphia variety, on the other hand, a goat is emblazoned on the lid of the can along with a goat's cheese roll and a sprig of rosemary, there is no reference to the cow's milk it contains.

Here's how the company responds: On request, Mondelez justifies the design of the packaging by saying that the variety is easy to recognize on the shelf. Rosemary and goat's cheese are also the ingredients that "help shape the taste of the product". If you want to know more, a look at the list of ingredients on the packaging will help: This allows consumers to "inform themselves before buying and decide whether the product meets their expectations".

Intersnack Germany: Pom-Bear Oven Minis

Just a mini version of Pom-Bär – and possibly even healthier than other chips due to baking in the oven? The "airy-light" Pom-Bear oven minis are aggressively advertised as containing only half as much fat as conventional potato snacks. But in order to achieve "maximum enjoyment" without frying, as the manufacturer promises, Intersnack is resorting to another questionable trick, according to Foodwatch.

The bear-shaped chips (paprika and sour cream style varieties) contain about six times as much sugar as the original pom bears "and, according to the recommendations of the WHO, should not even be advertised to children," the organization criticizes. The difference in sugar is actually clear: While the two mini oven variants contain 12 and 13 grams of sugar per 100 grams, Original Pom Bears contain only 2.2 grams per 100 grams.

The presentation is "explicitly aimed at children by printing laughing cartoon characters on the packaging and presenting the chips in the shape of bears". This is unlikely to change even with the upcoming ban on advertising for food with too much sugar, fat and salt aimed at children: The plans of the Green Minister of Nutrition, Cem Özdemir, are primarily directed against advertising on TV, radio and the Internet.

Here's how the company responds: On request, Intersnack attributes the higher sugar content of the Pom-Bär oven minis to the different manufacturing process compared to conventional chips. Due to the interaction of potatoes and wheat, they contain more sugar than other potato snacks: the wheat flour contains a certain enzyme. "This wheat-specific amylase breaks down the potato starch from the potato products and sugar is produced in the dough." The company also decided to do so because of calls from customers for less fat.

Despite its bearish look, Intersnack rejects the accusation that its approach is aimed exclusively at children. It is a family brand that parents and families should reach for. The focus is on responsible snacking.

Yfood Labs: »This is Food« Drink Smooth Vanilla

Cool, urban – and above all, fast and balanced, that's how Yfood's "This is Food" drink comes across in advertising. Everything your body needs«, says a decidedly casual clip in which actor Frederick Lau moves around the houses. But according to Foodwatch research, the drink is by no means a full-fledged or even healthy drinking meal that also fills you up quickly. The consumer advocates complain that the drink contains sweeteners that contribute to a habituation to sweetening – and at the same time advertise with the description "without added sugar", but per 500 milliliter bottle contains 22 grams of sugar from cow's milk. Accordingly, it is assumed that with the reform of the NutriScore for beverages, the classification will soon deteriorate enormously.

The composition and the liquid consistency are therefore not suitable for a meal at all – but also not for weight loss, as many consumers hope for, according to Foodwatch. If only because the drink contains a lot of calories: a whopping 500 per bottle. Nevertheless, Foodwatch nutritionist Alice Luttropp even calls it "absurd to sell Yfood as a wholesome food". One of the problems is that a bottle is drunk quickly, but a feeling of satiety only sets in after about 20 minutes. In between, more calories might be consumed. The organization also criticizes the price: 3.99 euros in the store for half a liter of "milk with water and a few added vitamins, minerals and sweetener" is "quite steep".

Here's how the company responds: Yfood justifies the use of the sweetener sucralose with its high sweetening power, which means that the addition of table sugar can be dispensed with. The fact that the milk also contains quite a lot of sugar is not decisive. Rather, it depends on the metabolic load, i.e. how quickly the product causes the blood sugar level to rise – and this burden is very low at Yfood, the company said. The drinking meals are also "not diet drinks and do not represent a complete substitute for food". The company considers the price to be fair.

Mondelez: Tuc Bake Rolls

Whether for a bread salad or as a snack while traveling, many consumers like to reach for the bake rolls. Foodwatch has nothing to complain about in terms of content itself. Mondelez's product has attracted particular criticism because it has become enormously expensive within a very short time.

The food company now sells the Bake Rolls, which were previously offered under the 7Days brand, under the Tuc brand. According to Foodwatch, this is virtually the same product – only it is now sold at a much higher price: While 250 grams previously cost 1.39 euros in retail, 150 grams would now have to cost 1.99 euros. This corresponds to a price increase of 139 percent.

For consumer advocates, this is a drastic case of shrinkflation. The appearance, recipes and nutritional values of different types of bake rolls have remained almost identical, according to the Hamburg consumer advice centre. Only the salt content of the new Bake Rolls is slightly lower.

This is how the company reacts: Mondelez rejects responsibility for the enormous increase in prices. "The design of the end consumer prices lies solely with the food retailer or the online retailer," the company says. And: "As a manufacturer, we have no influence on this." The fact that the bread chips now appear as Tuc and no longer under the 7Days brand, which has also been part of Mondelez since 2022, is related to the fact that they want to bundle salty snacks under the established cracker brand. And on them, too, the content and weight are precisely indicated.

3 Bears: Porridge

If someone is stung by oats, then he is literally cocky. Perhaps the founders of the start-up 3 Bears, who collected money for their porridge company in the TV show "Höhle der Löwen", are also a bit cocky. It is true that the two Munich-based companies are now making "millions with gruel," as they told the "Bild" newspaper. But according to Foodwatch, this is probably mainly due to the fact that they offer normal oatmeal at horrendous prices.

The design of the "pithy classic", according to the consumer advocates, promises great "porridge" and that too "sugar-free". This gives the impression that there could be more to it than ordinary oatmeal. But the "solo star", the "secret mixture of whole grain oat flakes", is plain and simple when you look at the list of ingredients: 100 percent oatmeal.

3 Bears advertises that it uses "only selected quality flakes" and does not use "additives or added sugar". But according to Foodwatch, this should be a matter of course for pure oatmeal anyway. However, the usual flakes are very expensive: For 400 grams of oatmeal from 3 Bears, 3.99 euros are often due in retail. This makes them about six times more expensive than those of supermarket chains' own brands.

Here's how the company responds: An inquiry about the allegations has not yet been answered by 3 Bears.