Dieticians everywhere are rejoining about the news this week that consumers are – at last – connecting their prospects for good health with good food.
Research results revealed Monday at the International Fresh Produce Association annual meeting in Washington, D.C., showed nearly 80 per cent of consumers surveyed believe the right foods can keep them healthy.
Further, over three-quarters of them think eating the right foods can help alleviate certain health problems.
Now, shouldn’t we all already know this?
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After all, it’s hardly breakthrough news to nutritionists, nutritional scientists or food scientists. Decades ago, at the University of Guelph and other institutions that connect agriculture, food and health,commodities with an extra umph – those that performed health-related functions like fighting cancer or heart disease – had researchers buzzing. As analytic techniques advanced, they found how the likes of fruit and vegetables in particular were loaded with functional compounds.
And they said so, very publicly, hoping to position food as a key to a longer, healthier life.
Their opinions garnered respect. But people are slow to change, even if their diets are causing them all kinds of grief.
Now, it’s different. People are fed up with all that’s going on – COVID, inflation, war, civil unrest and climate change, just to name a few. In Washington, conference attendees heard the public’s long-standing concerns or passions about the likes of food safety, GMOs, local food and sustainability are giving way to their desire to look after themselves and stay out of the hospital.
Which is exactly what scientists were saying in the 1980s. Eat better, stay healthy.
But instead of dwelling on the past, let’s turn our eyes to the future, with optimism for a change.
If this is what society wants, farms can deliver. They’ve traditionally marketed their harvests on taste, the trait that everyone said was most important. I don’t think that will go away — you probably can’t get your kids to eat the right foods just because they’re good for them. But if parents are serving them more often, and food outlets are promoting them with the same rigour they put behind grease-soaked French fries, maybe there’s a chance that healthier foods will catch on in kids’ culture, too.
So now it’s over to the marketing firms. The research presented in Washington showed high prices have 75 per cent of consumers taking measures like switching to where they think they get better deals and cutting back spending.
There’s the rub. Traditionally, good food cost more than junk food. Who will win this marketing battle of cheap and junk vs. healthy and more costly?
Given rising consumer sentiment, the underdog might have a chance. The produce association research showed more than half of respondents said they’d pay a premium for the right foods because they contribute to their health and wellness.
Imagine seeing grocery store ads based more on health than price. Imagine science-based information and critical thinking driving consumer decisions.
This is very good news.