Bakers Journal

Editor’s Letter: May 2013

May 2, 2013
By Laura Aiken

Gummy bears are good for your health: True or false?

Gummy bears are good for your health: True or false?

If you answered false, you are wrong. At least, you are if you generally believe the mainstream media’s health reporting. Gummy bears were reported as “good for you” in a Behind the Headlines study conducted by the National Health Service (NHS) in the U.K. The review analyzed U.K. news reports published between 2007 and 2011. Binge drinking also made the list of items labelled as good for you at one time or another, while water, incredibly, was reported as bad for you somewhere along the line.

The amount of misinformation out there is staggering: NHS found that half of the health stories they analyzed were “spun” or distorted in some way. Although these are U.K. statistics, many of the headlines in their online Behind the Headlines section are the same as the ones showing up in North American pages. Factor in the compounding power of social media and blogging, and we’ve got a downright frenzy of conflicting information on our hands. There are resources online, including NHS, that give guidelines for evaluating news reports. I’ll hazard a guess that they are underutilized.


Considering how difficult it is for accurate and sensible health information to be heard among the gunshots of silver bullets, I encourage bakers to be vigilant in vetting and attributing the information you share. For every angle one author espouses, it seems a contradictory one can be found to question it. Dietitians are great sounding boards, and the “better for you” market would benefit from a louder dietitian voice because it’s an accountable and a highly trained one.

Because it takes a surprising amount of effort to sift the solid scientific from the rest of it (partly because access to the original research is expensive), bakeries may want to consider the safe bet of increasing their alliance with physical fitness. If you have a special interest in health, but don’t want to be positioned as knowledgeable about it to your customers, consider what one of the world’s biggest brands is up to now. 

Coca-Cola has been rolling out a new ad campaign in the U.S. to share the message that it is fighting obesity by pointing out the number of low- or no-calorie brands in their stable, running spots encouraging people to get off their chairs and teaming up with a number of sports and activity initiatives. Naysayers argue it’s just Coke doing good PR, but I say, who cares? The folks at Coca-Cola have a lot of money and if they want to build fitness centres and fund physical programs, I say, thanks, Coca-Cola! The campaign is making its way to Canada, so perhaps we will benefit from programs like Coca-Cola for Fitness, which uses military vets to teach army-style fitness classes to families.
You don’t need to be the size of Coca Cola to support physical activity, but there’s no harm in taking cues from a brand this powerful. You can sponsor kids and adult sports teams, a walking/running club or align with a local gym to hold draws for free memberships or trial classes. Offer picnic-in-the-park baskets to encourage families to get outside and play.

Here’s a twist: why not sponsor an individual athlete? Sports are underfunded in this country (hello abdication of young athletes to the U.S.), and there are Olympic hopefuls out there who need the support of local businesses. A family friend who competed in the last summer Olympics, for example, needed to raise tens of thousands of dollars on her own and she organized a fundraiser to assist her. There are lots of stories like this out there. Is your bakery part of one of them?

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