Vegetable Bowl

Selling Veggies

“You have to eat your vegetables” doesn’t do much for the cause of selling veggies to the next generation. Scolds make lousy marketers. So Michelle Obama is right on target when she tells the readers of AdWeek: “Marketing can make America healthier.”

Through six years of her signature Let’s Move! initiative, the First Lady defied scolds who were eager to accuse her of “selling out to Big Food.” Working in tandem with the Partnership for a Healthier America, she found innovative ways to harness the talent and creativity of marketing and communication professionals in the for-profit world to sell fruits and veggies.

A new study published this week in Pediatrics provides good experimental evidence that selling veggies to kids can work quite well. The researchers randomized ten urban elementary schools to three different interventions or a control group. The interventions promoted veggies with banners, video promotions, and a combination of the two. All three of the interventions used branded vegetable characters to promote veggies.

Schools that promoted veggies with both banners and videos saw a 239% increase in children choosing veggies. Schools with only the banners saw a 90% increase that was barely significant. Schools in the control group and schools with only the videos did not register significant increases in veggies.

In yet another study, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, researchers found that simply placing bright green arrows on the floors of a grocery store can drive more purchases of fruits and vegetables. The arrows, of course, direct people to the produce section.

Green GiantNone of this is rocket science. Point of purchase promotions – like arrows and banners – are standard tools for food marketing. Branded characters and video promotions can be found in any good marketing plan. But applying these tools is a skill finely honed in the food industry, not so much in public health.

These data confirm that the First Lady’s instincts are right on the mark. Food marketers have a skill set that makes them formidable allies for promoting healthy nutrition.

Click here for the First Lady’s commentary in AdWeek, here for the study in Pediatrics, here for more on that study from the New York Times, here for the study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, and here for more on that study from Science Daily.

Vegetable Bowl, photograph © Jenni Kotting / flickr

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July 6, 2016

3 Responses to “Selling Veggies”

  1. July 06, 2016 at 10:21 am, Stephen Phillips said:

    Kids for the most part will copy the eating behaviors of their families
    In other words ” Apples don’t fall far from their tree” ……unless you push them down the hill…..

    ……… Because parents tend to encourage children’s consumption of fruits and vegetables and to limit foods high in energy, sugar, and fat, directive styles of child-feeding may negatively affect children’s liking of these foods by teaching them to dislike the very foods we want them to consume and to prefer those that should be consumed in relatively limited quantities…American Journal of Pediatrics 1998

    If Adam and Eve were directed not to eat the snake I likely would not be making these comments today

    Stephen Phillips
    American Association of Bariatric Counselors

    • July 06, 2016 at 10:24 am, Ted said:

      Eat more snakes! Thanks, Stephen.

  2. July 06, 2016 at 10:54 am, Allen Browne said:

    Marketing works – but only if it is used.