Way back in February of 2011, we critiqued the Corn Refiners Association public relations blitz, its vastly overplayed attempt to convince the American public that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the same as any other sugar and not the chemical nightmare everyone is making it out to be.
Our three major points then:
- “First, playing whack-a-mole with critics prolongs a story line of 'we’re no better or worse than sugar.' "
- “Second, the focus on consumers neglects a key player in the value chain – the food manufacturer.”
- “…this is getting the CRA nowhere.”
Now, after 16 more months of the same strategy and tactics, the FDA has put its stamp on our third point. The CRA had applied to the feds to change the name of high-fructose corn syrup to “corn sugar.” Your high-school English teacher would call that a euphemism.
The FDA called it bullsh&t. Two weeks ago, it rejected the CRA’s application, reminding the trade group what the rest of us were taught in kindergarten: “sugar must be solid, dried and crystallized.”
Maybe now the CRA will rethink its communications strategy (and perhaps try a new PR firm). Too strident, too in your face. A one-way “conversation.” To wit: the CRA, boldly, allowed comments to be left on articles it posted in defense of HFCS on its "Sweet Surprise" website. Almost 100% trashed what was posted. And the CRA didn’t engage. Bold became stupid.
Drop the consumer focus – the website, the TV spots, the print ads. If you want some consumer good will, link up with an obesity-fighting organization (akin to the spirits industry talking up “responsible drinking.”)
Meantime, target, as we said last year, food manufacturers. Talk about the benefits of HFCS vis-à-vis plant operations – cost, safety, storage, etc. Focus on the “value” part of “value chain.” Manufacturers tend to vote with their wallets.
Consumers vote with their emotions. They aren’t really all that interested in sugar molecules and the science of metabolism. It’s the sausage factory metaphor once again –consumers don’t really want to know what’s in the sausage.