The problem with marketing health food

Sarah Gardner Feb 9, 2010
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The problem with marketing health food

Sarah Gardner Feb 9, 2010
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TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: This morning President Obama set up a cabinet-level task force to fight what has been described as an obesity “epidemic” among Americans kids. His wife is going to be in charge. And it’s going to be a long haul. Nutrition advocates say part of the answer is making healthy food more appealing to the “chips and soda” crowd.

Marketplace’s Sarah Gardner reports there is no easy recipe for that one.


SARAH GARDNER: Yale University’s Jennifer Harris is an expert on kids, food and advertising. She’s director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Harris says there’s a real problem with marketing food that’s good for you.

JENNIFER HARRIS: What has been found several times is that if you describe the food as healthy then people think it doesn’t taste as good as foods that are not described as healthy.

Harris says a few years ago, 16 food companies made a pledge to market more nutritional breakfast to children. She says they’ve slightly lowered the sugar content in cereals but the stuff marketed to kids is still unhealthy.

Marion Nestle, the author of “Food Politics,” says food companies have no financial incentive to market their healthier products.

MARION NESTLE: The profit is in added value foods where the ingredients can be bought at a very low cost and stored indefinitely and put into a package with a cartoon on it.

Market researcher Harry Balzer at NPD Group points out that healthy food often costs more than junk food. He says the key is giving Americans healthier versions of foods they already know and love.

HARRY BALZER: Without affecting the taste of the product or without affecting the cost of the product.

And Balzer certainly knows what many Americans know and love. We reached him on his cell phone today doing a little research at a Five Guys Burgers and Fries in Boston. It’s one of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in the country.

I’m Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

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