Can Healthy Foods Tempt the Food Industry and Consumers?

2

November 12, 2012 by jsohl

You can’t make it through a week without hearing or reading something about our obesity epidemic and ensuing health consequences. It is no secret that Americans need to improve their nutrition, and most people want to….that is, if there’s an affordable, convenient, and equally delicious way to do this. Heck many people would give it a shot if healthy foods even met two out of three of those criteria. If consumers are going to keep buying health foods and the food industry is going to profit, however, they better shoot for all three.

I think Walmart may have the right idea here with the program they unveiled in January 2011 They are making small changes. Switching from fettuccine alfredo to quinoa salad would send most consumers right back to the Twinkie aisle. Instead of drastic changes, Walmart has agreed to reduce sodium by 25% in many grain products, lunch meats, salad dressings and frozen entrees. They will also reduce added sugars by 10% in many items and eliminate trans fats in all packaged food items. These changes are to take place in their generic brands and brands sold by their major suppliers. Along with these changes, they have proposed to decrease markup on the healthier choices and provide clear front-of-package labels for healthier choices. Their Shopping Mattersguide also serves to educate their customers about making healthier choices. I believe that this plan is a good place to start. Steering consumers to healthier choices will take time and will backfire if drastic changes are made quickly.

McDonalds has jumped on board as well offering a low-fat dairy product or produce in each kids meal, committing to reduce sodium by 15% by 2015, changing portion sizes by 2020 to reduce added sugars, saturated fat and calories, and increasing access to nutritional information. I think the timeline they have set is realistic. Could they make the portion size and sodium changes sooner? Of course, but if they did, it may just drive their customers to the fast food place down the street that offers bigger portions. By providing ample time to make the change, it is more likely that those who frequent McDonalds will adjust to the changes instead of running from them.

 

McDonalds is an industry leader, and other corporations such as Burger King has followed suit in offering customers healthier options. In fact, offering healthier options has become the trend for restaurants as well as groceries in the past few years. Whether or not consumers always choose those healthy options, the industries surely benefit from good PR when they provide their customers more options. For example, 2009 CBS news featured “The 10 Healthiest Fast Food Chains.” A little free advertising never hurts!

In order for sales of healthy foods to be viewed as a win-win for the food industry and the public, industry must be assured of continued profit and consumers must view the food they are offering as affordable, tasty, and a good deal. In order to be happy about purchasing healthy foods, they also must have baseline knowledge about how their bodies will benefit from switching from a less healthy option. For this reason, an educational component whether it’s in the form of front-of-package labels, advertising through television commercials, or other means like those supported through the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation is imperative.

Resources:

http://news.walmart.com/news-archive/2011/01/20/walmart-launches-major-initiative-to-make-food-healthier-healthier-food-more-affordable

http://join.strength.org/site/PageNavigator/SOS/SOS_ofl_shoppingmatters_home  initiative

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=97876&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1603459&highlight=

http://marketday.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/04/02/10982293-burger-king-overhauls-menu-to-focus-on-healthier-fare?lite

http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500165_162-4837425.html

http://www.healthyweightcommit.org/news/Reduce_Annual_Calories/

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2 thoughts on “Can Healthy Foods Tempt the Food Industry and Consumers?

  1. oliviadong says:

    I agree – Walmart is making great strides to incorporate consumer health into their actions. As the largest grocer in the US, they have the potential to influence the dietary composition of many Americans, especially since so many products will be reformulated and made more affordable under their healthy food initiative. If the initiative is carried out according to plan, the results can have a huge impact on consumers regardless if they shop at Walmart or not. Since Walmart will be working with many suppliers to reformulate national brands by 2015, these healthier products will be available at all grocery stores that carry these brands. Consumers will inevitably get used to the lower levels of sodium and sugar in these products, slowly getting them to adjust their palates to lower amounts of these added ingredients. Food companies often cite that making their products healthier, such as lowering the amount of salt that is added, will make their product less competitive. With Walmart’s initiative, this is less of a problem since the competitive element is taken out of the equation, as so many products are being reformulated to create a new standard of taste. In addition, their actions can encourage other grocers such as Kroger, the number 2 competitor, to follow suit and make their private brand healthier to stay competitive (1).

    When I read through the rest of the initiative, it made me realize just how much power these huge companies have and the amount they can accomplish in a short amount of time. The other components they plan to tackle are making healthier choices more affordable, front-of-package seals, building stores in food deserts and increasing charitable support for nutrition programs (1)…a huge undertaking that would take years to accomplish in the public health field.

    I read this interesting article called “Why is fast food saltier in the US?” (2) Researchers were baffled about why restaurants add so much salt in their food since it doesn’t match consumer demand. They also note that food-processing technology is not a barrier for them to provide lower-sodium products either (2).

    I would have expected McDonalds to reduce the amount of salt in their products by more than 15% since research has shown a reduction in 10% is completely unnoticeable (2).

    Resources:
    1. “Walmart Launches Major Initiative to Make Food Healthier and Healthier Food More Affordable.” Walmart Corporate. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2012. .
    2. Gardner, Amanda. “Why Is Fast Food Saltier in the U.S.? – CNN.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, 17 Apr. 2012. Web. 01 Dec. 2012. .

  2. Olivia Dong says:

    I agree – Walmart is making great strides to incorporate consumer health into their actions. As the largest grocer in the US, they have the potential to influence the dietary composition of many Americans, especially since so many products will be reformulated and made more affordable under their healthy food initiative. If the initiative is carried out according to plan, the results can have a huge impact on consumers regardless if they shop at Walmart or not. Since Walmart will be working with many suppliers to reformulate national brands by 2015, these healthier products will be available at all grocery stores that carry these brands. Consumers will inevitably get used to the lower levels of sodium and sugar in these products, slowly getting them to adjust their palates to lower amounts of these added ingredients. Food companies often cite that making their products healthier, such as lowering the amount of salt that is added, will make their product less competitive. With Walmart’s initiative, this is less of a problem since the competitive element is taken out of the equation, as so many products are being reformulated to create a new standard of taste. In addition, their actions can encourage other grocers such as Kroger, the number 2 competitor, to follow suit and make their private brand healthier to stay competitive (1).

    When I read through the rest of the initiative, it made me realize just how much power these huge companies have and the amount they can accomplish in a short amount of time. The other components they plan to tackle are making healthier choices more affordable, front-of-package seals, building stores in food deserts and increasing charitable support for nutrition programs (1)…a huge undertaking that would take years to accomplish in the public health field.

    I read this interesting article called “Why is fast food saltier in the US?” (2) Researchers were baffled about why restaurants add so much salt in their food since it doesn’t match consumer demand. They also note that food-processing technology is not a barrier for them to provide lower-sodium products either (2).

    I would have expected McDonalds to reduce the amount of salt in their products by more than 15% since research has shown a reduction in 10% is completely unnoticeable (2).

    Resources:
    1. “Walmart Launches Major Initiative to Make Food Healthier and Healthier Food More Affordable.” Walmart Corporate. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2012. .
    2. Gardner, Amanda. “Why Is Fast Food Saltier in the U.S.? – CNN.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, 17 Apr. 2012. Web. 01 Dec. 2012. .

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