Inspire teens to buy and eat produce

December 16, 2011

Teens don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Supermarkets that merchandise benefits in a fun, non-preachy way could develop a big market.

America’s teenagers may be rich in puppy love and studies, but they’re poor in produce.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that one-quarter of the nation’s high school students eat fruit less than once a day, and one-third eat vegetables no more than once a day. By contrast, fewer than one-fifth of teens eat fruits four times daily and about one-tenth eat vegetables four times daily.

In the time it takes to send a text, teens could eat a handful of berries. But they typically don’t. More than 10,000 teens self-reported in the 2010 National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study that they consumed fruits and vegetables 1.2 times a day on average – a fraction of the federal recommendations.

Imagine the uptick in produce sales if supermarkets could interest teens more in fruits and vegetables. The Lempert Report thinks they could achieve this by connecting the consumption of specific produce items to teen-desired benefits, such as high energy, clear skin, and alertness to help compete academically. After all, it’s cool to be healthy, keep slim and look great.

We believe ‘what’s in it for me’ messaging could interest otherwise bored teens on shopping trips with their moms, or could prompt teens going to the supermarket together just as they go to the mall.

Ways to engage teens:  How about smartphone apps that teach about produce benefits and entertain while shopping? How about labels on packaged produce they could scan with their phones to win music downloads or other merchandise?  

Keeping teens fit and shopping fun might also entice them to buy more of their makeup, hair care and skin creams in the supermarket as well – and to talk about the stores on social media. Over the long term, the teens will remember which stores reached out to them with straight information that turned them on to something positive.