Marketing Genius? (Part II)

Genius are no stranger to this blog, and my criticism of their pursuit of a marketing strategy which seems to involve aligning themselves – and the gluten-free diet (GFD) – with fitness, sport and sporting excellence was covered in a previous blog, a couple of years ago.

Promoting a myth that switching to a GFD in the absence of a medically prescribed reason to do so is beneficial to fitness is one which obviously benefits them, and it is one which, to my knowledge, they have never supplied any good evidence for. Possibly because there is none. The last I read on the subject can be seen here, from Time – albeit drawn from a small study.

I’m late to it, but this appears to be the latest marketing initiative, involving long jumper and Sports Personality of the Year nominee Greg Rutherford, and which is hosted by MumsNet.

Five members have been awarded £100 vouchers to spend on Genius GF products, and asked to post their experiences following both the GF diet for a week and fitness tips from Rutherford. Those not lucky enough are encouraged also to give their thoughts on GF products and going GF – with the carrot of a voucher dangled before them as incentive.

The quote from Genius founder Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne (for whom I have a lot of admiration) is concerning. She talks of “easier to digest dishes” (no real evidence that this is necessarily true) and going “gluten-free as a positive lifestyle choice” – implying that it is necessarily a positive move, when for most it may be the opposite.

Targeting mothers, many of them possibly new mothers, seems irresponsible. As Carly (gfreeb) has already pointed out on Twitter, nutrition is vital when breastfeeding, and to suggest dietary experimentation for the sake of winning a prize surely implies it is risk-free, when it may not be.

One voucher-receiving commenter talks about her need to lose weight – reinforcing another of the popular gluten myths – and apparently ignorant to the fact that, for example, Genius pain au chocolate has 388 calories and Tesco’s non-GF one 260. I can see no mention of the importance of remaining on a gluten-containing diet before coeliac testing, or indeed any mention of coeliac testing at all, which would have been a responsible thing to do.

I find all of this frustrating – mostly because nothing ever seems to be done to address it. The thing I’m most disappointed about this time is Rutherford’s involvement. He’s a terrific athlete, seems a genuinely sincere and likeable guy, has taken a lot of crap over the SPOTY nomination controversy (read this astonishing article by his wife if you need to be briefed) and it’s a pity that he too, like Novak Djokovic, has apparently fallen for the ‘evil gluten’ nonsense that has now bedded into society’s health consciousness, and which some of those who stand to benefit from it persisting seem determined to espouse.

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  1. Sally Howell-Bewsey

    How very sad that a company like Genius have decided to now target the *GlutenFree Lifestylers* Whilst I applaud Genius for their innovations (although after years they STILL can't make a load that doesn't have holes in it) as a bowel disease sufferer I feel they have abandoned ship and will do nothing for our case in the eyes of the public. I fully appreciate they are a business and need to make money but to sell their products under the guise of it being a healthier option is incredibly inaccurate and misguided. If the truth be told the healthier diet is to totally limit your carb intake but thats another story. Check out the ingredients in a gluten free product and look at all the additives in the products….then tell me they are a healthier alternative!

  2. Alex G

    I agree with what you say and thanks for commenting. I think where I may differ slightly is that I'm not so bothered that they target the GF lifestylers (or any other potential customer, coeliacs included) per se – but I am bothered that they indulge and reinforce those lifestylers' false beliefs about the GFD, and try to encourage following the GFD as a positive health move that's without potentially consequence. If they targeted merely on the basis of taste, for example, I doubt I'd have a problem.


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