Grapes and Walnuts

Gulping Gorgeous Grapes and Sizzling Squash

Will gulping more gorgeous grapes and sizzling squash cure our dietary ills? If so, marketers can clearly help. Two new studies show how classical marketing techniques can lead consumers to buy more fruits and veggies. Easy peasy. It’s basic stuff for marketers.

Make It Sizzle

Sell the sizzle, not the steak is a cliche of marketing that JAMA Internal Medicine discovered this week in a research letter from Bradley Turnwald and colleagues at Stanford. They found that “sweet sizzlin green beans with crispy shallots” sold better than “healthy energy-boosting green beans and shallots.”

This controlled experiment in a university cafeteria compared basic labeling for vegetables to two variations on healthy labeling and indulgent labeling. The indulgent labeling was all about taste and pleasure. Healthy labeling was either restrictive (e.g. low sodium) or more positive (e.g. energy-boosting).

All those indulgent sales pitches delivered at least a 25% bump in sales of veggies.

Offer a Sweet Deal

The other discovery appeared in Obesity last week. Maria Bernales-Korins and colleagues found that putting fruits and veggies on sale in a supermarket causes people to buy and eat more of them.

One interesting finding in this study is that people stopped buying more fruits and vegetables after the price went back up. But they kept reporting that they were eating more. We might have a disconnect there.

Will More Fruits and Veggies Translate to Better Health?

Marketers are clever creatures. Crafting ad copy and price promotions to ring up more sales is easy work for them. Better health outcomes, though, are not so simple.

For as long as we can remember, moms and dads have been after their kids to eat more fruits and veggies and cut the junk food snacks. Over the last few decades, that hasn’t been working out so well. Fruit and vegetable consumption is up a little bit, but so are obesity rates.

As we’ve noted before, simply pushing people to eat more fruits and veggies is not likely to yield less obesity. Pushing more grains worked to boost consumption between 1970 and 2014. But during that time, we saw tremendous increases in obesity. Be careful what you wish for.

One-size fits all nutrition advice can have unexpected consequences. For an individual who wants to improve their dietary health, consulting with a registered dietitian is a smart move.

For improving the health of a whole population, we need a sharp focus on health outcomes. Relying on suppositions can lead to unexpected results.

Click here for the study in JAMA Internal Medicine and here for the study in Obesity.

Grapes and Walnuts, painting by Alfred Sisley / WikiArt

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June 16, 2017

One Response to “Gulping Gorgeous Grapes and Sizzling Squash”

  1. June 21, 2017 at 9:56 am, Allen Browne said:

    Industry make money with marketing. Healthcare providers can make people healthier with marketing. The techniques exist – we just have to use them.