By Ethan Lewis
Sponsored by LEVEL Foods
and LEVEL Life Products
In today’s age, it feels like nutrition claims made on the front of retail food product packaging are never ending. There are the common claims that I call Food 1.0 like Fat Free, Sugar Free, Low Sodium and more. Then there are the claims that I call Food 2.0 such as Contains Flax Seed, Contains Plant Sterol, Contains ProBiotics and more. Although we have taken a step forward in alerting consumers to the positive benefits of certain ingredients or the absence of certain nutrients, in many ways we have confused the consumer even more.
I started a company called LEVEL Life Foods which makes nutrition bars, shakes and snacks for people managing their blood sugar. LEVEL Life started out of personal need for me, after living with Type 1 Diabetes since I was a kid.
As I grew up, admittedly an avid “label reader” dissecting every product’s nutrition panel to see if it was a fit for me, I began to realize something; consumers did not read the labels as much as they should. Instead, they relied on exotic sounding nutrition claims on the front of the boxes.
So I dug deeper trying to understand what messages were relevant and what consumers actually cared to know about the foods they were buying, and it became clear. The general consumer base had an understanding of nutrition claims similar to those of Food 1.0. However what we saw was that consumer packaged goods companies were bombarding the market with an abundance of claims consumers didn’t yet grasp. So much so, those consumers felt the need to purchase food products without completely understanding their nutritional relevance.
This is precisely why the role of the retail dietitian is so critical for consumers. Speaking from experience, as a person living with diabetes myself, I can attest that one of the most important members of my healthcare team is my registered dietitian. Over the years, she has taught me the importance of proper nutrition to be able to manage my diabetes and avoid its complications.
Dietitians are patient advocates, not adjuncts to nifty food marketers trying to drive sales. One of their goals is to help bring consumers up to speed on which dietary claims are relevant to them and their goals, vs which claims can be ignored.
As retail dietitians, you can empower the consumer with thoughtful knowledge about package claims. If you like a product, or believe in its nutritional benefits, reach out to the manufacturer and ask for samples or coupons. Drive your clients to the products that best benefit their needs. As a food manufacturer, I can tell you we will always support you with samples, coupons and literature. It is in the best interest of both you and us to work together on bringing the right food choices and products into consumers’ lives.
Clearly, this is a tall order that will take time and education, one person, one class, one store at a time. But it can be done!
At the end of the day, I believe it should be registered dietitians driving the nutrition claims on the front of consumer packaged goods; not the manufacturers.
Thriving with Diabetes,
Founder // LEVEL Life