As I peruse the craft bazaars, brimming with local artists who sell their wares, I am increasingly disheartened to witness the false advertising and labeling that occurs. Many people have jumped on the "buy local" and "Alaska Grown" bandwagon. Sadly, as many are (very successfully I might add) exploiting those good folks who attempt to support their local crafters.
One vendor in particular whom I spoke with this past weekend was advertising "All Alaskan Ingredients" in her products. One of these products just happened to be Rosehip Soap, which I also make. She had an incredibly fine-tuned spiel about using all Alaskan ingredients, and how she either grew or collected everything from the wild. She reassured me it was completely Alaskan. Only upon further probing (In fact, the THIRD time I asked directly "every single ingredient is Alaskan?") did she uncomfortably and a bit angrily tell me that "Not everything I need grows in Alaska, some of it is tropical. If it was going to all come from Alaska, I would have to use moose or fish oil, and that wouldn't smell very good, now would it?" I mustered an understanding nod as I smelled the Rosehip Soap. "Wow, it has quite a strong scent!" Again, she jumped into her polished monologue about gathering the ingredients herself, the loofah effect of the powdered rosehips, etc. Knowing first-hand that you really can't smell the rosehips, I asked "So all that scent comes from the wild rosehips?" Not really even trying anymore to hide her annoyance with me, she said "MOST of it comes from the rosehips, but there is a tiny bit of rose and geranium oil added just to round it out". At this point, I knew my playing stupid act wasn't passing with her at all, but didn't really care. "Is it Alaskan essential oil?" "Ma'am, I try to use as many Alaskan ingredients as I can possibly find!" (Too bad that's not what her signs said) Feeling I had made my point, I thanked her for her time and let her off the hook without mentioning the fact that her signage and labeling were obviously and purposefully misleading, not to mention her verbal product descriptions.
Now before I get beaten up in a dark alley for saying all this, I do want to mention that I purposely waited until there was nobody at her booth to have this discussion. I'm also very aware that this kind of thing happens regularly. A fellow beekeeper mentioned to me several years ago that in order to sell honey as "Alaskan", it only needed to be 51% Alaskan. The remaining 49% could come up from the lower 48 by the drum for a mere fraction of the price, thereby significantly increasing my profits! I nearly choked. Many stores and even gas stations sell "Alaskan" products that are anything but. With the almighty tourist dollar at stake, folks are scrambling to put the word Alaskan on anything. Too often, the most Alaskan part of many of these products is the label. Lucrative? I have no doubt. Misleading? Wrong? Rotten?
Ok, deep breath.......
I guess my point is this;
I can't compete. I won't compete. I REFUSE to compete. On their level, anyway. My signs and labels aren't fancy. I don't have a graphic designer hired to help me catch peoples eyes with fancy labels. I have a whiteboard and a marker, a kid with a woodburner who'd rather make signs than do dishes, and some scrap wood and cardboard. I make my labels on a thriftstore printer or they are handwritten. I regularly employ the use of both Duck tape and child labor. I experiment with recipes in my kitchen and innundate my family and friends with products to try in exchange for feedback. I try to make my labels and packaging appealing, but that is NOT where my focus is. My focus is on the products themselves. Plain, simple, natural and quality. Who wants to wash with a bar of soap that's neon blue and smells like a Glade Plug-in? Okay, okay, I concede. Teenagers do. (hence the "Axe" craze). Personally, I hold my breath when I even get close to those sections in the store. Gross....If that kind of thing works for you, great. If not, give me a call! My personal care products speak for themselves, and come with my personal guarantee. If you don't like it, bring it back and tell me why so that I can make adjustments if needed. Get your money back and take it to the box store if that's what you prefer, or let me customize something for you!
Just had to get that off my chest 🙂