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Revealing Nutritional Benefits

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Trends toward improved health and wellness have prompted many to include nutritional benefits at the point of purchase. These efforts have been organized by CPG organizations and, in at least one case, mandated by local governments. While, on the surface,providingshoppers clarity regarding the nutritional benefits of foods would always seem beneficial, these efforts have beenreceivedwith mixed reactions.

Just this month, several U.S. food manufacturers announced they were discontinuingtheir efforts on an industry-devised labeling campaign meant to spotlight the nutritional benefits of their products. Smart Choice labeling (the green checkmark on the front of many CPG packages) is being phased out. The move away from Smart Choice came after criticism from state and federal authorities that the labeling could mislead shoppers into thinking processed foods high in sugar were an adequate substitute for healthier foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

At the same time ConAgra Foods, the company behind the Manwich brand, will tout the nutritional value of the meal’s finishing sauce in a new advertising campaign. Company representative Becky Niiya revealed, “Our key learning’s from consumer focus groups was that all moms were unaware of Manwich’s nutritional value… the fact that Manwich has a full serving of vegetables in each serving was something we were keeping to ourselves and had never communicated to consumers before.” It will be interesting to see if shoppers accept this idea and begin substituting sloppy joe’s for carrots.

One success story in the area of nutritional clarity and resulting shifts in shopper purchasing toward healthier foods can be observed at New York City fast-foodrestaurants. Two years ago, the city mandated theserestaurantspost nutritional information on menus and a recent study has found evidence that it is changing consumers’ habits. The study reported that customers purchased lower-calorie foods at 9 of the 13 restaurants surveyed. What learnings from these changes could be applied to packaging that would shift a shopper’s purchase to a healthier choice?

– Contributed by Paul Ballew

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