Natural or Not?

Such a seemingly simple question, and the very question most food manufacturers and consumers are asking themselves about now. The Food & Drug Administration has avoided providing a regulatory definition of the word and meanwhile a whole mess of lawsuits have occurred including TropicanaNaked JuicePepperidge Farms' Goldfish and others.

The result?  Companies are all but avoiding the use of the word "natural" for fear of legal ramifications. Take Bhuja as a prime example. 


The old package on the left clearly states 100% natural on the upper right corner. In contrast, the new package has no such mention of the word "natural" or "100% natural" anywhere on the packaging at all. Instead, being non-GMO verified and gluten-free have made it onto the new front-of-pack near the bottom corners. Curiously the older package and the newer package both say "New!" but the one on the right is in fact the newer one. I'm not sure how long a product remains "new" per se, but I guess if you haven't eaten them before, then they are new to you.

As to the packaging itself, this is a great example of packaging moving to a less shiny, more natural ethos through muted tones, simpler text and streamlined messaging. The visual of the peas has also changed - from bright graphicky green to subtle photographic green that reads more like a real vegetable. The new packaging sings "100% natural" in spirit, but does not state those prickly words anywhere on the entire pouch. 

A few last thoughts.

These Bhuja crunchy peas are so tasty. I highly recommend them and no, I have no financial interest with Bhuja. They are spicy, crunchy and oh so satisfying and I'm not even a huge fan of peas, despite being a green veggie lover. 

Be on the lookout for "natural" and "100% natural" quietly disappearing from packaging. At the same time, take note of how some manufacturers may start to play games with words like natural origin, nature inspired, nature identical, a touch of nature, etc. Don't be fooled. Read the ingredient list and determine natural - or not natural - using your own best judgment. 

And last, here is an article I wrote recently fo Tufts Nutrition Magazine on the topic of natural. Scroll to page 11 for the full story. 

Happy eats.