Food News Today transcripts for May 11th, 2011

May 13, 2011

A new “social” vending machine, how our senses determine what we eat, and we have to wonder if shoppers label reading habits vary depending on the food?

 A new “social” vending machine, how our senses determine what we eat, and we have to wonder if shoppers label reading habits vary depending on the food? For the week of May 9th, 2011, This is Food News Today.


Good Morning. Immediately following Food News Today, we continue with a live discussion in our chat room below. Please sign in and join us. Food News Today is sponsored by ConAgra Foods, who shares with me the desire to provide the most current, interesting and unbiased food news.  We start this morning with a question from last week’s chat – Phil Stevens asked “Is the current trend to use cane sugar vs. using high fructose corn syrup a fad? Or is it here to stay?

More discussion of your questions and comments follow in our chat room below; immediately following the broadcast - hey, don’t feel you have to wait - just go ahead and type as I talk at any point during the show - hopefully it wont distract me.

In this morning’s Xtreme Retail we take a look at vending – a new machine that is trying to ride the wave of social media.  Social Vending, is quite the concept, not only can you buy yourself a drink, but you can give a beverage to another, and also give back to the community by connecting with Pepsi Refresh- the brand's community outreach and charity program.  To buy a soda for a friend, you just select a beverage and enter the recipient’s name, email or  mobile number and a personalized text message that includes a code redeemable at another vending machine. The message can even contain a short video recorded by the machine - reminds me of the old time photo booths. Do take note that Pepsi is also using this social experience as a tool to collect email addresses for future promotions.

In Food Sense we Skype visit with Marcia Pelchat, an associate member of Monell Chemical Senses Center, whose research on  food preferences, especially mechanisms of food cravings, and their responses gives us insight into why we eat what we eat.  

So cravings are one aspect of determining what we eat - and as Americans seem to be giving up on getting in shape (more on that next week!) - we wonder if people are really paying attention to the foods they buy. 

Reading food labels is an important step in choosing foods that are right for each individual; but this crucial step is still a challenge – everything from actually getting shoppers to read the label, to understanding what it all means.  We asked our SupermarketGuru Consumer Panel about food labels and set out to understand if consumers'  label reading habits differed between food and beverage categories. A large majority, nearly seventy percent of the consumer panel, say they always read the package for nutrition facts and ingredients.  Virginia Lee, a SG fan on Facebook, says she has “been reading food labels 'since before' the labels had decent information,  that's prior to the early '80s; that was right after my dad had a heart attack and we were trying to figure out sodium levels in everything. It's so much easier now.  ”Back to the store - in the beverage aisle, consumers are most concerned with sugars (65%), calories (61%) and ingredients (61%).  When it comes to cakes and desserts it’s calories first  (64%), ingredients (63%) then fats and sugars- both sixty percent.  When shopping for condiments and sauces, the biggest concern is the actual ingredients (66%), followed by sodium content (61%), and then sugars (54%). In the dairy case it is all about fat – with 64% of shoppers saying that is the number one fact they look for.  Heading over to the freezer aisle, seventy percent read the label for ingredients and sodium, followed by calories(65%), fat (61%) and sugars(42%). Back on Facebook - Jennifer Kupper Swan says, “I always read nutrition facts and ingredients. If (my) allergies doesn't rule out an ingredient, then. I look twice at the ingredients - I tend to reshelve the products that (I) need a chemistry degree to figure out. My kids are allowed a certain amount of "junk" food…but it's minimal compared to what other (parents) allow. Life isn't perfect, but I try.”Well said Jennifer - as we all do.

 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 weeks stories will be in your Tuesday email.