Use “Powerhouse” Produce, Cooking Classes to Orient Shoppers

January 19, 2015

Supermarkets build their relevance when they help people identify and buy superfruits and veggies, and cook healthier.

Two activities within supermarkets’ control – the prominent identification and display of super-fruits and super-vegetables, and the hosting of cooking classes for school-aged children – could help grow categories, pave the way for healthier generations, and make consumers more capable of preparing meals at home from scratch.

By enthusiastically pushing wellness and nutrition to Generation Z in a credible environment, supermarkets could help secure their relevance for decades to come, says F3.  Food industry readers that study the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) journal, Preventing Chronic Disease, may gain an early start by viewing documented research about food and our future – even though CDC issues a disclaimer that it doesn’t necessarily share the opinion of study authors it publishes.

F3 has chosen to capsule two 2014 studies as examples: 

In Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables:  A Nutrient Density Approach, Jennifer De Noia, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology at William Paterson University, addresses a major gap:  federal nutrition guidelines encourage people to eat “powerhouse” fruits and vegetables associated with less risk of chronic disease, yet definitions aren’t clear.  Dr. De Noia studied 41 nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables that meet the “powerhouse” classification – providing on average 10% or more daily value of 17 nutrients per 100 calories. The nutrients are potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E and K.  

Topping the list in nutrient density scores were: watercress (at least 100.00%), Chinese cabbage (91.99), chard (89.27), beet green (87.08), spinach (86.43), chicory (73.36), leaf lettuce (70.73), parsley (65.59), romaine lettuce (63.48) and collard green (62.49).

With such clearly defined “powerhouse” produce, says F3, supermarkets could sign, display and segment these items to maximize sales and advance their stores’ wellness authority.  Such efforts could further boost the popularity of kale and brussel sprouts, also on the list, and raise awareness of items such as chard and beet greens.  Nutrient density scores ranged from 10.47 to 122.68 (capped at 100.00 for reporting purposes), with a median score of 32.23.

Meanwhile, a lengthy study of the effect of cooking classes, The Impact of Cooking Classes on Food-Related Preferences, Attitudes, and Behaviors of School-Aged Children:  A Systematic Review of the Evidence, 2003-2014, serves as a launch point for further exploration.  Researchers examined eight primary studies that included hands-on cooking interventions – they say “evidence suggests that cooking programs improve food-related preferences, attitudes and behaviors among adolescents and adults, [but] their effect on children remains uncertain….Study measurements varied widely [so] determining best practices was difficult.”

This could be a worthwhile area for retailers to study optimal program length for school-aged children (5 to 12 years old), the role of parents, the attitudes and motivational approaches of chef instructors, willingness to try new foods, the influence of taste, the effect of lifestyles at home on a child’s willingness and ability to cook, access to healthful ingredients in nearby stores, and other factors, says F3.  The appreciation by today’s adults and the seeding of tomorrow’s shoppers could create a long-tail payoff.