There are few rules to guide marketing labels on foods
Q. I recently purchased a can of Planters cashews. I bought the can labeled “Deluxe Whole Cashews’’ because I thought they would be larger, whole cashews. Once the can was opened, I found that there was an equal amount of ordinary-size cashews and pieces of cashews. Was I wrong to assume the can would contain larger than usual whole cashews?
I sent an e-mail to Kraft. I’ve shown the can to dozens of people, and every one of them felt the label was misleading. Are we all wrong in our thinking?
Irene White, West Brookfield
A. Food labeling laws allow companies to say a lot of things without much risk. Specific claims, such as “fat-free’’ or “sugar-free’’ are regulated. But marketing lingo, such as “deluxe’’ isn’t. In fact, food companies have come up a vast array of virtually meaningless label words that are meant to conjure certain images for consumers.
The term “natural,’’ for instance, has a legal definition for meat and poultry but not for other foods. “Doctor recommended,’’ “made with whole grains,’’ and “may lower cholesterol’’ are examples of other label terms that don’t have any substance to them.
In this case, “deluxe’’ actually was intended to have meant something, Kraft spokesman Basil Maglaris said. Whether it really did is just a difference of opinion between you and your friends and Kraft.
“The cashew is a unique nut - it is not as hard as other nuts and is known for being softer and more delicate,’’ Maglaris explained. “With Planters Deluxe Whole Cashews, we purchase and use whole cashews. We also label our whole cashews products as ‘deluxe’ because we use a larger-sized cashew for those items. And for our consumers, it’s very important to distinguish on package that we are starting with whole cashews - rather than a mix of chunks, splits or pieces.’’
Maglaris noted that on the packages of the whole cashews there are some images of some pieces to show that it is likely they won’t all be whole. He said the company is working on minimizing breakage.
The bottom line is Kraft didn’t break the law, but you’re the consumer. Fire them and choose another company’s nuts if you don’t think theirs meet the deluxe test.
Mitch Lipka is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs TheConsumerChronicle.com. He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/MitchLipka. He can be reached at ConsumerNews@Aol.com.