The rise of nutritional branding

Pure, natural and healthy or laden with salt, sugar and saturated fat?
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We've looked at more than 200 products whose brand names imply naturalness or healthiness, and found the ingredients in many of them don’t live up to the promise.

For many shoppers, anything that promises to be nutritious is far more likely to find its way into your shopping trolley than something that’s not. Sure enough, supermarkets adorn their shelves with “healthy”, “fresh” and “natural” items. 

On the surface, these types of product may appear to be the next best thing to visiting the farm gate or growing your own organically. But beyond the packaging, the story is often very different. 

Although the Australian Consumer Law and Food Standards Code aim to protect shoppers against misleading advertising, many of these brands rely on trademarks – commonly used to protect intellectual property rights and distinguish specific products from others in the marketplace – to push unsubstantiated nutrition and health implications. 

Should a product be allowed to be sold as “natural” when it includes preservatives, or be marketed as “healthy” when it has lots of added sugar?

For more information about nutritional labelling, please see our Food labelling and advertising section.


Connotations of “natural” are attached to many products – from All Natural to Be Natural, Go Natural to Nice & Natural – by virtue of their trademarked brand names. According to The George Institute, its database has close to 1300 products and brands that use the word “natural” in their product name or package marketing – but the ingredients may not necessarily reflect this. 

For example, some contain additives such as preservatives, and although others may be technically “natural”, they can also be laden with sodium and saturated fats. Nutritional data from The George Institute on five of the All Natural Bakery Bars indicate they’re all high in saturated fats and sugars.


The Natural Cordial Company’s lime cordial contains a sulphite preservative.   Nice & Natural Nut and Yoghurt Muesli Bars contain a “yoghurt-flavoured compound” and the popular soy-based emulsifier lecithin.
mother-earth-baked-oaty-slices   natural-chip-company-chips  
Mother Earth Baked Oaty Slices spruik their lack of artificial colours, as well as being a high source of fibre and wholegrain cereals, but they’re also high in saturated fat.   While the newly trademarked Natural Chip Company’s sea salt chips are free of chemical additives, the honey soy chicken flavour contains a number of processed ingredients, such as maltodextrin and the colour caramel 1. And both chip flavours are high in saturated fat as they’re cooked in palm oil, but the label lists this as “vegetable oil”.

Available in health food shops, the Loving Earth Organic Activated Almond & Purple Corn Raw Dark Chocolate Bar is 25% saturated fat; CHOICE considers any food containing more than five per cent to be high in saturated fat.      



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