Fun With Farmwashing: Domino's Ridiculous New Campaign Goes "Behind the Pizza"

Last Updated Dec 21, 2010 4:59 PM EST

In a new marketing campaign called "Behind the Pizza," Domino's Pizza (DPZ) is apparently targeting a demographic of people who think modern restaurant food is grown entirely in test tubes. How else to explain the campaign's interactive web site, which appears to be designed to deliver the stunning news that some of Domino's ingredients actually start out on a farm?

Among the shocking revelations you'll learn on Behind the Pizza, which features Legoland pictures of farms and a looped audio of birds chirping and pigs oinking, are:

  • America's most popular topping (pepperoni) starts out on America's farms, where livestock is raised, fields are tilled and cowboy hats are always in style.
  • Every day of the year, wheat is being harvested somewhere around the world.
  • From California to New Jersey, the majority of our green peppers grow in fields across the country.
  • Domino's 100% real cheese starts with 100% real cows.
Thank goodness they're not cutting corners with those fake cows used by other pizza chains.

This empty attempt to cash in on Americans' growing interest in learning where food comes from is made even worse by that fact that Domino's hasn't actually bothered to make sure that most of its ingredients are "100% real." The people who put together the campaign have managed to overlook the fact that Domino's ingredient list, which features yummy farm fresh items like sodium benzoate, yellow #5, BHT and propylene glycol, is headlined with the phrases "Nature's tasty little building blocks" and "Really good ingredients." (Or maybe they just didn't get any further than the headlines.)

I'd hate to see the list of "bad" ingredients.

Lately Domino's has distinguished itself for bold and authentic marketing, notably its ads admitting the pizza used to suck. But this isn't one of those admirable initiatives. Behind the Pizza is little more than standard farmwashing, whereby a food company tries to convince us that its food is fresh off some family farm where the animals all have names and the vegetables are collected in straw baskets. Unless Domino's is doing something truly amazing with its supply chain that we don't know about, most of its ingredients are likely coming from the large, industrial, highly efficient factory farms that now dominate U.S. agriculture.

Domino's, however, is taking its farmwashing effort to new heights of absurdity. Each storybook farm on its web site shows an image of an on-site Domino's restaurant with a disclaimer that reads, "There is not a Domino's actually at the farm" -- a statement that will no doubt come as a horrible disappointment to the low-paid immigrant workers who populate America's farms.

There are, in fact, a few examples of natural simplicity on Domino's menu -- the green pepper topping for pizzas is just green peppers and the pizza sauce is comprised of just water, tomato paste, sugar, salt, spices, garlic, soybean oil, and citric acid, for instance. But these few "100% real" examples are swallowed up by a tsunami of highly processed chemical ingredients.

It's hard to understand why Domino's would want to draw attention to the fact that its grilled chicken contains fillers like modified food starch and soy protein concentrate, and that its blue cheese sauce is made with titanium dioxide, a substance better known for its use in paint. Even the "100% real cheese" touted in ads is probably more like 50% real. The ingredients:

Part Skim Mozzarella Cheese (Pasteurized Milk, Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Modified Food Starch, Cellulose (Added To Prevent Caking), Nonfat Milk, Whey Protein Concentrate, Flavors, Sodium Propionate (Added as a Preservative).
Maybe next time it would help to loop in the guys in R&D before building a campaign around ingredients.