Taste and desire at odds with healthy?
By Bob Wheatley
At the recent national FNCE (Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo) convention in Houston, the largest annual gathering of nutrition and dietary experts, one of the best-attended “hot topic” presentations dug into the perennial challenge of healthy vs. human. And in doing so uncovered massive opportunities for food and beverage businesses to help consumers lead healthier lifestyles.
The schism of the ages was laid bare:
- We have ample evidence the obesity crisis continues.
- The impacts on health and wellness compound.
- Ample evidence also that healthier eating habits can help mitigate the problem.
- While surveys show more and more consumer self-avowed interest in leading a healthier lifestyle.
- Followed by continued disconnects from what is avowed and what actually happens.
- Consumers struggle with their inner humanness as indulgence and habit battle perceived sacrifices over healthier choice.
Oh and by the way, nutrition information, data, education, facts don’t necessarily translate into behavior change. Analytical arguments are simply that: arguments.
(From left to right at FNCE conference: Liz Ward, Dr. Jim Painter and moderator, Tara Gidus)
Nationally recognized nutrition experts Elizabeth (Liz) Ward, MS RD and Dr. Jim Painter, RD tackled a big question: how to get Americans eating healthier when human nature intervenes with built-in preference for taste and indulgent food experiences. And thus the lingering query, can taste and healthy co-exist?
If great taste and better for you can live together, there’s an opportunity to change the trajectory of healthier living aspirations. The business opportunities are enormous while also helping solve a costly national health and wellness challenge.
The problem, simplified –
Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. According to the NPD Group, on average Americans follow the MyPlate dietary recommendations only 2% of the time, leaving a whopping 98% of food and beverage consumption that does not. And to hammer the point home, a broad consumer survey by the International Food Information Council, Ward reports, shows 50% of respondents believe its easier to do taxes than eat healthier.
A costly problem in more ways than one –
Moreover, an August 2013 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that 127,000 lives lost each year to various forms of cardio-vascular disease and the related $17 billion a year in costs to the healthcare system, could be curbed if people just consumed the recommended amounts of heart-healthy fruits and vegetables. Sounds simple enough but real world behaviors suggest otherwise…
We are creatures of…?
According to Liz Ward habit enters into the equation governing how people operate from day to day. People reflexively eat certain foods over and over – many of them empty calories – because it’s easy to operate on autopilot and thus without burning any mental energy to really think and consider. Plus the arms length availability of inexpensive calories (gas stations now transforming into foodservice destinations), says Painter, is compounded by changes over the years in typical portions – which have gotten larger. What to do?
If we like it, we’ll eat it…
Forming healthier habits is vital to improving health and addressing goals like consuming more fruits and vegetables. Better taste and better-for-you need not be mutually exclusive. Ward cited two examples: roasting vegetables with a little olive oil and pinch of salt imparts a different flavor profile to benefit taste satisfaction and enjoyment. Convenience is a major issue for many people so drinking fruit and vegetable servings made from blended whole food ingredients is a great way to combine better taste with ease of consumption.
(From left to right: Lindsey Roeschke, Ashley Blua, Kathleen Zelman from Jamba Healthy Living Council and yours truly)
Nutrition and taste in a cup…
Liz Ward is part of the Jamba Juice Healthy Living Council. (Disclosure: Jamba is an Emergent client). The company’s focus on new product development with an eye towards improved nutritionals holds part of the secret to encouraging healthier habits. Jambs’a All Fruit and Fruit and Vegetable smoothies deliver fruit and veg servings in a form people enjoy – without added sweeteners.
The great promise!
If food and beverage products with an eye towards improved nutritionals can deliver on great taste expectations and are available in reasonable portions, there’s an opportunity to meet the Concerned Physicians goal of getting more people to eat the MyPlate recommended servings of fruit and veg.
The heavy-handed food police approach to force consumption change or hammer away at sacrifice-centric advice to consumers isn’t offered with any bad intention. But strategically runs straight into the wall of humanness. Taste matters. Always will. Food is meant to be savored and enjoyed. And its goes without saying people almost universally want better quality food experiences to go along with their desire for a better quality life.
People are connecting the dots between what they consume and outcomes that impact their lives in positive or negative ways. As new products and formulations increasingly marry taste with healthier nutritionals, we will see light at the end of the obesity crisis tunnel.
Here’s a promising trend: according to Harry Balzer, renowned expert and voice of NPD group research on food and beverage consumption trends – what food category is growing faster as a share of overall consumption than any other? Some immediately jump to yogurt and to be sure its one of the top categories for growth since the word Greek entered the picture. The number one item on the hit parade is – fruit.
Now food and bev community, let’s ideate on that!
What do you think?