Over the past 50+ years, sugar has become a leading ingredient in the packaged foods we consume, and now we’re paying the price. In his book, The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet, Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Mark Hyman compares sugar to Big Tobacco. Sugar in Hyman’s mind is no different than nicotine, and it’s time we pay attention.
For over 15 years, CCF worked to drive positive behavior change in tobacco control. When we began, secondhand smoke was only seen as a nuisance, not as a toxic compound. Today, we know the harmful effects secondhand smoke can have on our health, even if you’re a non-smoker. Through the years, our work focused on educating audiences about the risks of tobacco and helped create behavior change as well as policy change.
Sugar’s fate may be the same, although policy change may not be the driving force. Consumer behavior and an entrepreneurial spirit will be the drivers. Manufactured and designed to appeal to our taste buds and have a longer shelf life, most processed foods are not designed with optimal health and performance in mind.
What are functional foods?
Hyman argues functional foods are what we should be eating. Functional foods, according to Mayo Clinic, are foods that provide a positive effect on the body beyond basic nutrition. Oatmeal would be considered a functional food because it contains fiber that can help lower cholesterol levels. Our bodies are complex, and what we put into them matters. Think about the complexities of a car—we get frequent oil changes, proper tune-ups, etc. But do we treat our bodies with the same ongoing maintenance? Likely not.
Food brands are paying attention
There is an entrepreneurial spirit afoot in the food industry, and some companies are positioning themselves to be part of the better food solution. Companies like Farmhouse Culture provide fermented products that focus on gut health. Good Karma Foods recently made the move to go all organic to ensure pesticides aren’t in any of their products. Even good ol’ cottage cheese is poised for a big comeback.
Bigger companies are also taking part. It’s no mistake that Amazon bought Whole Foods, or that United Natural Foods bought SuperValu. But some companies are still struggling. General Mills has used acquisitions to help, but it does not currently make up for the lost revenue that sugar-loaded cereal provided. Their most recent venture, 301 Inc., has made significant investments in Good Culture, Farmhouse Culture and other brands in this space. But the jury is still out. Are they too late or just in time?
Behavior change is possible
People are paying more and more attention to their health and well-being. Our research has shown that 90% of American adults are trying to better themselves to some degree.
As marketers, we need to help consumers make better choices and to educate them throughout the process. The more you understand your audience, the more traction your brand will gain. Each segment has different needs and different levels of motivation. Understanding how to spark action in each matters.
If you’d like some help in that area, just give us a shout. Behavior change is possible, and the momentum is there.