Labels that Lie

Ever stared at a label and been completely hypnotised by its bold claims? Whether it’s putting our minds at ease over animal welfare concerns or encouraging us to part with more money, people are employed to deliberately mislead us into feeling good about buying things. Consumers have been duped by advertising labels since the game began, and our choices are still the result of calculated manipulation. Here are some phrases that are often used to bend the truth:

“Source of Protein”

Ah, yes! In our increasingly conceited culture, body image has never been a bigger concern. ‘Bigger’ being the crucial term, because the general consensus yearns for that sculpted ‘bod’, and will put anything in their bodies to achieve this. That means every meal must be packed with protein, or we’ll lose our way to achieving the Dwayne Johnson silhouette. Products that use this health-related language aren’t always as cohesive with your regime as they would seem, either. Weetabix’s ‘protein crunch’ only contains 1.5 grams more protein than traditional Weetabix, and with significantly more sugar, you may want to consider if the extra muscle-building-nutrient is worth the payoff.

“Farm Fresh”

When we think of a farm, images of McDonald’s (Old, not Ronald) homestead spring to mind, where all beings have the freedom to bask in the sunshine or seek shade in the barn; much like a perpetual package holiday. Instead of farm, then, think Guantanamo Prison or a Nazi concentration camp. What’s more, we’re educated to believe that indoor life is good for animals; it protects them from all those nasty diseases they would be exposed to while playing in the dirt. Still, fancy those battery-caged eggs?


Much like those mentioned above, terms that contain the word ‘natural’ or variations thereof evoke images of wellness and good health. You actively play your part in the circle of life by consuming such products. Sorry, wrong again! Many foods or skincare goods claim that their ingredients are plant-based. However, the ingredients used are often derived from plant materials as opposed to being the raw substance.  Just recently Pret-a-Manger came under fire from the Real Bread Campaign for its false claims of using ‘all-natural’ ingredients.

“Improved Recipe”

Tragic thing is, our brains convince us that it actually does taste better. We passively accept that the lovely folks at Unilever spent hours bent over a fiery-hot stove, experimenting with newfangled combinations of herbs and spices, to make our Cup-A-Soup taste even more orgasmic. Reality is, though, that these recipe changes are often a trade-off for different chemicals to make the manufacturing process cheaper. Your Cornetto may have been shrunk, repackaged with a shiny new label and be 10p more expensive, but you’re convinced that it’s even better.

Woman eating donuts with one on each finger

“Closing Down Sale”

Slightly off topic, but it’s almost nostalgic to look back at the times that ‘Soccer Sports’ was due to close down for most of my youth. It’s still very much alive and breathing, much like an interfering, conniving great aunt that sticks around to make everyone’s life a misery. Clearly, we were all had by this one, as ‘Sports Direct’ remains a staple of the high-street to this day. The company was told a while back to stop using these signs, although it still shows how careful we need to be when it comes to mindless consumption.


The important lesson to take away is to mindfully consume. Our spending culture revolves around making impulsive purchases based on passive acceptance, which is why mass consumerism is such so heavily embedded in life. The idea is not to stop buying altogether, but to question these messages that have come to be accepted as the irrefutable truth. Below is an excellent talk about strategies used to make us feel good about spending: