Tag Archives: obesity

In honor of Michael Phelps: A new way to think about counting calories

Today, let’s talk about a different way to think about calorie intake or “share of stomach.”

In one of our first posts, we addressed the problem of obesity in this country, trying to add a dose of sanity to counter the notion that the food industry is solely to blame for it. We pointed out that the decisions people make about diet and exercise, along with genetics, also factor into the equation. But basically, it’s calories in, calories out.

If you’ve been following the Olympics this week, you might have heard that 14-time gold-medal-winning swimmer Michael Phelps eats 12,000 calories a day to keep his engine going.

Phelps also swam about five miles a day during the Olympics. If that sounds like a lot of exercise, that’s because it is. To put it another way, conventional wisdom is that swimming five miles is like running 20 miles. Imagine running 140 miles in a week.

Unlike Phelps, most of us need far fewer than 12,000 calories to keep our motors running. In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization say the average American consumes about 4,000 calories a day.

That’s still a fair amount of calories to count. And the reasons for consuming those calories are numerous and diverse:

  • To satisfy hunger
  • To experience flavors and textures
  • To soothe emotional wounds
  • To celebrate achievement

We talk a lot in our business about share of stomach. Usually, we’re talking about our share versus our competitors. We ought to be trying to learn what types of emotions and activities are responsible for what percentage of our target consumers’ caloric intake.

Make sure you’re taking a detailed account of WHY your customers are buying and consuming your brands.

At every point possible in the buying process, take advantage or opportunities to ask questions. Put questions on coupons. Offer discounts for answering questions. Put surveys on cash register receipts.

This next part will seem a little foreign to some people. Rather than asking about satsifaction with the product, ask your consumer about themselves. Ask them why they made the purchase when and where they did. People would much rather talk about themselves than you.

It’s a natural thing to ask, and the answers will tell you the language, tone of voice and venues in which to best communicate to your targets when they’re making their food choice.

Marketing Spoonful

Nobody likes to waste their time searching for knowledge only to find that it falls way short of expectations.

That’s why we’re creating the Spoonful; to give food marketers a reader-directed resource for information that guides decision-making.

In fact, we can’t tell you exactly what it’s going to look like because we want you to help us build it. So if you have ideas, send them to thespoonful@shscom.com.

Meanwhile, here’s just a taste of your Marketing Spoonful.

Turn the other cheek into a marketing opportunity

With so much in the news today about the relationship between high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and obesity and the vilification of the quick-service restaurant industry, the average reader couldn’t help but believe that food is to blame for obesity.

Few people have probably seen the study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that finds HFCS and cane sugar affect our body’s appetite in the same way.

Unfortunately, the experts who mislead the public have not emphasized the point that our body weight is a physical and mathematical function of many factors, including:

  • Genetics
  • Untreated emotional imbalance
  • Number of calories consumed (of any kind)
  • Number of calories expended (exercise)
  • The unfortunate result is that it is hard for us to change people’s minds after they’ve already seen something on a television news magazine that convinces them that soft drinks, HFCS, farmers and the government are making their kid obese. Contributing to obesity, maybe, but not the sole factor.Consider three reactions to this potential crisis: 1.) Do nothing, 2.) Fight, 3.) Embrace the opportunity presented.Here are the scenarios:1. Do nothing. Not only will you be putting warning labels about HFCS on your products or using costlier ingredients, you might eventually be responsible for telling people that your product is unhealthy if consumed in large quantities.2. Fight. You’ll just look like the big bully corporation that is hurting kids.3. Embrace the opportunity presented. The low-carb craze has faded now, but it forced you to focus on an important consumer trend toward whole foods. Even as you consider alternatives to HFCS, find the virtues of it. Is it greener because it takes less energy to produce and refine? What do food scientists tell us about potential health benefits of it? Finally, be the loudest and proudest proponent of exercise, family outdoor activities, the YMCA or create your own Biggest Loser for Kids.Remember, food is at the heart and soul of every culture. We are fortunate to have so much choice, and consumers’ unquenchable desire for choices is what keeps our brands alive.

    Oh, yeah, has anybody seen McDonald’s latest quarterly numbers?