‘Nothing added, nothing taken away’ – or laboratory-made naturalness? The semiotics of food product packaging in Germany in the 1990s and today | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 2, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2056-6522
  • E-ISSN: 2056-6530



The hypothesis of the article is that discourses on nutrition always find expression in the way food is marketed and, in particular, in the design of product packaging. A linguistic-semiotic analysis of food packaging in Germany in the 1990s and today explores the relationship between society and nature as it is expressed through packaging designs and texts and is offered to consumers as both orientation and promise. Food advertising in Germany has long focussed on issues of regional origin and natural quality alongside those of taste and enjoyment. Exactly what is meant by ‘natural’ in relation to food produced in an age of industrialization is a matter of debate, however: our understanding of can, after all, only be regarded as ‘provisional pragmatic fictions of nature’. The present article takes the results of a 1998 semiotics-based study of the way product packaging, product names and packaging texts make use of scientific language and allusions to biotechnology, comparing this with contemporary marketing strategies. It highlights various pragmatic fictions of nature in food advertising, from ‘probiotic’ promises to a new ‘innocent’ naturalness.


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