BY VINCENT VARNEY
In the recent days, broccoli has been doing the rounds as the latest ‘superfood’ – a term given to fruits, vegetables and all manner of products that offer various benefits to their devourers. Broccoli’s claim to fame is that it contains chemicals that help prevent age-related illnesses such as heart disease and certain cancers, and thanks to the culinary-engineering skills of a group of British scientists, these chemicals have been harnessed to produce an even more nutrient-rich breed of broccoli.
For many people, broccoli will have never had more appeal and it’ll likely be in higher demand over the coming weeks. But before you make a mad dash to Coles, punching and strangling fellow customers just so you can get your hands on the newly-labelled fountain of youth, think back six months: Wasn’t avocado the superfood last February? And before that, wasn’t the media raving about bananas and lentils?
The word ‘super’ doesn’t actually carry any real authority – it’s a marketing term. While the benefits of broccoli have been known for years, the vegetable suffers from widespread unpopularity and low consumer awareness of its health effects. Labelling it a superfood is nothing more than a marketing push, whether by health advocates or producers. A Google search will show that countless foods have been called marked ‘super’ by someone or some publication – not just fruits and veges, but even chocolate, low-fat yoghurt and water. Water, for gosh sakes! And while not all of these foods are universally agreed upon as superfoods, therein lies the proof: It’s a name, nothing else.
Beyond the realm of food, ‘super’ is continually prefixed to other words for marketing reasons. Late last June, the Australian east coast was subjected to a ‘supermoon,’ which the media treated as an otherworldly phenomenon that sought nothing but to wreak precipitation havoc and ruin everyone’s weekend. In truth, it was just another full moon. Yes, it was bigger and brighter than usual (caused by its close proximity to the Earth), but it was still the moon and its occurrence was normal – in fact, there’ll be another one 12 months from now. Supermoons don’t exist, and the term wasn’t coined by astronomers, but astrologers (read: not scientists). Some scientists even have openly stated that while they don’t officially recognise the term, they do use it to build interest in space exploration.
But while the commotion around superfoods and supermoons does offer benefits to society’s health and knowledge, other times the word ‘super’ is just used as the glitter around a turd. Musical ‘supergroups’ are among the worst offenders, where a group of has-been rock stars utilise their celebrity statuses to launch a musical venture, as opposed to relying on the humble merit of composition. Rock Star Supernova took this approach to a whole new level, airing a television series to boost the band’s popularity, even though they’d yet to write a single tune.
There’s no reason to stop eating so-called superfoods, staring at supposed supermoons or listening to groan-worthy supergroups. It’s more important to be informed outside of what marketers, formal or not, tell you, and to sometimes be a tad cynical to ensure you’re never misled. With the superficial naming considered, there are still great reasons to force feed yourself broccoli because of the vege’s own worth.
Vincent Varney is Sydney-based writer who also works in the marketing communications field, so chances are he’ll end up attaching ‘super’ to three different products by the end of week. Follow him on Twitter @VincentVarney