Industry needs to shape the debate on food and nutrition

by Dan Malovany
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Reading food label
Consumers seem to have a fundamental disconnect with the definition of healthy, and shaping perception is something the food industry needs to do better.
 

During SNAC International’s Executive Leadership Forum, Lynn Dornblaser, director, innovation and insight, at Mintel, observed that consumers seem to have “a fundamental disconnect with what healthy is all about.” And shaping perception, she added, is something that the food industry needs to do better.

According to an internet survey by Lightspeed GMI/Mintel, 53% of consumers surveyed worry about potentially harmful ingredients in the food they buy. And 71% believe “there are probably more harmful or excess ingredients in foods than manufacturers are telling us.” Such data indicate that many companies have missed an opportunity to shape the debate about food and nutrition.

“I say to the food industry, and have said it to many groups, ‘Shame on you.’ You guys know exactly what’s in your products that you sell or the ingredients that you sell to the companies that make them,” Ms. Dornblaser told snack executives. “You know exactly why those ingredients are there. You know exactly their purpose. You had an opportunity to get out in front of this (trend) years ago. Now, you’ve got this big ship you’ve got to turn around because you have this prevailing opinion that those chemically manufactured things are bad. Now, it’s on you to help consumers understand what those things are.”

Ms. Dornblaser suggested descriptors to talk about ingredients on the packaging, if such precious space is available. She recommended, for example, explaining how a technically sounding component like lecithin helps to hold ingredients together.

“You have the opportunity to be good educators,” Ms. Dornblaser advised.

That’s an effective way to clear up these obvious misconceptions in the market and on social media.
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