Sunday, December 11, 2011


Marketing pundits have the ability to convert an innocuous word into a popular icon, recognizable easily and  attracting new consumers to the products promoted. If there were no regulations to control unsubstantiated claims about foods, consumers would have been deluged with such claims, thousands in number, making a choice in the super market isles a nightmare! Every word used on a label or promotional advertisement is chosen carefully by the industry to make a lasting impression in the minds of the consumer. Latest to arrive is the word "artisan" which creates a nostalgia about the good old days when every thing was made with hand involving no machine unlike to day's mass produced items. When potato wafers manufacturers found their business not growing as per expectations, they introduced the word "kettle fried" to remind the consumers that the eating quality of the chips will be equal to what old grandma used to make! There are many similar instances when such terms are revived for business promotion. Here is a take on this wide spread practice in the industry. 

"Dictionaries tell us that the word artisan relates to a person or company that makes a high-quality, distinctive product in small quantities, usually by hand and using traditional methods. But food manufacturers seem to have a different idea. Domino's, Tostitos and Starbucks are among the major bands using the word on packaging in order to convince consumers they are buying a better-quality product, and therefore spend more".

Is there any thing wrong if the word artisan is used on a food product to attract more consumers? Of course it is perfectly legal as long as there is no accepted definition of an artisan product in the statute books. But common sense tells that artisan is a skilled worker with lot of experience in making a particular product in a particular way and the artisan way of making a food product cannot be replicated easily under commercially conditions, the productivity becoming a casualty. At the same time if the product made commercially resembles and mimics the eating quality of real artisan made product, as perceived by the consumer, there should not be any serious objection to the use of the word on the label. However from ethical angle it would be more appropriate to qualify such claims with more clarity. Probably the phrase "artisan quality" may be more appropriate than using "artisan food".


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