Home Weekend WTF? Weekend WTF: Weapons of Mass Marketing Deception

Weekend WTF: Weapons of Mass Marketing Deception

by Erika Nicole Kendall

This right here? This is just… I can’t do anything but laugh and shake my head.

Please read carefully. From the New York Times:

A reader named Jerrod Savage sends in a couple images that seem to show a rather clever marketing strategy. Turns out that when you reduce the size of a container of Nesquik chocolate syrup, you also reduce the sugar content! It’s possible the actual syrup has less actual sugar — but, judging from the label, it’s also possible that it doesn’t.

Here are the accompanying photos:

The original regular version... photo from NYT.

The reduced sugar version... photo from NYT.

…and under any other circumstances, that’d be okay.

However… looking at the back of the nutrition label shows a very different story.

The Nestle website offers us the following information about the labels of these two products:

The original version, as screen-captured from the Nestle website.

Now… surely, you noticed that the serving size in each label says “one tablespoon,” yet the amount of sugars (listed under the carbohydrates) in the regular version says “16g,” while the reduced-sugar version reports “10g.”

But wait – did you catch the weight of each “one tablespoon serving?” The weight of the tablespoon in the regular version? “20ml.” The weight of the serving size of product in the reduced-sugar version? “14ml.”

They effectively reduced the amount of sugar in a serving by reducing the serving. Not by reducing the actual sugar in one 20ml serving. They only reduced the amount of a serving by 6ml.

Let’s be clear. When you look at a label that says “33% reduced sugar,” you are basically expecting to be able to ingest the same serving size, and within that serving size you expect to find 33% less sugar. So… in a one tablespoon serving of syrup that measures 20ml, you expect to find less sugar. You don’t expect them to change the serving size on you in order to make that 33% a reality. That’s not how that works.

When you think about it – it’s hella deceptive though, right? I mean, I can get a tablespoon of anything… and I can either leave my tablespoon overflowing or I can only fill it partly. Whichever makes the best sense in my case. And, well… if I want to imply that I’ve reduced the sugar by 33% in a serving of my product… what better way to do that (without altering the sweet taste that you’ve come to love) than by just reducing the actual serving of the product by 33%… thus effectively reducing YOUR sugar intake by 33%?

That is… if you paid enough attention to the fact that your serving size just shrunk.

Clever, right? C’mon, give ’em props!

Did you find a Weekend WTF? E-mail it to wtf@blackgirlsguidetoweightloss.com!

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Rita January 8, 2011 - 10:33 AM

Lol, those sneaky son of a guns! Its official, in reference to food, the game is rigged. You can’t trust any of the companies.

Sharon January 8, 2011 - 12:53 PM

WOW this is shocking…. I don’t understand how they can get away with it. A tablespoon should equal a tablespoon no matter what, if measured correctly… this is craziness… but I am now more aware… thank for shedding light on this….

brooklynshoebabe January 8, 2011 - 3:45 PM

Is this even legal? It’s like a bait and switch or

RoSi January 8, 2011 - 5:18 PM

well disturbing or not…those marketing people are
freakin’ geniuses…got to give ’em that

Yum Yucky January 8, 2011 - 9:56 PM

Those bastards! I’ve been trying to focus on more cleaning eating (fruits, veggies, etc) but I’ll definitely be scrutinizing food labels a bit more.

thirteenlbs January 9, 2011 - 12:08 AM

WOW, I’ve seen lots if stuff in this game but that takes
the cake. Or milk, whatever.

Sonya January 9, 2011 - 4:16 PM

*giving them a standing Ovation* well that is what they get
paid to do, unfortunatly they are getting paid to keep us hooked on
their smack!!! Well with great blogs like BGGTWL we know better…
Hell let them do them, while we do us! No longer shall we fall for
the banana in the tail pipe..nope no sir!!! Im well on my grind of
eating clean. I watched Food Inc this weekend and was blown away!!!
My quest now is to find my poultry/fish as fresh and wild as
possible. I’m pretty sure that beef has been taken off my menu’s.
Thanks Erika for keeping us informed, and educated in these very
important areas that we look over….damn shame what they do…hell
they already have enough money…you would think they would do
better by us. But oh well….we know better now!

Kesha January 9, 2011 - 4:33 PM

Sneaky! Sneaky! congratulations! I read your article in

Shante January 9, 2011 - 5:37 PM

It’s not a bait and switch at all and I’ll explain why. This doesn’t really surprise me because I am a professional cook. A tablespoon does NOT always equal a tablespoon if you are speaking about weight. A tablespoon is a measure of volume not weight. Americans measure by volume which is not accurate. A google search will show you a Tb of butter weighs 14 grams and a Tb of salt weighs 20 grams.
That being said it makes me think what have they put in there to make the weight different. America is one of the few countries left to not use the metric system. The way I see it they didn’t change the serving “size” they changed the ingredients to include some chemicals with a much different weight than what is in the full sugar product.

Erika January 9, 2011 - 9:13 PM

C’mon… you know I thought of that already, right? LOL

The ingredients for both products reads the same:


That being said… it’s still a bait and switch and it is still helladishonest, ESPECIALLY considering the fact that there was NO modification of the recipe or the ingredients. ROFL Change the amount of sugar in a serving by changing the actual serving. That’s downright hilarious. ROFL

Shante January 10, 2011 - 3:16 AM

Not trying to be rude so I hope you haven’t taken it that way, its all kindness and good thoughts here. I still disagree with that article though. Assuming that we read the same article it didn’t give any information about the recipe. Both syrups do in fact have the same ingredients listed but not in the same order. The last three are in a different place but that isn’t really my point. That would however mean one should safely be able to assume that both recipes are different.

Unless one knows for a fact what type of sugar is being used my comment on the weight still stands. Like I said a Tb of butter and salt do not weigh the same. Two different types of sugar will not always have the same weight.
No artificial sweeteners leaves a lot of room for many different sugars. All of which have different levels of sweetness, weights and volumes. I weigh sugar all day everyday. It is the very foundation of pastry. So unless The Times went to the factory and saw what ingredients were being used IMO their story is unfair. And I don’t know anything about Canada and their food labeling laws and The Times didn’t provide any info on that as well.

Now I don’t work for Nesquik or anything but my training in the kitchen just says not soooo quick. And like I said I am in no way trying to be rude to you and I love your site.

Erika January 10, 2011 - 10:11 AM

We will have to agree to disagree then, mama, for reasons that go far beyond what I’m willing to list in these comments. But your thoughts are duly noted. 🙂

Comments are closed.