Nutrition Marketing: When it Comes to Weight Management, There's a Shift Afoot

Nutrition Marketing: When it Comes to Weight Management, There's a Shift Afoot

February 25, 2013

Several recent reports have highlighted a shifting consumer mindset—one that's no longer focused on dieting and the calories NOT in food (i.e., low calorie, calorie free).  This represents a distinct change that dietitians have been working toward for a long time and an opportunity for retail dietitians to help their retailers more effectively reach customers.

Communications-savvy dietitians have long focused on the positives—what you can add to a meal to make it better for you, the benefits of consuming a particular food, etc.  And it seems that consumers are finally coming around.  

Food Navigator recently reported some interesting statistics from Tom Vierhile, Datamonitor’s innovation insights director.  Their article, “Marketers are avoiding the word “diet” like the plague,” indicates that claims such as “calorie free” and “low calorie” and words such as “diet” and “weight management” are not as compelling for consumers as they used to be.  Instead, words such as “fit” and claims such as “high protein” are being used by food marketers more frequently.

This corresponds with the NPD Group’s recent observations that “the percentage of adults on a diet has tumbled.” According to their National Eating Trends®food and beverage market research, roughly 20 percent of adults report they are on a diet, down from a peak of 31 percent in 1991.

While consumers may not completely understand the concept of “satiety” and the role various nutrients and food components play in supporting feelings of fullness, it seems that we’re definitely heading in that direction. This is a trend dietitians have been waiting for.  If these statistics hold true, they could indicate that consumers are finally starting to take a “lifestyle” approach to weight management and health rather than focusing on short-term fixes. 

Retail dietitians have a distinct opportunity to educate co-workers on this shift, particularly as it relates to marketing, communications, employee wellness, merchandising, and product development.  Here are a few steps you can take to help your team understand how to effectively reach consumers who are outgrowing the dieting mindset:

  • Change Your Tune, if You Haven’t Already: First and foremost, make sure YOUR message is on board with this trend.  If you’re a communications-savvy dietitian, chances are, you’re already talking the talk. Focus on the positives and help your consumers better understand the concept of “satiety” and how various nutrients work to promote this important physiological response. 
  • Apply to Employee Wellness Programs: Many retail dietitians are involved with employee wellness initiatives.  Just like your customers, your fellow employees are consumers, too, and this means they are likely experiencing the same shifting mindset.  So, work with your human resources team to adjust the employee wellness program appropriately. 
  • Develop a Trends Report: These insights provide a distinct opportunity for you to brief your team on trends in a very specific subject area: nutrition marketing. Help them understand that what used to “work” is no longer that effective and that this shift is actually good for consumer and can be good for business as well.  Provide examples of products using claims such as “fit” and “high protein” on-pack and how this vernacular can be used in point-of-sale (POS) material, private label packaging, etc.

We all know that the ability to accurately communicate nutrition information is a critical skill for retail dietitians.  But taking that one step further to effectively communicate with customers is an art and one that must evolve alongside consumer trends.  And based on what we’re seeing on the weight management front, it’s time for the language to change if we want our products and programs to resonate with customers.