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Is The Food You’re Eating Really ‘Artisan’ Or A Lotta Hype?

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) —It’s the new go-to, buzz word in food marketing. To call a product “artisan.”

It’s everywhere.

It used to mean hand-crafted, but some critics charge, now it’s just a crafty marketing tool.

USA Today reports that in 2007, there were about 80 products on food shelves with the label “artisan.” Back then, the term meant hand-made, or using special, locally-produced ingredients. Fancy. Schmancy.

Now, more than 800 new products bear the label…including, says their report, an egg sandwich from Wendy’s, Fannie May chocolates and Tostitos taco chips.

Fancy taco chips!?

Russell Weiner, chief of marketing for Domino’s — a company that launched an artisan line a month ago, conceded to USA Today, the term simply allows other companies  “to charge a lot of money.” He insists when Domino’s uses artisan, it is merely to describe quality.

KCAL9 and CBS2 reporter Jeff Nguyen went on the hunt Wednesday to ask consumers if they really could tell the difference between something artisan.

Many didn’t even know what the word meant, let alone why it’s cropped up on so many products.

Reports Nguyen, finding the products was not difficult. He went to Costco and found artisan bread, and two different types of  chips from Tostitos…one labeled artisan, for the same price, but half the amount.

Dave Stewart, a management and marketing professor from UC Riverside, isn’t sure the label fits the product. “It’s a marketing scheme,” he says, “it’s actually something we call ‘puffery.'”

He adds, unlike calling something “organic,” which means a specific way a product was made, artisan doesn’t really mean anything. “It’s a way of exaggerating. It’s a way of suggesting craft without suggesting anything specific. There’s no legal definition of artisan.”

Maybe not, but Nguyen went and put a Domino’s regular pizza and an artisan one to the test.

Both were priced the same but some consumers definitely preferred the one with the fancy label.

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