In February I had the opportunity to attend the Food and Drink Federation Conference Staying on Shelf, discussing the upcoming obesity strategy, which I wrote about here.
While my first blog discussed the detail expected from the obesity strategy, also at the conference was the hugely interesting area of shopper insight and specifically the importance of understanding the motivations shoppers have in the food debate. As a communicator, understanding your audience and their motivations is paramount – and for me this is core to helping brands communicate their credentials in a way that shoppers and consumers need.
Giles Quick, from Kantar Worldpanel talked about the perfect storm for the ‘health juggernaut’ as consumer sentiment became more aware and vocal on the issue. That is a good thing. Awareness and dialogue about being health conscious is needed. The facts about obesity and deteriorating health are there – the responses, however is what needs to be challenged.
The central debate for both manufactures and retailers is around education and empowering vs choice editing. I’m certainly in the education camp – but know that this is a long behaviour change process, whereas choice editing is going for a quick fix that does little for long term awareness and healthy lifestyle choices.
Patrick Finlay from Bridgethorne gave us some key stats on who people view as singularly responsible for reducing sugar intake - 41% said the individual was. A further 29% said manufactures. What this says to me is there is a perfect opportunity for manufactures to work with individuals to help them make better choices – not for retailers or the government to edit the choices for them.
This is why I like the sentiment around what Mars has recently said about educating what is a daily vs occasional food. Of course, the devil will be in the detail, but this approach gives people the information to make an informed choice based on total lifestyle. It doesn’t demonise a product.
The other opportunities are how we talk about ‘healthy products’ and what criteria they have. Nom Noms World Food has an interesting story to tell here and for them normalising great food that is healthy is key. The credentials of their food are there, but the messaging is more about here is some really tasty, convenient food that is also healthy.
No one thinks tackling this is easy, and there are certainly no quick fixes – no matter what health campaigners argue their sugar tax will do. As Quick said, shopping baskets rarely change and simply trying to edit choices at point of purchase will most likely backfire in the medium to long-term than taking a strategic approach to inform, educate and ultimately empower.
What the industry needs to do is be ever more visible in what they are doing on reformulation, because let’s be honest here – choosing a reformulated product of something you like and want is easier than going completely out of category. You want a biscuit – you may choose a ‘healthier’ biscuit, you will rarely go for an apple!
Be up front about products that are more occasional or a treat and most important is getting under the skin of your shoppers, their mission and what messages they want to hear from you to make their lives easier – not talking at them or demonising products that they love.
Why am I writing on this?
I previously worked at Diageo and Coca-Cola Enterprises and I am passionate about working with brands to integrate social purpose into their brand strategy – core to food and drink brands is being visible participants in the health debate.