Pork Pills posters provoke

In a provocative campaign that has stirred up a lot of emotion, meat producers in Sweden take a dig at dietary supplements – while also promoting meat as one of the most nutrient-dense foods. The campaign, titled Pork Pills, highlights the trend of consumers taking dietary supplements while reducing their intake of meat.

The Swedish Pork Producers Association, in partnership with industry organisation Swedish Pork, launched a poster and billboard campaign on the Stockholm subway earlier this month, promoting a revolutionary new dietary supplement: Pork Pills.

Promoted as “nutrition balls made from 100% Swedish pork meat”, the pills are said to provide “a good source of vital vitamins, minerals and proteins.” The Pork Pills are further marketed as “a perfect addition to a more plant-based diet, to avoid having to take dietary supplements in the form of pills or powders”.

Visually, the pills bear a striking resemblance with traditional Swedish meatballs. And on the campaign website consumers can click on a link to get the recipe for the supplements, which turns out to be a recipe for meatballs.

The product doesn’t actually exist, of course; the campaign is intended as a thought-provoking reminder to people that meat is a great source of nutrition that deserves a place on everyone’s plates. Despite this, per capita meat consumption in Sweden has been in steady decline since 2016, decreasing by approximately 10% over the five years to 2021.

More importantly, the campaign aims to point out to people that dietary supplements are not always what they claim to be. Swedish Pork refers to a Kantar Sifo study from 2021 which found that 58% of Swedes take dietary supplements in some shape or form, but that nearly half (47%) of these supplement-taking consumers are unsure if they actually need it.

“We want to highlight the problematic trend where many people remove one of our most nutrient-dense and proven foods and changing it for pills and powders that we have very little knowledge of – especially when it comes to the potential effects they will have on our health in the long term. It is surprising that so many people take supplements when the Swedish Food Agency and lots of research shows that most people don’t need to take supplements as long as they eat a well-balanced diet,” says Mattias Espert, chairman of the Swedish Pork Producers Association.

The campaign has stirred up emotions among consumers and industry actors alike. Från Sverige, the industry organisation that promotes Swedish-made food and hence cooperates with the Swedish Pork Producers Association, has asked for the campaign to be cancelled with immediate effect. Från Sverige’s label is on the posters and the company claims that this was done without their permission, that the campaign goes against their rules and that the label should never be used on fictional products as in this case.

Meanwhile, on social media consumers (meat-eaters and vegans alike) describe the campaign as “silly”, "desperate", “disgusting” and “missing the mark”.

Will the campaign have the desired effect, or, as the Swedish expression goes, is the boiled pork fried* for its creators?

*“Now the boiled pork is fried” is a Swedish saying used to describe that something has gone terribly wrong.

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