Dietary Guidelines: Maybe the Government IS Here to Help Us

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Dietary Guidelines: Maybe the Government IS Here to Help Us

By Kathy Means, Produce Marketing Association - 03/04/2016

What would happen for produce sales from the farm to the store, if consumers doubled consumption? What would happen if they filled half of every plate with fruits and vegetables? Retail sales of profitable fresh produce would soar.

March is National Nutrition Month. It’s a great time to focus on the opportunities – business and health – afforded by the universal call to increase fruit and vegetable consumption.

On average, no one, anywhere, is eating enough fruits and vegetables. The United States laments the public health problems that poor diets engender, singling out insufficient fruit and vegetable consumption as a key factor. And what a boon that would be for produce marketers, including retailers, if consumers did fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables – as the United States, Canada and others advise.

Once again, government has sounded that call to action, the urgent plea for consumers to eat more. The United States released its new dietary guidance, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020  (DGA) early this year. Updated every five years and now in its eighth edition, DGA continues to be a resource for science-based recommendations to improve Americans’ diets, reduce obesity and prevent chronic diseases.

As in past iterations, the guidelines call on consumers to significantly increase fruit and vegetable intake. What could be seen as another unremarkable government pronouncement is actually one of the greatest calls to action produce marketers could capitalize on. No other food group has every credible dietary voice calling for significant consumption increases. No other food group is invited to take up half the plate.

At least seven in 10 Americans do not eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. So look around. Assuming that you, someone in the know about what you should be eating, are in fact filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables, seven of the nine people you see around you are not.

Clearly, to make half the plate fruits and vegetables remains important advice to all consumers. Greater fruit and vegetable consumption contributes to the health of consumers and the health of produce marketers through increased sales.

Furthermore, the guidelines stress fruits and vegetables must be part of all healthy eating patterns, thereby meeting all consumers where they are in terms of cultural and personal food preferences.

Marketing works. What an enviable position produce marketers find themselves in  – to have the entire health community and governments worldwide supporting the call for greater consumption. It will take a lot of work by everyone to achieve these consumption goals, but what a great reward awaits: robust health for consumers and robust health for produce sales.

As the guidelines state: “Everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.” Produce marketers recognize their responsibility to make healthy lifestyles and disease prevention top priorities. This shared value has driven the produce industry’s leadership role in marketing fruits and vegetables differently, as demonstrated through PMA’s support of the eat brighter! movement and the FNV program. The great thing is, such an altruistic goal also advances sales and business success.

In this case, the government really is here to help. Smart marketers must capitalize on this guidance and bring their best marketing efforts to bear. Increasing consumption (and sales!) is an achievable goal. And March, National Nutrition Month, is a great time to make that happen.