American consumers have a history of becoming over focused on a single diet which is then touted as a panacea for all health issues. Keep your eye on the ball and you will do better in the long run. Here are the truly most distressing disease stats and health concerns:
Cancer: 12,000,000 in the U.S. have history with cancer;
Heart Disease: 57,000,000 in the U.S. have heart disease, another 57 million are anticipated to;
Diabetes: 24,000,000 in the U.S. have diabetes, 57 million are anticipated to;
Digestion: Includes Heartburn/GERD, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Celiac sprue (less than 1 percent, so don't get carried away), Ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, pancreatitis, lactose intolerance;
Obesity: U.S. adults overweight or obese - All adults: 68 percent, Women: 64.1 percent, Men: 72.3 percent; Children: 12.4-17.6 percent.
Consumer disconnects, apathy and influencers must be taken into consideration when developing a health strategy and consumer education if it is to be targeted correctly and not appear as a disjointed foreign language to consumers. Here are some recent studies showcasing study results – first consider consumer disconnects:
Caravan - Consumers mistake foods containing fiber naming meat, water, etc. as sources;
NPD - The average American diet comes close to mimicking the USDA's MyPlate icon just 2 percent of the time;
IFIC - 52 percent of Americans concluded that figuring out their income taxes is easier than knowing what they should eat to be healthier; 23 percent of obese consumers and 44 percent of overweight consumers say they are not trying to lose weight;
HealthFocus International - Only 20 percent of Americans follow a structured diet plan, 76% of consumers still admit that they don't know how to eat to lose weight.
Now consider studies reflecting consumer apathy about health:
FMI - Consumers saying they are 'very concerned' about healthy eating has dropped to 39 percent from 45 percent last year;
IFIC - 69 percent of people are trying to lose or maintain weight down from 77 percent in 2010;
IFIC - Heart health isn't a priority in food choices for many;
And lastly, studies regarding consumer influencers:
American Heart Association - A shopping study found that adding the heart check mark by the price tags of approved products resulted in an average 5 percent sales increase;
Texas A&M - Children between the ages of 3 and 8 were more influenced by advertisements than parents;
ShopSmart - The cost of healthful foods is the top item that keeps 57 percent of women from buying them;
FGI Research - 36 percent of consumers say Meatless Monday campaign influenced their decision to cut back on meat;73 percent said they eat more vegetables, 42 percent ate more beans and 47 percent ate more whole grains;
University of Minnesota - Positive associations were found for breakfast eating between adolescents and their friend groups and best friends, whole-grain intake and vegetable intake.
Flavor and cuisine trends should then be overlapped with consumer and health trends to create a comprehensive strategy. Consider meal settings and preparation which also changes with recession recovery. Settings transform from cozy and comforting to family friendly, vibrant, inspired, risk taking, but still authentic and rustic (recession holdovers). Preparations transform to scratch prep, wildcrafting (born from foraging), adventure, discovery, portion options (remember control), seasonal, regional and authentic.
These are then translated into the rise of fast casual, rock star butchers, millers, and bar chefs, street food moving forward, pop-up restaurants and speakeasies. Also, the attraction of minimally processed, meatless, open flame, foraging, house smoked, herb infused, pickled, fermented and peppered. All are extremes compared to the comfort foods of the recession.
Flavors themselves must not only be understood for their positioning during a recovery and their ties to health but it is critical to understand the surrounding food categories so that one segment will marry well with another on the plate.
Let's look at grains first. They are the great interpreters as no matter what is on the plate, grains are the least threatening item. So whether it is steel cut oats, quinoa, lentils, or bao, hemp, chia, faro, grits or arepas – they are grains and they are inviting. No other category has power on the plate.
Seasonings are acting as the cage dancers – they keep you dancing and coming back for more. Whether it is the tamer ginger, citrus, smoke, chillies, pickles, world salts, or exotic Nordic spices, haucatay, flowers, pollen, sumac, curry, or hyssop – you want more.
Fruits and vegetables are the sensuals because whether it is coconut, grapefruit, berries, root vegetables, or lucuma, hibiscus, yuzu, wild greens, nopales, or seaweed – they are seductive.
Dairy is the tree hugger as no matter if it is Greek yogurt, ricotta, paneer, or burrata – they are earthy whether local or global.
Proteins are the bi-polars as on one side they include beans, meatballs, nut butters, and heritage breeds and on the other lay bone marrow, blood, insects, and anything that can kill you.
Beverages are the Type A's as whether you are serving culinary cocktails, ancient teas, lemonades, moonshine, craft sodas, or barrel aged cocktails, growers champagnes, Vietnamese coffee, aloe, sipping vinegar, or kefir you have one chance to get it right. And it better be tied to a specific region, country, or time in history.
Here are the subtle shifts in communication a company can make to better align with consumers.
Instead of: Generic "healthy" label statements; Try: Explain why product has a health claim on label – educate the consumer.
Instead of: Marketing how a healthy practice helps your company; Try: Marketing how a healthy practice helps the consumer.
Instead of: Promoting how your company's healthful efforts help the environment / community; Try: Empower consumers – give them the control over bettering their health by using your products.
Suzy Badaracco is a toxicologist, chef, and registered dietitian. She holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Criminalistics, an Associates degree in Culinary Arts, and a Masters of Science degree in Human Nutrition.