Do You Recognize This Bag? Bet You Can't Guess The Source

March 8, 2011   24 Comments

Snack Girl is consistently amazed at the power of marketing. More specifically, the power of food marketing.

Are Wendy's Natural Fries Healthy?

When you look at this bag, what emotions are the marketer's trying to evoke? Do you subliminally trust the food that is handed to you because of the design?

This bag of fries was purchased at a small eatery, near a Whole Foods, with a drive-thru window.

You heard me, a drive-thru window and a big sign that reads........(wait for it)......Wendy's.

(The Wendy's logo is hidden at the top of the bag.)

What marketer's know is that when they use details, such as "sea salt" versus plain old "salt", it gives them an air of respectability. And, how about that word "natural"? (which means nothing but sounds so GOOD!)

"Whole russet potatoes" versus "potatoes" - and that cute writing that looks, well, like someone wrote on the bag. I bet these weren't mass produced (another subliminal message).

SUBLIMINAL - adjective - existing or operating below the threshold of consciousness; being or employing stimuli insufficiently intense to produce a discrete sensation but often being or designed to be intense enough to influence the mental processes or the behavior of the individual.

Yeah, these must be really gourmet and maybe a little good for me.

Except that they taste EXACTLY the same as the other fries without sea salt and look pretty much the same too. See this photo of the fries below (I put them in black and white because I didn't want you to think about fries for the rest of the day).


A large fries will set you back:

520 calories, 25 g fat, 67 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein, 7 g fiber, 630 mg sodium, 14 Points+

On average, we are supposed to consumer 2000 calories per day to maintain a healthy weight. There goes 25% of your calories on one weak drive-thru moment.

Or how about me trying to lose weight? I am on Weight Watchers and I have 29 points per day. Now, I only have 15 points to spend on anything else I wanted to eat.

The message - DON'T EAT FAST FOOD FRIES unless it is a special RARE treat.

I don't care if they say "hand cut", "organic", "artisanal", or "made with love" - these will never be a healthy choice.

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First 20 Comments: ( See all 24 )

I HATE this marketing technique every since I saw it. It makes the fries seem down to earth and natural. But the fries aren't natural. They're just "natural-cut". Most people won't see that hypen though and think that they're just great! Annoys the heck out of me that they can get away with evoking such wrong feelings.

they are still french FRIES. as in, fried in fat and oil. no matter how "natural," it's still bad for you (in large quantities). "organic" doesn't necessarily mean healthy either. if you split a small bag a fries with someone, and got a salad with no dressing, that might be a reasonable Wendy's lunch. as long as you ran 30 minutes on the treadmill later.

I knew who's bag it was from the minute I looked at the picture. And I laughed too when I started seeing these commercials and advertisements for these "new fangled" fries LOLOL!!! Well I got another one for you . . . I went down south last week and Hardee's has now jumped on the bandwagon with their new Sweet Potato Fries. Don't get me wrong homemade Sweet Potato Fries can be good when baked and not loaded with a bucket of salt & eaten in moderation. . . BUT honestly do we think that's how they're making them?!?!? And to top things off I can't find their nutritional info for them anywhere, hmmmmmmm makes you wonder. Oh well GREAT article :)

@KQSmith - Thank you for your comment. What the Hardee's story is telling us is that their marketing efforts are working. People SO want to believe that fries can be healthy.

I know this is something you shouldn't eat on an every day basis, but they are not going to instantly make you fat the moment they inter your mouth, I think anything in moderation is ok. So a small fry every once in a while won't kill you.

You are exactly right Courtney . . . BUT the majority of the population aren't gonna think like that. They're going to over indulge. Sad but True!! Heck I'll admit that if its a TREAT day and I want the fries I'll eat'em and I prolly won't eat'em again for another several months.

This kind of thing is everywhere, and is SO frustrating. "Natural-cut"?? What does that even mean? It's too bad that so many people (probably) fall for it.

Thanks again for the great info. If you haven't already, you may wish to run out and buy a copy of Michele Simon's book, Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines our Health and How to Fight Back. It makes no bones about the fact that the food industry is a for profit industry (no duh). Their goal is to satisfy their shareholders NOT their consumers. That doesn't make them evil, it's simply a fact. Understanding that helps consumers make better food choices.

Great insight on evil marketing strategies. And a big thank you for making the picture of the frie black and white... I definitely would have been craving them all day.

Oh, Snack Girl, despite the fact that I graduated from college with honors, I would so fall for this. Thank you for giving me awareness and knowledge so I can come out of denial and not fall into the trap of believing that some fast food fries are good for me.

Heidi's Recipes woman, thank you for your honesty. I have a Master's degree as well, and I would also possibly fall for this one. SAD!!!

Ok, yes, horrible for you. Yes, devious marketing. I agree with all of the comments. But, were they tasty? And, more importantly, do they catch on fire?

I'm not even sure if they are really using sea salt. I just got back from my local Wendys and I was looking at the salt on the fries--small, perfect cubes--just like table salt. I've never ever seen sea salt that looks like this. Maybe they're just putting a little shake on it so they can claim using sea salt? Or maybe my local franchise is getting lazy (and/or cheap)?

The truth is, they're delicious. Out of all the fast-food places, I do like Wendy's. And I'll gladly eat those fries twice a month and not feel guilty about it.

I am, too, amazed at food marketing. That's pretty much why people think Subway is a healthy choice, but it MAY be healthier than some other places. Making your own food is much better, that's why I now refuse to eat out every weekend (the only time I have time to eat out), unless it's a rare occasional treat (celebration, birthday, etc.)

Bwhahahaa, I love that they used "natural-cut". Um, if there's such a thing as "unnaturally-cut", I find that concerning...

I study this type of stuff for a living, so I am always fascinated by it and really love analyzing ads.

I admit, I LOVE Mcdonald's fries...but it's extremely rare that I eat them. I agree with what others posted here; that in moderation, it's ok and not going to kill you.

I recognized the bag instantly. I've had them a few times. The article implies they're the same fries as before. They're not. They definitely taste a lot better. The "natural-cut" (whatever) is referring (I believe) to them leaving the potato skin on the fries. The salt does taste different, but I won't kid myself that it's "sea salt." They're still cooked the same and just as unhealthy.

Deceptive labeling is getting annoying. I remember when everyone started talking about the benefits of anti-oxidants and in particular: blueberries! And overnight every sugar cereal and snack item was made with blueberries!! ... until you read the ingredients list and discovered the artificial blueberry flavoring that was added with zero health benefit (technically, a negative health benefit from the extra sugar and food coloring.)

As Tim said, these are NOT just the same ol' fries with a new marketing spin.

They do actually taste mich better, and *slightly* more wholesome.

Why? Because they do what they say on the tin. They use the whole potato now (i.e. they leave the skin on). They use sea salt (yes, I noticed the difference). Are they health food? Of course not. They didn't say they were.

But with the skin for some added fiber and vitamins, they are a bit healthy-ER. Sort of like an occasional pat of butter is much better for you than trans-fat margarine. Or a diet based on artificial sweeteners.

They aren't health food. They haven't lied. Honestly, anyone who would believe it means they're health food probably doesn't care over-much anyway. Give people some credit.

I completely agree that Wendys is trying to say "Hey, I'm healthy, eat this all day every day!" When they clearly aren't, and sea salt or not, fries are always one of your worst options.

But I will say that despite the fact that I've worked hard to lose 50 pounds, I know my fries. I can justifiably say that Wendy's new fries are made with sea salt, and the quality and taste are ten times better than they were. Wendy's always had the worst tasting fries, now they are several steps up.

But still ridiculously unhealthy.

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