100% Natural. Natural and fresh! California Natural! All Natural.
So what does that mean? So why is this water natural, isn’t all water natural? How is this candy even natural, is that possible? Wait, is my hair even natural?
Many consumers and restaurateurs alike seek out products with the “Natural” label because they are expecting that they are eating or buying foods produced without pesticides, hormones, and GMO’s. However, that is not true.
That word. It is used in everything from ingredients in your kitchen to body washes. You see it on billboards, on internet advertisements, and on your menu. But is what we are writing true? Does anyone even know what this word means? Or, is this word just a ploy to get millennials to buy products or dine out? Oh, millennials. They seem to be taking center stage over the past few months. They are now the biggest group of people on earth right now. Pew Research Center reported that in April 2016, this group of people made up 75.4 million of people on earth, whereas the Baby Boomers made up 74.9 million.
“You want to cater your menu to millennials and offer healthier and more “natural” options, however, you’re being tricked, and tricking your patrons.”
You’re thinking- great fact, but what does this have to do with the overuse of “Natural” in our society and in our food?
Well, as a generation as a whole, they have preferences. They want to see healthy choices on menus. They care about sustainability, and make choices to lead lives that benefit the planet. Not to mention, this generation grew up WITH technology. The interesting thing to note here is that they can fact check everything with the computer in their pockets.
As the restaurant industry faces many different headwinds, from minimum wage changes, to labor shortages and changes in consumer preferences, many restaurateurs are doing small things to change their concepts to cater to this new type of guest. Is that the right thing to do? Well, that’s another story I’ve got to write.
What does The FDA define as “Natural?”
The FDA defines “natural” as a food with nothing artificial or synthetic included in, or added to it, that would not normally occur in it. The catch 22 here is that that definition does not, and was not intended to, mention food production methods (pesticides, processing, and pasteurization). Note also, nowhere in their definition do they express that the term “natural” should be used to describe a food with any nutritional benefit. These foods, however, may contain antibiotics, growth hormones, and other similar chemicals. So really, natural does not mean a whole lot. How come everything is labeled natural then?
What I have been noticing as I am on the quest for a good meal, is that this term is used to insinuate that the meal that I’m going to eat is good for me. It is the same from the perspective of the restaurateur. When you’re trying to serve the best meals, the source of that food is important to both you, and your guests, especially if any millennials dine with you. So this cycle continues. You want to cater your menu to millennials and offer healthier and more “natural” options, however, you’re being tricked, and tricking your patrons.
“Nowhere in The FDA’s definition do they express that the term “natural” should be used to describe a food with any nutritional benefit.”
This is what you should do.
So, natural is overused, and really carries no weight to the health benefits of the ingredients that you are serving up. Instead, look for the label “Organic.” Foods with that label have to abide by many different regulations developed by the FDA from type of soil to animal raising practices. It holds more weight to your guests, and keeps your reputation strong.