Is Food Demonization About to Rise?

Articles
August 04, 2010

Is Food Demonization About to Rise?

The well-documented obesity problem in the United States could soon become more confusing for consumers trying to make smarter decisions about their weight.

The well-documented obesity problem in the United States could soon become more confusing for consumers trying to make smarter decisions about their weight. The possible outcome: food retailers, food processors and healthcare professionals advising the public may need to articulate louder about the best nutritional and diet choices individuals could make.

Why? People have been largely unable to avoid temptations at the shelf, understand food labels, and sidestep unhealthy ingredients in many packaged foods. They may lose their bearings further if direct-to-consumer weight-loss advertising from pharmaceutical manufacturers also influences them, believes The Lempert Report. Who wouldn’t want a ‘quicker fix’ if one exists, or even moderate support in the form of prescription medication, if FDA approves one or more being evaluated by year’s end? Who wouldn’t be more interested in these commercials than the ones for restless leg syndrome, or possibly even erectile dysfunction?

A conference coming in October, devoted to the marketing of obesity-related products and services, is vaguely named Marketing Disease Prevention in America. The event’s promotional materials suggest the demonization of the food industry, and include speakers such as Dr. David Kessler, former commissioner of the FDA who will discuss “how he believes the food industry has hijacked the brains of millions of Americans…why it is exceptionally difficult to resist certain foods and why it is so easy to overindulge.”

Are food processors blameless? Far from it. But we find it hard to see how emotional rhetoric like this helps set people on the right course toward better health.  We suspect this conference is meant instead to help set the stage for the potential launch and marketing of prescription weight-loss medications – and possibly position them as solutions. The conference founder is DTC Perspectives, a conference, training and publishing firm in the DTC/OTC/healthcare product consumer marketing field.

The Lempert Report believes that for some consumers, the availability of prescription weight-loss medications could hold more appeal than good-for-you foods.  Or worse yet, some might feel they have a new license to eat badly because a pill could help keep the weight off.  FDA will decide if new weight-loss drugs should reach the market. Then consumers will need to weigh any possible side effects before deciding to use them – or simply be smarter about their food choices and exercises. 

As this situation unfolds, food retailers and manufacturers should be prepared to answer many more consumer questions. The stores and brands that can best educate and motivate consumers with objective information should emerge the strongest with consumers – many of whom are at different levels of desperate, and far from expert about nutrition and the necessary disciplines to keep naturally thin.