Margarine manufacturer in “partnership” with a major newspaper


Here’s bad news if you want to be able to trust what you read in the newspaper.

Unilever – the manufacturer behind low-fat margarine among other things – now announces that they have started a “partnership” with major British newspaper The Guardian. The idea is that Unilever pays the newspaper a lot of money (a 7-digit number). Apart from that the partnership is based on…

…shared values of sustainable living and open storytelling.

What do these fine words mean? I recommend the entertaining analysis by Andrew Sullivan. The fine language is called “bullshit”, used to cover up the truth. What it’s really about  – not surprisingly – is to disguise the industry’s propaganda so that it will look like independent journalism and become more efficient.

It’s very simple. Newspapers are having trouble finding sources of income. Unilever wants a credible platform for their advertising, where it looks like journalism. Win-win. Except for the readers, who will find it increasingly difficult to know what is news and what is advertising.

Just an example: Why spend money on TV commercials for low-fat margarine when planted newspaper articles about how “harmful” natural fats, such as butter, are a lot more effective?

In Sweden Unilever has been found in violation of the law several times for such disguised advertisements for margarine. Now the UK risks seeing the same thing happen at a totally new scale.


The Margarine Giant Gives Up: Butter Wins


  1. Derek
    Very surprised by this, the Guardian is my paper of choice and a trusted source of news in most cases.
  2. Jo
    That's worrying because The Guardian is a respected newspaper here (in as much as any newspaper is respected these days). Papers abroad lift their stories from it too. Very worrying. I think the paper's standards are seriously compromised.
  3. Wade Henderson
    Interesting that you mention "Unilever – the manufacturer behind low-fat margarine among other things "

    Of course Unilever also makes Ben and Jerrry's high-fat ice cream.

    That said, we should always keep a eye on what for-profit news sources are telling us when so much of their advertising revenue comes from food companies.

    Got Milk?

    Reply: #4
  4. FrankG
    Seriously "Ben and [Jerry's] high-fat ice cream" ?!? You're perhaps suggesting that "high-fat" is somehow always fine on LCHF, DESPITE all that added sugar?

    Do you really have nothing better to do with your day than to try and sarcastically nit-pick away at this site?

    Me..? I'm still chuckling at the idea of "I'm not a real moron... I just play one on Television" :-P LOL

  5. Solomon
    Companies spend millions on market research to determine what products to develop. If Unilever has found out that people now prefer natural fats to factory produced fat, why do they waste their money on propaganda rather than getting their act together to give the customers what they want? It won't wash, just do what is right.
    Replies: #11, #12, #15
  6. Wade Henderson
  7. murray
    Stop the press! Newspaper content influenced by prospective advertising revenue!

    Good grief. Hardly news. We're talking journalists.

    What I find interesting is that any matter in which I have been personally involved, the newspapers get only about 50-90% of the facts right. There is a high error rate to begin with (journalists tend not to have a degree in their topic) and the ideological slant is palpable, whether from commercial influence, government influence or ideological agenda.

    It is interesting to see differences regarding Paleo and LCHF. Here in Toronto, the Globe and Mail (centre-left) did not report the recent study in which Paleo outperformed low-fat (or anything in that line), but the National Post (centre-right) did highlight the results. I am not sure why pro-fat diet is silenced by the left here, but this has become an ongoing topic of ridicule in the online comments sections to nutrition and health articles for the Globe and Mail. I expect it is more a question of towing the line for government guidelines and vested commercial interests because the Globe and Mail is the more establishment-oriented paper.

    Reply: #13
  8. Diane
    Very worrying indeed. I used to think of the Guardian as a respectable and trustworthy newspaper - but no longer!

    Unilever are always thinking up new ways to further their misleading and dangerous mission to convince people that their processed manufactured rancid oils are 'heart healthy' and that natural fats that have been with us though out human history such as butter are going to kill us.

    They have already infiltrated the British Heart Foundation with their Flora Pro Active campaign and have donated £750,000 to the BHF.

    It's a sad, mad world we live in and unfortunately people trust charities like the BHF and most will also trust what they read in the Guardian newspaper.

  9. Daci
    The Guardian is my go to place for news..I don't like this one bit.
  10. Diane
    Can we start a petition and tell them that we are not happy with their little arrangement?
  11. Paul the rat
    @ Solomon

    "...If Unilever has found out that people now prefer natural fats to factory produced fat, why do they waste their money on propaganda rather than getting their act together .."

    how much do you think, does it cost to produce and make profit on , say, 1 pound of factory produced fat versus 1 pound of natural fat ?

  12. sten
    Hi Solomon, I think we all agree, but there is a snag using real ingredients. Big snag that goes through the whole industrialized food world: Sales price provides for rawmaterials, preparation, distribution, advertisment, sales costs and profit.
    The two first items may be well over 50% for butter, meat and real vegetables.
    But for industrial oils it is often just 5% instead. Of the rest a lot is invested in luring us to buy something very small for maybe 25% less or even 50% less than the real thing that has 10x more "real thing" in it
    The same applies when the first ingredient is wheat, or usually wheat and sugar.
    But many small enterprises can manage with real products. like Joel Salatin in the US and other suppliers or real grass fed and finished beef. We have started buying our beef from a farmer that refuses to CAFO his cattle for 3-6 months grain consumption to double in weight before the end. The taste and quality beats all other meats! And of course also the placebo effect as I guess comes through!

    Just reading themes and stories at these sites I regard as a great privilege and I am grateful to Diet doctor Andreas for it ! Here we just need to open our eyes to understand and see great alternatives and not worry too much about the multinational food companies.

  13. Galina L.
    I live in US and noticed that issues often do not cross a party line - high-fat diets are more supported by the people and news outlets from the right, so called "liberals" are often vegetarians, worry about global warming more than people on the right. As far as I remember, only Fox news invited for interviews Drs. Eades and Davis.
  14. Michelle
    I don't trust anyone when it comes to applying anything to my families lives. For example: My son has been given some nasal cream for nosebleeds, so I have spent 2 hours checking to see if it complies with my idea of good medicine.

    I realise this is bordering on paranoia, but who do we trust? My doctor is fab and he knows that when I come into the surgery I ask a lot of questions and so he now prepares printed sheets of info, not only giving information but with further research if I want to pursue it.

    Therefore, believing a newspaper just because they are in print and people buy it, is not my idea of good anything. You have to take it as a given that any organisation that wants to sell you something has hidden agendas. They are for profit, hence, individual health or well being is not their main focus.

    Wade - That was a lame argument this time.

  15. Pingo
    I think the reason for Unilever trying propaganda instead is that they have big chemical plants that they would have to close done and take a terrible financial loss.
  16. Phil B
    I agree with earlier comments about how disappointing this is. However, it could be argued that it’s better to have some kind of Grauniad than none at all, which will be the case unless they find a way to generate revenue in a changing world. At least the issue is being discussed in the paper:
    and the section that is ‘sponsored’ by Unilever is well marked as such:
    It’s up to us readers to be alert as to whether other reporting is being compromised by this deal.
  17. Charlie
    I think the embedding of advertising is a very worrying event. Since the Guardian is said to be the print version of the BBC, how long will it be before this organization starts to carry the planted stories.

    I must admit it is sometime since I gave up buying the Guardian. Like the BBC, it seems to be run by arts graduates who do not understand any science and are susceptible to any glib phrase that on the surface seems plausible, such as, fat in - fat on.

  18. Scott UK
    The Guardian = corporate pr + media studies

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