Americans have become increasingly interested in what exactly is in their food and drink. Some check the labels because they want to avoid GMOs or potentially harmful ingredients. PepsiCo Inc. removed brominated vegetable oil from its Gatorade products earlier this year for that reason.
Others check the labels because they want to know what exactly goes into their food. Starbucks has changed its red dye after information their previous dye was made of crushed bugs was met by customer backlash. The company now uses a tomato based dye.
Though these are two well-known companies, it’s unlikely you heard about the change to their ingredient lists. For the most part, major companies are reluctant to share which ingredients are being removed and replaced to avoid bringing attention to the fact they were in the product in the first place.
Social media has given consumers a place to publicly air their concerns and call out the companies they think are doing wrong. Before, if a customer had a complaint, they could contact the company privately and have it dealt with that way. Now anytime someone sees something in a product they don’t like, they can garner support and petition signatures in the thousands.
For example, though PepsiCo Inc. has removed brominated vegetable oil from Gatorade, Coca-Cola has not done the same with the Powerade drinks that contain that ingredient. An online petition to have brominated vegetable oil from Powerade had 57,000 supporters as of last week.
The power of the people has never been more evident. With a few clicks of a track pad, someone’s small concern can become a major cause. Think of the progress anti-GMO campaigns have made in the last year. What used to be grassroots campaigns, isolated to their individual areas, now have major social media presence and support. The same thing is happening with food ingredients and labels.
Companies are changing the way they make their food products, often finding a healthier alternative. Call me crazy, but I don’t think that is happening just because someone at those companies has decided it’s time to be healthy. Just don’t expect these companies to make grand statements about their changes. For now, at least, they will be done quietly.