One of the fun things about being a food writer is receiving PR product pitches in my inbox. Today's gem comes from the Birds Eye company, the national maker of frozen vegetables. PR pitches are nothing if not gushy, and this one is no exception.
"Birds Eye®, a portfolio brand of Pinnacle Foods Group, is on a mission to help America “Discover the Wonder of Vegetables™” and announced today the launch of its new campaign with a kick-off event in New York City’s Union Square, featuring an unexpected vegetable farm in the snow."
For people like me, who have angsty thoughts about nutrition every five minutes, this email is torture to read. There's so much about it that's so right, and yet it manages to miss its mark in several painful ways.
I commend Birds Eye for (further down the page) making a donation of "up to" 250,000 pounds of vegetables to Share our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign. ("Up to?") And more importantly, I understand the temptation to resort to elaborate marketing gimmicks. In my novel, the main character struggles mightily with the difficulty of marketing plain old vegetables. When you don't believe in magical nutritional additives, the ads are harder to write, aren't they? Julia bewails it like this:
"Because fresh broccoli is never new and improved, never reformulated."
But when I take a closer look at Birds Eye and its parent Pinnacle Food Group, my sympathy evaporates. Pinnacle is the home of products like Armour Canned Meats (the cheapest kind of factory meat, with loads of salt for shelf stability) and Log Cabin Sugar Free Syrup (Water, sorbitol, maltitol, nutrasweet, cellulose gum, natural & artifical flavors, salt, sodium hexmetaphosphate, sodium benzoate, sorbic acid, sucralose... YUM!)
Even the Birds Eye vegetable brand itself has some explaining to do. Birds Eye Voila Cheesy Ranch Chicken, a pasta dish, has 760 mg of sodium in a cup-and-a-half serving. Yet they claim they're "on a mission to help America 'Discover the Wonder of Vegetables.™'" Really?
Beware of smoke and mirrors. And faux snowy vegetable farms in Union Square.