Menus of Change

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Dear Kiersten,

The Hartman Group recently released an important study on not only what consumers say but also what they actually do when it comes to buying sustainable foods. Here is the Menus of Change™ take on a few of the report’s findings, along with how they connect to the Menus of Change principles that you can find online.

Please feel free to share this information by forwarding our Menus of Change news link http://menusofchange.org/news-insights/news/ or referring people to our website http://www.menusofchange.org. And we hope you’ll share your thoughts on Twitter using #CIAMOC.

Consumers say they want to be sustainable and support companies that behave sustainably. But, as any food marketer knows, they don’t always do what they say. Eighty-four percent of consumers say they consider sustainability when shopping, according to The Hartman Group’s 2013 Sustainability Report, but only 26 percent usually or always do base decisions on concerns for the environment or social well-being.

Moreover, consumers don’t always give companies credit for their sustainability efforts. When a company boasts of an environmental, social, or economic effort, 45 percent think it’s just a marketing ploy and 22 percent believe they were forced to do it by government regulation or shareholders.

What’s a company to do?

The key is shifting the message. While many consumers do want to hear about how the food they buy and eat benefits the environment or the local economy, most are interested in how the more sustainable product can help them—whether that is because it tastes good, is more healthful, costs less, or works better than competing products.

Here is a roundup of Hartman’s advice on key food products:

•Fish: Consumers consider seafood a healthier protein, so delivering health benefits is more important than low prices. Sixty-five percent prioritize taste, while 58 percent focus on health. Just 27 percent want fish to be a money-saving product.
•Meat: Good flavor is most important here. But unlike the other foods Hartman rated, environmental pitches work well with meat. More than half of consumers choose meat based on how the animal was raised because they care about animal welfare and because they believe it improves the nutrition of the meat as well.
•Produce: Consumers believe that produce is expensive so it has to look and taste good to draw them in. This is true in retail but also in food service: a well-presented salad may be more appealing than a salad bar.
•Chocolate: Consumers are looking for a treat with chocolate, so, no surprise, health and money don’t rate as important factors. Emphasize indulgence, whimsy, and, of course, taste.

Follow your consumers’ lead and further encourage their choices in these categories by using the relevant Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus developed by the CIA and Harvard School of Public Health:

•Serve More Kinds of Seafood More Often. Introduce diners to a wider variety of seafood sourced from responsibly managed fisheries.
•Red Meat: Smaller Portions, Less Frequently. Feature red meat in a supporting role to healthier plant-based choices, and also experiment with red meat as a condiment.
•Think Produce First. Focus on fruits and vegetables first—with great diversity across all meals and snacks.
•Reduce Added Sugar. Turn to ingredients like fruits, whole grains, dark chocolate, nuts, and healthy oils as alternatives in desserts, and substantially reduce sugar across the menu.

We look forward to reading your comments or questions on our Facebook page (CIA Industry Leadership) or Twitter (#CIAMOC).

—Your colleagues at The Culinary Institute of America

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