Stealth marketing has garnered considerable attention over the past year in food ingredient marketing channels. Stealth marketing is the practice in which food manufacturers and processors change their formulations to achieve some improved nutritional or health-and-wellness attribute but don’t publicize that fact or even mention it in packaging or marketing communications. This has been a key strategy for several years now with manufacturers steadily reducing sodium levels in their products while not telling their American consumers who tend to shun products labeled “low” or “reduced salt.”
Stealth marketing has also been a major strategy for school menus, where kids generally dislike healthy foods, as Food Technology reported in “Stealth Health for Kids.”
Newsweek took the subject mainstream in the consumer press with its feature article, “Your favorite prepared foods may be getting healthier. You just don’t know it.” And now ConAgra Mills’ Ultragrain brand has taken the subject mainstream in the food trade press with its recent ad headlined “Stealth nutrition for every menu.”
Vice President of Marketing, Mike Veal, and his team at ConAgra Mills have done a good job connecting the benefits of its white whole wheat flour to a new line of pasta products for foodservice—where the idea of stealth marketing appeals to operators trying to keep up with the array of health-and-wellness regulations they face.
Expect to see more food ingredient companies target their marketing on providing their customers in foodservice and manufacturing with products and solutions focused on helping them implement stealth marketing reformulations. Sodium reduction regulation will continue to drive customers to seek lower sodium levels, as reported by BNET in its article “Stealth and Other Salt Reduction Strategies.” Sugars and sweeteners will receive increasing attention as well. Beverage companies are already leading the way. PepsiCo’s announcement of a 25% reduction in sugar and calories was reported byBNET as “Pepsi’s Latest Weapon in the Fight Against Calories: Stealth Sweeteners.”
It would appear that a leading trend in marketing strategy for food companies is one that they don’t want to tell their consumers about.