New York Times story on multigrain Pringles gives one critic multi-headaches

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Freelance journalist and author Suzanne Schlosberg wrote because she was so upset over a New York Times story, “The Chip That Stacks Adds a Multigrain Twist,” that she wanted us to review it. I thought anyone who feels so strongly about something should review it herself. So she did. And here is Suzanne’s guest post:

I was flabbergasted when I read this New York Times piece on Procter & Gamble’s new entry into the potato-chip market: multigrain Pringles. The story accepts at face value P&G’s misleading marketing pitch — that “multigrain” is equivalent to “healthy.” When I sent a link to my nutritionist friend Cynthia Sass., M.S., R.D., she replied: “Did you notice it says ‘advertising’ in the top left corner? It must be a paid ad that resembles an article.”

Actually, it’s not. It’s a business story that ran in the Media & Advertising section. Though the story didn’t appear on the health pages, it should have made clear that multigrain simply means that more than one grain is included in the product — not that the product is necessarily nutritious.

Screen shot 2010-07-12 at 2.39.53 PM.pngWhat’s more, the story confuses “multigrain” with “whole grain,” here:

Mr. Bergsma (Pringles marketing director) said that the multigrain Pringles campaign was devised to appeal to people 35 and older, a group that tends to be more aware of calories and sodium content and that also looks to keep the pounds off with whole grains.

Even more egregious: It’s not until the 11th paragraph, and only in parentheses, that the story mentions that — oh, by the way — the new Pringles actually aren’t any more nutritious than original Pringles. (Even so, multigrain Pringles, which are made from rice, corn, wheat and black beans in addition to dehydrated potatoes, have about the same amount of sodium and calories as regular Pringles.)

The story might also have mentioned that multigrain Pringles, like original Pringles, have 1 measly gram of fiber.

Cynthia Sass told me that misleading articles like this one have a real impact on her clients’ perceptions about what’s healthy and what’s not. She said: “Whether it’s sugar-free, low-fat or multigrain, when processed foods are being presented as ‘healthy’ they become perceived as healthy, even if they’re not. Foods that earn a health halo, deserved or not, are often consumed more frequently or without regard to calories, let alone overall nutritional value. I think it can lead to people truly thinking they’re eating healthfully then wondering why they aren’t losing weight or don’t have energy.”

Thank you, Suzanne, for your contribution and for joining us in the quest to help consumers scrutinize claims made for new treatments, tests, products, procedures — and potato chips.

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Ken Leebow

July 12, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Um, it’s a potato chip. I don’t think the average bear believes potato chips are healthy.
By the way, if you missed Stephen Colbert’s hilarious Pringles routine, I recommend watching it:


August 16, 2011 at 8:03 pm

I just bought some and they don’t taste very good. I too chuckled at the “multi grain” claim. Maybe why that’s why they were on sale for $1.50 for the super stack.