I was working on a blog for a client the other day when I had a hankering for a snack.
So I pulled out the ol’ Cheez-It box from the pantry, as I love a good cheesy cracker. I was happily crunching away when I saw this on the back of the box:
“Munch on our newest, cheesy, thin & crispy snack”
I’m literally, as we speak, munching on a cheesy, thin, & crispy snack. This copy does not make me want to try the “Snap’d” cracker. It doesn’t differentiate the new product in any way. Instead, it throws a list of adjectives at me, all of which can be used to describe any Cheez-It cracker.
You’d think Kellogg could do better.
But it got me thinking that I’d like to find some good food copywriting examples in my very own home. I intended to highlight three or four winners. But I found that there weren’t that many winners in my kitchen. I could find TWO brands in my pantry that I was happy with, and I found two in the fridge that (heartbreakingly) got it very very wrong.
So join me on my journey through my kitchen as I separate the standouts from the duds and hand out the first-ever EDWC Awards.
EDWC Award for Simplicity — HEB Mixla Tortillas
If you don’t live in Texas, you’re not lucky enough to experience the joy that is HEB. HEB is our treasured grocery store. It’s a place where the store brand is not the bottom shelf version, but often the best version. Texans love HEB about as much as they love bluebonnets, Whataburger, and eating things in the shape of Texas — that is to say, a lot.
And one of the best things they sell is their tortillas. All of HEB’s tortillas are delicious. But my favorite is the Mixla — a combo of a flour and corn tortilla. And this copy explains what’s good about the Mixla tortilla in four simple words:
“Corn Flavor & Flour Flexibility”
Anyone who has ever had a corn tortilla split in half on them knows how delicate they are. The Mixla has solved that problem by adding a little flour tortilla doughiness. I’d never even thought too much about why the Mixla was so great until I read the package.
Simple. Descriptive. Excellent.
Dud #1 – La Croix
La Croix is the lightly flavored sparkling water that cools my parched millennial throat. I love it very much.
But I have not one, but TWO issues with the copy on their box.
First of all, what exactly does “naturally essenced” mean? “Essenced” is not a word. “Essence” is a noun, and it refers to vapors that are extracted from fruits and vegetables at high temperatures and then used for flavoring. You can’t just turn a noun into a verb because you feel like it. There are rules, people!
But my bigger problem with La Croix’s packaging is actually beneath that nonsense phrase.
0 – Calorie
0 – Sweetener
0 – Sodium
Look, this may just be me. But to say that La Croix is “innocent” seems to imply that other drinks are “guilty.” And I don’t think we should be ascribing that kind of label to our food and drinks.
People’s relationships with food are already a mess. Let’s not compound the problem in our copywriting, shall we? There is no reason that you should feel guilty for drinking a drink that does have some calories, some sweetener, and some sodium. Yes, a Coke can be a part of an overall balanced diet. And if you have one, you should not feel guilty about it.
Food is food. Not a morality tale.
EDWC Award for Sounding Like a Small Brand — Campbell’s Well Yes! Soup
Campbell’s has always been pretty solid in their marketing. Everyone knows the “Mmm Mmm Good” slogan, right?
With their Well Yes! Soups, they’re going after the healthy food market by promoting whole ingredients and protein. Now, canned soup is never really going to be a “health” food because it will always be high in sodium. But there is certainly a market for convenience products with ingredients you can actually pronounce.
Campbell’s is clearly positioning this soup to be a competitor of Amy’s Organic or Pacific Foods (even though it’s certainly not organic). They tried to make it sound like a boutique brand rather than an offshoot of a $14 billion company by keeping the copy light and playful. And I think they succeeded.
Let’s just pretend that one can doesn’t contain 50% of my daily sodium.
Garlic Chipotle Salsa (you broke my heart)
There’s a chipotle salsa that my dad makes when I come to visit. My family calls it “Kate’s salsa,” because I horde it. If he makes a batch when I come to visit, you better get some while you can. It’s not going to last.
The first time I had bad heartburn, it was because I ate so much of my salsa that I practically burned a hole through my esophagus.
The HEB Specialty Series Garlic Chipotle Salsa isn’t as good, but it’s not too far off. I always have a jar in the house.
And when I pulled out the jar during this experiment, I found this:
“Ignite your taste buds with our HEB Specialty Salsas.”
Ok so far. But then…
“Smoky chipotle combined with garlic, and a blend of spices to create a combination that is great as a dip for tortilla chips and guaranteed to add some heat to sizzlin’ fajitas.”
Hoo boy. First of all, that is not a coherent sentence. We seem to be missing a verb right about here:
Also, that comma shouldn’t be there. Plus, “combined…to create a combination?” Well yes, things are combined to make combinations. That’s how combining things works. Someone needs a proofreader.
It’s terrible. I can’t believe I never read it before.
I’m still going to buy it. I love tasty salsa more than I hate bad writing. But I’m still salty about it.
To Wrap Up
Just because it makes its way onto a box or bottle, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good food copywriting.
But this is actually great news for copywriters and small business owners who want to write their own copy. If the folks at Kellogg, HEB, and La Croix are putting out stuff this bad, then there’s certainly hope for the rest of us.
I plan to do more EDWC Awards in the future for any particularly good copywriting that catches my eye. Stay tuned!