October, 2010

Research Perspective and Comments & Analysis

Success of the Fruits & Veggies — More Matters Initiative

Launched in 2007, the Fruits & Veggies — More Matters health initiative replaced the long-standing 5 A Day campaign. With a particular focus on moms, Fruits & Veggies — More Matters is disseminated through consumer influencers, including industry, educators and health professionals. PBH also provides insight to the industry about fruits and vegetables through various surveys.

To date, the Fruits & Veggies — More Matters effort has resulted in:

• 167 million media impressions (no multipliers)

• 5.78 billion retail impressions

• 68,000 average monthly Web site visitors

• 1,900 qualified products carrying the Fruits & Veggies — More Matters logo

• 45 percent of mothers who say they are more likely to purchase a product with the Fruits & Veggies — More Matters logo on it

• 66 percent of mothers who say they intend to serve their family more fruits and veggies

Ultimately, success is measured by changes in attitudes about, and consumption of, fruits and vegetables. To monitor change, PBH has new data obtained from two fruit and vegetable related surveys. PBH’s annual Moms survey is fielded by OnResearch annually, while PBH’s State of the Plate research is conducted by NPD Foodworld Group Research once every five years. Survey results are outlined below.

Fruit And Vegetable Consumption On The Rise In Younger Children

Children under the age of 12 appear to be eating more fruits and vegetables over the past 5 years. In fact, children less than 6 years old increased their fruit consumption by 11 percent, and those children ages 6-12 increased their consumption by 7 percent. The vegetable trend was a bit less positive, with those under age 6 consuming 3 percent more and those 6-12 consuming 2 percent more vegetables. So basically, children of mothers who are targeted by the Fruits & Veggies — More Matters campaign efforts are eating more fruits and vegetables than they were 5 years ago. Conversely, in populations where More Matters has NOT been focused, such as in the elderly, consumption has decreased. Of course, this does not imply cause and effect, but it is an interesting correlation, especially since consumers typically eat more fruits and vegetables as they age.

Moms Are Finding It Easier To Feed Their Family Fruits And Vegetables When Eating Out, Yet Only 11 Percent Of All Fruits And Vegetables Are Consumed At Restaurants

Moms’ three largest reported barriers to getting their families to eat more fruits and vegetables include members of their families having different fruit and vegetable likes and dislikes, needing new ideas about ways to prepare fruits and vegetables, and not having a good range of fruits and vegetables available in restaurants.

Moms reported ease in getting their families to eat fruits and vegetables when eating out has grown. In 2010, mothers reported it easy to eat fruit (25 percent) and vegetables (17 percent) at a fast-food establishment, up from 19 percent in 2008 for fruit and 8 percent for vegetables. Thirty-seven percent of moms reported it easy to get their families to eat fruit at restaurants generally, vs. 29 percent in 2008. Moms reported ease in getting vegetables at restaurants declined, however, from 45 percent to 43 percent between 2008 and 2010.

Despite the significant increases in moms reporting ease of getting families to eat more fruit in restaurants, only 8.8 percent of all menu items include fruit, and only 3 percent of overall fruit consumption comes from restaurants. Regarding vegetables, 44.8 percent of all menu items include at least one vegetable, and 15 percent of all vegetable consumption is consumed in restaurants. Together, only 11 percent of fruits and vegetables are consumed at restaurants.

Here again, I’m pleased to see positive movement, especially in quick service restaurants. I believe that the addition of sliced apples and new salad options at McDonald’s, for example, is one of the reasons moms can report that fruits and vegetables are easier to find on menus. Obviously, with only 11 percent of all fruits and vegetables consumed at restaurants, there is a huge opportunity for growth in this venue.

Simply telling people to eat more fruits and vegetables is not enough to change behavior. Consumers have to want to eat fruits and vegetables. In our case, we want to motivate mothers to serve more to their families. Providing information about how to use fruits and vegetables and why it’s important to eat them is critical. Equally important, however, is changing what is available where people eat — on restaurant menus, at school and in worksites. It is a culmination of all of these efforts — and many others — that ultimately will be needed to increase America’s fruit and vegetable consumption.

One Point Of Light

All of the activity Dr. Pivonka accounts is surely virtuous. To teach the truth…To attempt to make the righteous choice become the easy choice… To believe that once people understand, they will want to do the right thing…This is all reflective of a vision of society that combines the most elevated thoughts of the ancient Greeks with that of the Enlightenment.

PBH has taken a two-track approach to increase consumption. First, it acts to educate and inform so people will know what they ought to do; and, second, it acts to influence the industry and its menu-planning and merchandising so that it is easier for consumers to do the right thing.

All of its activities are noble, but any rational analyst of these types of programs will always ask: Do they work?

This is one of those public policy questions that are almost impossible to answer because it is very difficult to run controlled experiments. There is no definitive way to say that consumption is higher today than it would have been had the Produce for Better Health Foundation never been created or its programs been designed differently.

It is indeed inspiring to read that parents of young children report that their children have increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. However, these kinds of results have to be carefully studied for many years before we know how to assess them. One possibility, for example, is that the efforts of PBH are highly effective at changing attitudes. So young mothers learn what their children ought to eat and, feeling shame that they fall short of this ideal, gild the lily a bit when they speak to surveyors. In other words, real human beings sometimes fall short of the Aristotelian ideal of “knowing equals doing.”

Of course, even if the statistics are fully accurate, making a causal link to any particular program is difficult because there are too many variables. So the past 10 years, for example, has seen an explosion of imports of seedless citrus from South Africa, Chile and Australia — making Navel oranges and various easy-peelers available when they had not been available before. This has also been a decade when Wal-Mart Supercenters spread across the country. There is good data indicating that the presence of Wal-Mart Supercenters in a region exerts strong downward pressure on prices, thus making produce, in all its forms, less expensive. There is no way to specifically determine if these types of changes in the supply base changed consumption patterns or if PBH did; or if it was growing enthusiasm over Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Foundation’s Edible Schoolyard project; or if it was public policy changes that made produce more accessible for mothers on food stamps or WIC.

We find the research regarding foodservice to be especially interesting, and it points to a critique we have made of the PMA/NRA/IFDA goal to double fresh produce consumption over a 10-year period: We need a good starting benchmark for this initiative. Whether 11 percent of produce consumption happening at restaurants is good, bad or indifferent depends on what percentage of which meal-eating occasions are included in the meals eaten at restaurants. Roberta Cook of UC Davis often reports the USDA says that roughly 10 percent of fresh fruit and 20 percent of fresh vegetables are used in foodservice. This is just fresh, though, and foodservice, which includes everything from prisons to nursing homes to cruise ships, is much broader than restaurants.

Still, any effort that serves to encourage more produce availability is good for both the industry and the country. The problem, once again, is that it is simply impossible to know the degree to which McDonald’s updated salads or apple slice offerings were motivated by PBH contacts. After all, it could just as well have been new technology creating better product options or a national wave of concern over obesity that made McDonald’s executives fear the government would blame it for causing obesity.

PBH depends, of course, not only on industry donations but industry cooperation — displaying the More Matters logo, etc. With a miniscule annual budget compared to McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, and with more than 300 million Americans to influence, even if PBH is highly effective at spending money, it will be difficult for its efforts to stand out in national statistics.

That the nature of the beast doesn’t allow for direct connections between PBH’s efforts and changes in consumption does not argue against the program. It argues for humility in expectations.

Just as the President’s Council on Physical Fitness has not made us a nation of Adonises, so PBH cannot be expected to radically change eating habits. It is, as President George H.W. Bush liked to say, just one of many points of light that tries to make things better. When industry members support PBH, they are helping to make that one point of light burn brighter.

When one considers the research result that 45 percent of mothers respond to the survey by saying that they are more likely to purchase product with the Fruits & Veggies — More Matters logo, it might be best to think of all the pressure on mothers today. Most work…Children and school are demanding…Husbands and significant others are demanding…And most Moms want to do the right thing, yet find they often fall short. So the More Matters logo can be like a high-five to Mom, a little point of light in a tough day that says she is trying to do what is best for her family.