The internet has made the exchange of exotic goods accessible to people all over the world. A recent UK study has shown that around 15% of all food products are now bought from the internet. Online food markets are now flooded with exotic products from distant lands that claim to offer miracle cures for all kinds of health problems. However, it’s not always easy to separate the facts from well-strategized marketing campaigns.
The start of the 21st Century saw a boom in online food consumers. A growing number of health-conscious individuals began seeking luxury products with natural health benefits. As if overnight, the internet became a marketing battleground. Health food companies were born all over the US and Europe. Their marketers swiftly moved to justify outrageously inflated prices for essentially, wrinkly old berries. This article looks at four products that emerged around this time and continue to be sold at a high price today.
This item was first named in the English language around the 17th century. It was known as Wolfberry. British colonialists introduced it to the UK from China. However, it was not considered food. In fact, the plants were grown as decorative garden hedges!
The name ‘Goji Berry’ was invented in the year 2000 because it sounded like the original Chinese pronunciation. The fruit was marketed as an ancient Chinese remedy that could prevent diseases, such as cancer. In the year 2009, the US company Free Life was sued for misrepresentation and false advertising because they could not prove their claims about health benefits.
Price for a Kg of Organic Goji Berries in 2018: £11
Acai berries originate from Brazil. They were first marketed in the 1980s as energy drinks because of their high carbohydrate content. In the early 2000s, health companies flooded the internet with acai berry advertising. Acai berries were claimed to be antioxidants that could reverse chronic illnesses like diabetes.
In 2009 they were ranked no.1 on the US FTC’s ‘scams and rip-offs’ list. In 2012, five US companies were fined a total of $80 million dollars for claiming acai berries encouraged weight loss and prevented colon cancer.
Price for a KG of Organic Acai Berry Powder in 2018: £55
Pink Himalayan Sea Salt
The story behind this product is a marketing dream. About 200 million years ago, in the area we now know as the Himalayas, plate boundaries shifted and created some of the largest mountains on the planet. The colossal change also cut off a portion of the sea and drove it high up into the Himalayas. The water evaporated and huge deposits of salt remained. Great story, huh?
Scientific tests on Pink Himalayan Salt has proved its chemical properties to be almost identical to that of regular table salt. In the US, the salt is manufactured as a dietary supplement to be taken in capsules. The FDA is currently investigating several companies for false advertising about the unproven health benefits of the product.
Price for a Kg of Organic Himalayan Sea Salt: £5.00
Inca Berries are one of the newer fruits that health company marketers have pounced on. The name first appeared around the year 2006. One exceptionally bright marketer must have come up with the name because the plant originates from Peru. However, there is no evidence supporting claims that Incas actually cultivated this fruit as food medicine or for any other purpose.
The fruit is relatively high in protein, but also contains a lot of sugar. Marketers have promoted the fruit’s high fiber level and they must be commended for this because it is in fact, true. They contain twice as much fiber as prunes or figs. This makes it a great laxative. A fact that marketers have chosen to largely ignore. It’s entirely possible that people with constipation aren’t willing to spend as much as health food consumers? Perhaps it’s not even worth speculating about?
Price for a Kg of Organic Inca Berries: £18
Beginning in the early 2000s, health food companies have claimed to sell products with miraculous health benefits. The rise in popularity of alternative remedies coincided perfectly with a desire for consumers to eat more responsibly. For the first time in human history, people are willing to spend more on food as long as it is healthy. Marketing strategies, particularly online, have made it difficult for consumers to know if they are actually paying for a superior product, or just being ripped off.