For many consumers who comparison shop for their groceries, a food label announcing the lack of some ingredient or process in its product infers a real difference between that product and its competitors. It’s easy to take a label at its word and not read the fine print – and that’s likely what Hunt’s was counting on when it unveiled “Non-GMO” labels on its canned crushed tomatoes.
“No matter how far afield you look, you won’t find a single genetically modified tomato among our vines,” Hunt’s said in a video announcing its Non-GMO Project certification. But everything was not what it seemed on the surface – or on the label, in this case. The decision by Hunt’s clearly had nothing to do with substance and everything to do with marketing.
Why? Because there’s no such thing as a GMO tomato currently on the market. ALL tomatoes are non-GMO.*
The company received swift backlash, as consumer advocates quickly recognized a deceptive and unnecessary marketing ploy. Hunt’s even acknowledged that “it’s true there are no GMO tomatoes” in an apology posted to their Facebook page.
This type of deceptive marketing represents a distinction without a difference, and confuses consumers by playing on their lack of knowledge, misconceptions or outright fears regarding the ingredients in their food.
*Genetically modified tomatoes were developed in 1994, however they were only available on the market for a short time and are not sold or used for consumption today.