Food News Today transcripts for August 17th, 2011

August 19, 2011

The link between nutrition & health, what our consumer panel has to say about their coffee and how your friends affect - or not - your weight, For August 17th 2011.

 Good Morning,  today's broadcast is prerecorded. Please feel free to email me any thoughts, comments or questions you may have - Food News Today is sponsored by ConAgra Foods, who shares with me the desire to provide the most current, interesting and unbiased food news.


 In today's Health & Wellness report we take a look at The Cancer Project.  Nutrition and health are intimately linked, with rising obesity and chronic disease rates as well as health care bills, we as a country need to rethink our diets and preventative measures to improve health- and that is exactly what The Cancer Project is trying to do – they are working to educate Americans about foods that can both prevent and help get through cancer treatment. Today we have Joseph Gonzales, R.D. a staff dietitian for the Cancer Project to share with us just a few of the Cancer Project's efforts. 

 Thanks Joseph - important work and we are glad you are leading the way.

>Our supermarektguru consumer panel weighs in on the price of coffee - and just how that is affecting their consumption.  Along with almost all food commodities, coffee prices have seen a huge price increase.   Up nearly 15 percent from a year ago we wanted to know how consumer’s coffee drinking habits might have changed.  The plurality of the panel consumes two cups a day at 30%, followed by those who have three, 22% and those who drink four are right  behind at 21%.   A whopping 15% have five or more and 11% have one. I won't divulge my daily consumption. Saving money is definitely on the minds most shoppers especially as we watch the wild ride on Wall Street - but the majority, three-quarters of the panel are still drinking as much coffee now as they were  before the price hikes.  And cup o' joe drinkers just don’t want to give it up, 48% say they will not cut back despite rising prices, one out of 5 say they will cut back when prices rise 11 to 20 percent, about the same amount say they will cut back when prices rise 21 percent or more and 15% say they will cut back if they rise 10% or less.

On our Facebook fan page, SupermarketGuru, we asked how coffee consumption habits had changed… Bud Damberg said: I've changed my consumption habits, less K cups and using the old school Mr. Coffee machine again. Hard to justify the cost of those K Cups. Also replacing Coffee with soda and water, but keeping away from water bottles.  While the Cooking Channel said: Not a chance... and Mel Libraro said, The only difference we've made is what we do with extra coffee. Instead of pouring it down the drain, we chill it to make a flavored coffee for an afternoon dessert. Since supermarkets already win most of consumers coffee purchases, with 39% saying have always purchased their coffee in the supermarket, and 27% say they are heading to their supermarket to find the best deal on coffee,they there might not be much more to do, but when consumers were asked what could supermarkets do to win more of your coffee purchases?  67% said more sales, 35% said more samples, 24% said a greater variety of packaged coffees, 22% said more promotions with companion items, and 21% want a greater variety of beans to grind. Talk about strong coffee - sales that is.

>In consumer trends we take not of a new report on just how, and if, Friends can Affect Your Weight? A series of highly publicized studies concluded that habits such as overeating can spread like viruses through circles of friends. Which led to the questioning of two researchers to ask "could it be possible to curb a behavior like obesity by focusing on small groups of people who would then influence their networks"?  Well the conclusions by — Dr. Nicholas Christakis, a social scientist at Harvard, and James Fowler, a social scientist at the University of California, San Diego have drawn heated criticism from other scientists and statisticians claiming that the studies’ methodology was flawed and the original data inadequate to estimate the role that contagion might play in the spread of these behaviors. The first paper was published in 2007 in The New England Journal of Medicine. In it, Dr. Christakis and Dr. Fowler used data from over 12,000 subjects in the long-running federal, Framingham Heart Study. The data included 32 years of medical records, including such routine data as body weight and smoking habits.  Framingham researchers also knew who among the subjects were friends. To be sure they did not lose participants, the researchers had asked subjects to name someone who would know how to reach them at the time of the next exam. Dr. Christakis and Dr. Fowler found that friends, and friends of friends, had similar levels of obesity, but neighbors did not. Dr. Christakis and Dr. Fowler proposed a few possible explanations:

One was homophily, the tendency to choose friends like oneself.

The second was that people are affected in the same ways by the environments they create and share with their friends.

The third explanation, the one that garnered much attention, was contagion. They theorized that a person’s idea of an acceptable weight, or an acceptable portion size for example, changes when one sees how big his friends are or how much they eat.

Those who dispute the findings say it’s hard to account for all confounding variables in observational studies…. for some, the original findings seem to make sense.. what do you think? Please email me your thoughts at Phil@ and we will start off next week's broadcast by sharing your views.

For Food News Today, I’m Phil Lempert, thanks for joining us. If you have a colleague in retailing, the media or a blogger who would like to also receive our advance email - please send them to to sign up. Next week’s stories will be in your Tuesday email.