Not all that glitters is gold. As well as not all products zero They are sugar free. This denomination, that of being exclusive of the refreshments has happened to be present in the labels of innumerable products, also can talk about to fats, salt or other elements. And confuse the consumer, alert the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU). The association warns that the use of this term is proliferating despite not being regulated, and points out that linking it to substances other than sugar or calories can be misleading. "But the brands use it because it works like the free word: it has an enormous power of attraction," says Pedro Rey, professor at the Department of Economics and Finance at ESADE and editor on the blog Nothing is free.
From jam jars to dairy products or popcorn boxes, the term zero a gap has been made in the labels of dozens of foods, alluding to different nutritional characteristics. At least in most cases. Within your campaign #NoCuela, aimed at dispelling false rumors in terms of consumption, the OCU has even detected a coffee-based beverage that uses this word to refer to the temperature at which the product is served: zero degrees Celsius.
"It's a very good publicity stunt because everyone wins: the brand sells and the consumer feels less guilty," says Rey, who stresses that this term, which triumphs before a consumer increasingly concerned about finding healthy alternatives, always appears written with the z instead of the c in a clear allusion to the product that made him famous: the Coca-Cola zero.
The American multinational launched this variant more than a decade ago to catch the male audience that did not feel identified with the version Light of the drink, which had women as the target of their campaign. "The others have copied both the name and the typeface," says Rey, who explains that it is not coincidental that the size of the word zero it is usually much larger than the letter of the substance to which it refers, something that the OCU asks to prohibit.
The EU regulated more than two decades ago several of the nutritional declarations that appear in food labels that we find in the supermarket shelves, like Light or fat-free. Thus, for example, only products with less than 0.5 grams of sugar per 100 grams or 100 milliliters can be defined without sugar.
"It's used because it works like the free word," says an economist
"If there is a regulation that establishes what can be used, instead of zero sugars we would have to say sugarfree, which is what is regulated, "reflects Amparo Alegría, professor of Nutrition at the University of Valencia. Joy agrees with the OCU that the use of the word zero responds more to an advertising strategy than to an effort to expand the nutritional information for the consumer, and warns that this term is usually associated with products that should not be of usual consumption. "We would have to privilege as a basis of our food fresh products such as fruits, vegetables, cereals and high quality proteins," he explains.
But zero It is not the only term that is not regulated and that brands use as advertising hooks. Home or craftsman they are other of the denominations that we can find in the labels and that are not included in any standard. "We do not have to let ourselves be blinded by the brightness of a very striking expression", warns José María Ferrer, head of the food law department of the Ainia technology center, "but we do not have to be surprised if we find certain commercial expressions, because it would be assumed that all the creative capacity of those dedicated to innovate in food was already properly regulated. " Ferrer recalls that brands are in any case obliged to comply with the rules dictated by Brussels, which also requires to include the nutritional information in the labeling of food.
"It is important to read the fine print even if it is a brand we trust", recommends Juan Luis González, professor of the Master in Marketing Management and Commercial Management at ESIC. "Any concept already entrenched in the mind of the consumer is very powerful, but we must not forget that commercial claims can lead to deception," he concludes.