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Is Quaker oatmeal a superfood?

Quaker recently started airing TV commercials with the tagline, “A superfood breakfast.” This makes Quaker one of the only major brands to use that word. What does superfood even mean?

The short answer is that it means nothing. Nutritionists have no formal definition of “superfood” and you won’t find it in the dictionary. It’s a popular term used to describe anything with nutrients thought to prevent disease. It’s basically a synonym for health food. Think fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts.

In sales writing, it usually signals a diet scam. Low-budget online marketers use the word superfood to sell weight loss supplements. As an example, type “acai superfood” into Google and you’ll get 18,300,000 results. Type “oats superfood” and you’ll only get 162,000.

Why would Quaker use such a downmarket, faddish word to describe a product that already has a sterling reputation as a wholesome family food? Because downmarket, faddish words have the power to sell things. Superfood is a superword.

In the commercial embedded at the top of this post, you’ll see Bob Harper (a fitness expert famous for being on “The Biggest Loser”) talk about Quaker foods in some of the most glowing language a lawyer would ever sign off on. “It powers you up and it makes you feel great,” he says. The ad includes images of plain oats (indisputably a health food) but also shows processed cereals, and makes no distinction between the products in its health claims. Another spot in the same campaign deals specifically with Quaker Oatmeal Squares, emphasizing the “superfood” qualities of the cereal.

Is this really a superfood? Ha! A serving of Quaker Oatmeal Squares contains 210 calories, which is a lot. For comparison, a serving of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes contains 110 calories. Additionally, Quaker Oatmeal Squares are not especially high in antioxidant vitamins compared to other cereals. If Quaker Oatmeal Squares is a superfood, so is Lucky Charms.

Bottom line: The Quaker superfood campaign is dishonest marketing. But it’s not exactly a lie, since nobody agrees what superfood means.

On that note, I’m hereby declaring Peanut Butter M&Ms a superfood.

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Who created this campaign? Juniper Park, Toronto, with executive creative directors Alan Madill and Terry Drummond, senior art director Johnnie Ingram, and senior writer Alexis Gropper. (More credits here.)

Who signed off on it? Kirsten Lynch, Quaker chief marketing officer.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising

2 comments

  1. sana says:

    I think Oatmeal is said to be a superfood because it take the body more calories to burn it then it actually contains. That’s why oatmeal (not just the Quaker brand) is a negative calorie food.

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