Photo: By theimpulsivebuy on Flickr
When cooks and companies slapped an “artisan” label on products, it used to signify that the item was hand-crafted, carefully cooked, and maybe even made with rich, locally sourced ingredients.But now “artisan” is simply the latest buzzword in the food-marketing world, and brands from Domino’s to Tostitos have latched the term to give their products a sort of high-quality air that they might (or might not) deserve.
Food companies have deemed more than 800 new products as “artisan,” reports USA Today, marking a big jump from just 80 that were so labelled in 2007. Today’s “artisan” selections include an egg sandwich from Wendy’s, Tostitos chips, and Fannie May chocolates.
Even Russell Weiner, the chief marketing officer at Domino’s (which in September launched its own line of artisan pizzas), conceded to USA Today that the term is often “an excuse to charge a lot of money.” Those artisan Fannie May chocolates? They’ll run you $50 for a box of 25.
But Domino’s is a bit more tongue-in-cheek about its use of food marketing’s label du jour. Weiner told the LA Times the company does not use the specialty flours or wood-fired ovens often linked with authentic artisan baking.
Weiner reminded USA Today that his company is calling itself “artisan” “with a wink and a smile” — the “artisan” pizza boxes even have a disclaimer. “We’re not artisan,” the boxes say. “We don’t wear black berets, cook with wood-fired ovens or apprentice with the masters in Italy.”
Most other companies are more serious about their “artisan” branding strategy. Panera Bread calls itself “artisan fast food” and fellow chain Starbucks sells “artisan” breakfast sandwiches.
But is that misleading?
As with so-called “natural” food, which is unregulated and often meant to trick consumers into thinking it’s certified organic, it’s up to consumers to understand what they’re really getting and avoid getting duped by the marketing strategy of the moment.
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