• Thu, Nov 11 2010

Wendy’s “Natural-Cut” Fries With Sea Salt: Healthy, Eco-Friendly, or Bulls#*!?

As part of a broad marketing effort to make over their menu and introduce more “real” foods, Wendy’s is swapping out its garden-variety fries for a new “natural-cut” version using russet potatoes with the skin left on, and seasoned with sea salt. But with a higher sodium content (a medium-size serving will contain 500 milligrams; the former fries contained 350) and no improvement in the freshness department (fries will arrive at Wendy’s frozen), it’s difficult to see the real benefit of these fried (fraud) potatoes.

“We want every ingredient to be a simple ingredient, to be one you can pronounce and one your grandmother would recognize in her pantry,” explained Ken Calwell, Wendy’s Chief Marketing Officer, in what sounds like a book report on Michael Pollan’s Food Rules. If the fries are any indication, Wendy’s seems more interested in revolutionizing their marketing tactics (sea salt sounds natural and healthy!) and increasing revenue than the healthful quality of their actual products.

More than making us want to rush out and order a Frosty and fries, Wendy’s is making us despair at the state of American consumers. Much like McDonald’s recent “eat local” ads, Wendy’s appears to be taking advantage of our often pathological relationship to food. American consumers are continually blasted with so many reasons to feel guilty about what they eat — it’s bad for our health, the environment, animals, farmers, and hey, it’s also bad to complain about it (you privileged brat) — that if Wendy’s can make us feel even a tiny bit better about their French fries, many of us are all too willing to eat it (and them) up.

In this case, we’re not sure if they’re aiming to assuage our worries about health or the environment, but we hope that most consumers see through suspicious marketing strategies like this one. Wendy’s new fries aren’t healthier; they’re not more “natural”; and they’re not something that you should equate with healthy eating (no matter how well-phrased the marketing officer’s explanations).

So, do you ever buy into food marketing like this? Even occasionally? Tell us about the “natural” chips and “eco-friendly” packaging that you buy in order to justify your junk food cravings in the comments section, below.

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