CPGmatters: Too Many Nutrition Programs Compete with MyPyramid
By Dale Buss
special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of a current
article from the monthly e-zine, CPGmatters.
As he ends his 15-month
tenure leading the federal government’s MyPyramid food-guidance
program to a new apex, Brian Wansink is troubled
by growing competition to MyPyramid that is posed
by nutrition-rating programs launched in grocery stores by individual companies
ranging from food and beverage manufacturers to large supermarket chains.
“My concern with
a lot of these programs is twofold,” the food marketing professor
at Cornell University told CPGmatters.
“One is that they can sometimes be confusing to consumers, because it’s
not very transparent how they decide what score to give a product – or
how many check marks or smiley faces. In most cases, that’s proprietary,
and they say, ‘Trust us.'”
“The second thing
is that the goal of these programs shouldn’t be necessarily to get a person
to buy whole wheat Pop Tarts instead of regular Pop Tarts, but to get people
to eat in balance. And my fear is that if people end up eating by the stars
or by the numbers, it can lead them to eat incrementally healthier but
not globally healthier – you can eat totally out of balance.”
And Professor Wansink has
a third concern: The more distracted the American public, retailers and
CPG manufacturers become by the cacophony of other nutrition-ratings systems
out there, the less they will be able to focus on what he believes is the
most valuable diet-planning tool of all: MyPyramid.
Released in 2005, MyPyramid
replaced the long-used federal Food Guide Pyramid that the government launched
in 1992 and which, in turn, had extended the U.S. Agriculture Department’s
long-established efforts to help American citizens figure out how to have
“With so many of
these [programs], it becomes a House of Babel,” said Professor Wansink,
head of the Food & Brand Lab at Cornell and author of Marketing
Nutrition: Soy, Functional Foods, Biotechnology and Obesity.
“That’s why we stand behind MyPyramid: It
doesn’t say, ‘Buy this,’ or, ‘Don’t buy this,’ but
it demystifies what you’re getting in a processed food.”
Are all the competing nutrition-rating programs diluting the message
behind MyPyramid? Do you agree they’re only
confusing consumers and their simplicity could be promoting out-of-balance
diets? On the other hand, what is the value in retailers and vendors
developing their own proprietary programs?
Too Many Nutrition Programs Compete with MyPyramid nutrition-rating systems – CPGmatters