Opportunities abound for food and beverage brands to step in with solutions…
By Bob Wheatley
An important new study produced by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health, reveals a widening gap between parents’ desire for their kids to eat better and exercise more, and the reality of life’s pressures. The report’s findings also unearth a growing opportunity for brands to be part of the solution — and in doing so open a new and relevant conversation with mom – who already controls more than 80% of household buying decisions.
The Crunch Time report covers that important window between 3 pm and bedtime, when parents have an opportunity to influence kids’ choices and behaviors. Yet while the study revealed that 95% of parents believe it’s important for their kids to eat and exercise in a manner that maintains healthier weight, the reality of what happens may be in conflict with this goal.
- The problem is not a small one: One in three kids in America are obese. And this may well be the first generation of children in our history whose life expectancy is shorter than their parent’s.
Busy lifestyles and conflicting priorities intervene in the quest for healthier behaviors…
Despite the better-for-you aspirations, 60% of the kids ate and drank products that can lead to unhealthy weight gain. Remarkably, 80% did so because parents don’t mind if they have these items “sometimes” – presumably as long as healthier options are in play at other occasions. For nearly 73% of the kids surveyed taste was a key factor in their consumption decisions.
- Bottom line: more than four out of 10 kids have parents who say it is difficult to make sure they eat healthier.
Case in point, a 2009 National Institutes for Health study confirmed the importance of shared family meal times — revealing that regular family meals during adolescence contributed to formation of healthier eating habits five years later. And while the majority of parents in the Crunch Time report believes its important for the family to eat together, almost 50% admit this is difficult to do due to schedule conflicts and extracurricular activities.
Here are several recommendations on how food and beverage businesses can be part of the solution, part of the dialogue — and in the process of doing so anchor the brand in a deeper and more relevant mission.
1. Primacy of Taste
There isn’t a food or beverage business on earth that doesn’t already understand that taste is it. Taste sacrifices don’t work. Less obvious however may be cues given to consumers through packaging and communications that work against this goal. Perception sometimes leads or trumps reality.
Brian Wansink, the estimable Director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, conducted a study on energy bar labels. One group of consumers given bars with a soy protein gram claim on the wrapper were rated as less tasty than the exact same bar given another group but without that claim. We battle against years of ingrained expectations on sensible choice inadvertently meaning “less pleasurable” – so we can fight this with better tasting products while being mindful how benefits are expressed.
2. Protein please!
More attention, study and investigation are being pursued in the nutrition and diet community on the benefits of elevated protein consumption. The conclusions are pointing to increased energy, satiety and weight management outcomes. This follows increasing behavior evidence that positive nutrition stories (more of) are more compelling than negative narratives (reduced fat, calories).
3. Nutrient density vs. energy density
Along the same line of thinking, more emphasis should be placed in formulation on what nutritional benefits are in the products consumed. Said succinctly, what kids are getting in the calories they eat. For far too long we’ve been preoccupied with taking things out and talking about lower calories. Nothing wrong with watching calorie consumption mind you, but nutritional contribution is also important.
And can create compelling points of difference at the shelf.
4. And different is the game…
Marginal tweaks here and there do not a compelling story make. It’s incremental growth we look for and that’s more likely to occur through creating new categories and pushing the edges of differentiation than making slight adjustments to nutritionals one way or the other.
5. Give mom a hand!!
She needs convenient, great tasting solutions her kids will enjoy — and ideas and guidance from respected sources that help her manage the conflicts she faces daily in managing time. There is an enormous opportunity here for brands to step in and be a partner with her in resolving these conflicts between her desires for healthier choice for her kids and the barriers that exist in fulfilling them.
Nothing could be more important than helping her better manage the health and wellbeing of her children. We all know about important relevance is to building relationships these days between brands and the customers we wish to serve.
What’s going on in your business?