Sending a message

By Steve Katz, Editor | September 13, 2013

Washington State is turning into the figurative, national battleground over “genetically altered foods,” and the push for foods that contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms) to be labeled as such. In 2013, 28 states introduced bills to their respective legislatures that would require GMO food labeling. It’s a hot-button topic, and it brings labels and packaging into the limelight.

For L&NW readers, I’m thinking this can only be a good thing. Legislation that would require label changes translates to new label orders, which means business.

Unlike other packaging components, labels can be more than just product decoration. While a label can serve as a means to communicate facts and figures about a given product, some brands use their label as a means to share additional messages, which sometimes lean to the left or right.

The GMO labeling debate is centered on the consumer’s right to know if the foods they are buying contain GMOs. Although safety and long-term effects of GMO foods has not yet been determined, the US currently does not require labeling of these products. Regardless, the debate lies in the fact that consumers are not empowered with the opportunity to make informed choices about their purchasing and eating these foods.

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, a natural brand of soap in North America and advocate for sustainable agriculture, has created a special label for its quart-size liquid soaps in support of GMO labeling and the Washington state voter initiative to label GMOs, Yes on I-522, otherwise known as “The Washington Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act.” Natural product stores throughout all 50 states and Dr. Bronner’s webstore will stock the limited edition soap label starting in late September through November of 2013.

“Americans need to wake up to the secret changes chemical companies are making to our food and demand transparency in food labeling. The goal of our special ‘GMO Info’ label is to educate the public on the importance of mandatory GMO labeling, and encourage everyone to educate, donate, volunteer, and become involved at both the state and national levels in the growing movement to label genetically engineered foods,” says David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps.

Clearly, this issue strikes a chord with Dr. Bronner, and his passion comes through in not only his words, but also the label on his signature product.

By making their stance known on a given issue, brand owners are challenging consumers to either reward or punish them with a purchase or refusal to purchase based on politics. The practice has been coined “advocacy marketing,” and it’s a bold risk.

It’s a win-win for the label industry. I can think of a few converters who might refuse to print certain politically-charged messages, but I’m guessing the majority don’t care so much about the message being delivered on the labels they’re printing, just so long as the checks clear and the orders keep coming.

Steve Katz, Editor
Twitter: @LabelSteve
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