Certain words are so overused that they have lost their meaning, especially in the crowded consumer food and beverage space (case in point—“natural,” “green,” and “organic”). What’s one of the most tired terms? We think it’s “real.” A quick search in the US Patent and Trademark Office site turns up some 2,141 food and drink-related marks with the word “real.” Now that’s fodder for a feeding frenzy of confusion for customers.
With surging awareness about the perils of processed food, more customers want their eats minimally processed and free of preservatives and additives. Hey, we’re not decrying the demand for healthier food. After all, this country’s obesity epidemic is costing us dearly, both in terms of money and mortality. But we do protest the misuse of words to the point where they completely lose their meaning.
Just what is “real food” anyway? Isn’t all food—no matter how processed or preservative-packed—“real” in a sense? Whether it comes from a farm or factory, how can we use such a broadly existential term to classify food? Nevertheless, the “Real Food” movement has been on the rise for a while now, perhaps because of our nostalgia for simpler, less tech-hectic times—when the ingredients on labels didn’t read like cryptic gobbledygook.
“Real food” could be defined as “foods free of artificial preservatives, coloring, irradiation, synthetic pesticides, fungicides, ripening agents, fumigants, drug residues, and growth hormones.” Less clinically speaking, it’s been described as “eating closer to the source and benefiting from the nutritional profile of the freshest, in-season, locally grown ingredients.” In short, it’s food that’s closer to you and clean of processing.
Riding the rage for all things au naturel comes “Unreal Candy,” which tries to “unjunk” or recreate America’s best-selling candies, without syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, GMOs, artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. The brand tries to build a better candy bar, by reducing sugar by over 40% and promoting fair-trade at a fair price—without sacrificing taste of course. It’s candy for those with a conscience who still like convenience.
Taking a Chipotle-like approach, the fledgling brand supposedly combed through thousands of recipes to source sustainable materials and best methods. They schemed with top food scientists and chefs to concoct flavorful renditions of old faves (M&M’s, Milky Way, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups come to mind). How? By adding more cacao, real caramel, peanuts, protein, and fiber, for sweetness with substance.
Despite the flood of food brands and products with “real” in the name, the use of the “un-“ prefix is in “Unreal Candy” is interesting, especially when used with the brand’s mantra, “unjunked.” Normally, I’d say you should steer clear of the “real” word-part, but in this case it works. One small caveat—I’m not a fan of the numbered approach to naming the five products. It’s incongruous with the irreverent, somewhat brash personality of the brand. For example, the would-be M&M’s are called “UN 54,” the Milky Way impersonator is in the “UN 5,” and so on. This alphanumerics make the products sound more like sports cars than candy bars. This reservation aside, the “Unreal” name works for the brand and its renegade approach to shaking and waking up the candy industry. Let’s see if this whippersnapper can snap up the sweet support of our taste buds.
Overall Grade: A-