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Food Research

Should Food Be Marketed As ‘Meals’ Instead Of ‘Snacks’ To Avoid Overeating?

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Woman eating donut

Would marketing food as ‘meals’ rather than ‘snacks’ reduce consumption and overeating? A new study seems to think so.

Led by University of Surrey Health Psychology professor Jane Ogden and featured in the journal Appetite (read abstract), the innovative, one-of-a-kind study examined the impact of labeling food products as ‘snacks’ or ‘meals.

Eighty participants to eat a pasta pot which was either labelled as a ‘snack’ or a ‘meal.’ Each pot was presented as a ‘snack’ that was eaten standing up from a plastic pot with a plastic fork or a ‘meal’ eaten from a ceramic plate and metal fork while seated at a table. Once consumed, participants were invited to take part in an additional taste test of different foods that included animal biscuits, hula hoops, M&M’s and mini cheddars.

Not only did the researchers find that those who ate the pasta labelled as a ‘snack’ consumed more at the taste test than when it was labelled as a ‘meal,’ but they also found that those who ate the ‘snack’ standing up consumed more (50 per cent more total mass, sweet mass and total calories and 100 per cent more M&M’s) than those who ate the pasta sitting down at a table. This intriguing results demonstrate that consumption — particularly when standing instead of sitting — is higher when a food is labelled as a snack rather than a meal.

This could be attributed this to a combination of factors. For one, the researchers believe that people are generally more easily distracted and less conscious of consumption when eating a snack. As another reason, our memories for snacks and meals may be encoded differently in our subconscious and we are less able to recall what we have eaten as a ‘snack.’

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Professor Ogden said in a statement:

“With our lives getting busier increasing numbers of people are eating on the go and consuming foods that are labelled as ‘snacks’ to sustain them. What we have found is that those who are consuming snacks are more likely to over eat as they may not realise or even remember what they have eaten.

“To overcome this we should call our food a meal and eat it as meal, helping make us more aware of what we are eating so that we don’t overeat later on.”

According to the World Health Organization, Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975, and billions of dollars are spent every year on treatment for diabetes and conditions related to being overweight or obese.

A Datassential study found that not only are people eating more, but they tend overestimate the number of healthy snacks — like fruit, nuts, yogurt and vegetables — they eat per day. In fact, they eat more salty and crunchy snacks, with nearly half of the participants consuming at least one salty snack a day.

The University of Surrey provides yet more cold, hard facts about the health consequences of labeling. Snacking could result in overeating, which undoubtedly contributes to obesity and all associated health-related issues (e.g. diabetes, heart disease and hypertension). Consumers have their role to play, but so do those making our food.

Brands and retailers around the world could help in the fight against overeating and obesity by changing product labels, as well as shift merchandising and marketing efforts so food perceived more often as a meal rather than a snack, but this is probably wishful thinking. At the end of the day, with snacks and grab-and-go food being big business for the consumer packaged goods industry and retailers alike, there is just too much money at stake to warrant such a change on a large scale.

The best you and I can do is have the discipline to refrain from relying on snacks as our daily fuel, opting for proper, nutrient-rich food.

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Diet & Health

Here’s What The Future Of Food Could Look Like

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Food Sensor Chip on Teeth

Devices like tooth sensors that measure sugar and alcohol intake, as well as monitor other health qualities, could revolutionize the food industry as we know it.

From new technologies detecting specific ingredients and allergens in food to the expansion of cell-cultured meat, the list of emerging technologies that help consumers understand what they are eating grows by the day.

According Max Elder, a researcher at the Institute for the Future’s Food Futures Lab, “the future is already here, and it’s about time the food industry faced it head first.

Elder believes that for Consumer packaged goods companies to prepare for new challenges, they will need to “work backwards” to come up with strategies for creating the industry they want.

Computer Circuit Chip Apple Fruit

The Future Of Food Technology

Too many of today’s packaged foods are filled with empty calories, and people are no longer able to rely on their five senses to get accurate information about what they’re eating. Products labels have traditionally been relied upon to provide said information, but they could be misleading and are often difficult to understand.

In fact, a 2018 study by the Center for Food Integrity also found that only 33% of survey respondents “strongly agree” that they are confident in the safety of the food they consume. Such a high level of distrust has prompted the development of a new suite of technologies that help consumers make better-informed decisions about their food, “radical” technologies that Elder says will likely be widespread over the next decade.

Examples of such devices include an ingestible sensor being by Carnegie Mellon University that monitors gastrointestinal health and a tiny tooth sensor from Tufts University that can measure glucose, sugar and alcohol intake.

But before sensors in guts or on teeth become ubiquitous, Elder said they will likely be situated outside the body. Chinese search engine company Baidu, for instance, has developed smart chopsticks that can detect the freshness of cooking oil.

Those suffering from celiac disease will find Nima especially useful. Nima is a small portable machine that uses a sensor to test for trace amounts of gluten when crumbs are placed into it, and the namesake company behind its creation is developing variants of the technology for other allergens, including peanuts and shellfish.

While the food knowledge consumer can gain from such new technology could pose a challenge to food companies, but it is also an opportunity for brands to get more information on what eaters want and tailor their products, services and communication accordingly.

Slab of red meat

More Sustainable, Humane Meat

We can’t talk about the future of food without mention of the lab-grown meat industry, which has the potential to expand despite regulatory setbacks.

There has been a rapidly growing movement towards and major investment in exploring more cellular food systems, and while it’s too early to know if cultured meat is as healthy or nutritious as conventionally-produced meat, the segment could potentially be a major part of the food of the future.

According to Paul Shapiro Author of Clean Meat and former vice president for The Humane Society of the United States, clean meat is better for the environment than raising and slaughtering animals, whether conventional, grass-fed or free-range. Instead pouring tons of resources into raising an entire animal that won’t be eaten in its entirety — horns, eyeballs, hooves, brains, etc. all go to waste — growing meat in a lab only results in the parts and calories consumers need.

The lab-grown meat industry is still in its infancy and the market is small, meaning cell-cultured meat commands a price premium over conventional meat. However, if the industry can eventually achieve price parity, the only issue it will have to contend with is how comfortable consumers are with eating meat produced in a lab.

Traditional Farming

Meeting Environmental Values

There has been a growing demand for transparency in the food industry, and many consumers desire to know what is in their food and actively look for ecolabels that align to their values (Fair Trade, Non-GMO, etc.). An increasing number of individuals are also reading the label to look for names they recognize and trust before they make a purchase.

That’s to say companies will have to cater to consumer’s environmental values more so than ever but must do so with caution. Not fully understanding the environmental impact of new types of food production could lead to some companies making claims they may not be able to hold up.

Like everything in life, the food industry is undergoing a transformation, and most certainly for the better. The future looks promising for the health- and environmentally-conscious consumer.

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Food Research

Over 4 In 10 Americans Open To Trying Cannabis-Enhanced Foods

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Cannabis Edibles Foods

More than 40 percent of North American consumers are willing to try foods made with cannabis recreationally if available.

A survey of 1,000 Americans and 1,000 Canadians carried out by global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney highlights the growing interest in cannabis-infused food and drinks.

In the survey, participants were asked which cannabis-containing products they or someone they know have tried in areas including food, smoking, vaping and beverages. Approximately 58% said yes for food, 12% for alcohol and 10% for nonalcoholic drinks such as juice, water, tea or coffee.

The results were echoed by an earlier study by Dalhousie University, which found that 46 per cent of Canadians said they would try cannabis-infused food products if they became available on the market. A 2017 Gallup poll showed that 64 per cent of Americans support legalization.

Over 85 percent of those surveyed said they would have an improved or neutral perception of their favorite brand if it were to launch a product containing cannabis, indicating that companies introducing products with cannabis ingredients would see an improvement in public perception.

Randy Burt, a partner in A.T. Kearney’s consumer and retail practice, stated:

“The survey clearly demonstrates the viability of the market for cannabis across multiple consumer segments – CPGs and retailers focused on health and wellness, snacking, functional food and beverage, and beverage alcohol need to have a perspective on how they will approach the cannabis opportunity.”

Interestingly, consumers expressed more willingness to try candy, chocolate snacks and packaged foods than non-alcoholic or alcoholic drinks; yet, it’s the beverage sector, especially beer, that has been the most aggressive in investing and preparing for a cannabis future.

Concerns over more consumers turning to marijuana instead alcohol for relaxation is perhaps the driving force behind the push.

Canada legalized marijuana on October 17, 2018, while ten U.S. states have legalized the psychoactive drug for recreational use.

Judging by current trends, America might be at the tipping point on legalizing cannabis at the federal level, which could open up additional markets for marijuana-related products.

Like it or not, the future looks bright for the cannabis industry.

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Diet & Health

Science Has Found The Best Way To Wash Pesticides Off Apples

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Apple on tree

Polishing an apple with your shirt might get rid of some dust and dirt, but removing the pesticides will require a little more work.

New research has found that washing apples with baking soda, the common yet miraculous household product, could be all you need to eliminate most of the residues on the surface of apples and other fruits.

Pesticides have long been used to increase crop yield, but rising concerns over their adverse effect on human health has many people talking. While the exact effects depend on the type of pesticides and the amount eaten, the World Health Organization says that certain pesticides could harm the developing nervous systems of fetuses and children.

A growing number of people have opted for organic food as way of avoiding the chemicals, but organic food usually command a price premium and there is no guarantee that pesticides were used. In fact, the organic, naturally-occurring pesticides that some organic farms use aren’t necessarily safer.

Washing has been and remains the standard practice used by both consumers and the food industry to remove pesticides, but some of the plant-protecting compounds that get absorbed by the skin of fruits and vegetables might be more resilient to current cleaning methods. To find the best method, Lili He, Assistant Professor at the ‎University of Massachusetts Amherst, and colleagues conducted a study in which they applied two common pesticides — the fungicide thiabendazole, which past research has shown can penetrate apple peels, and the insecticide phosmet — to organic Gala apples and then washed apples with three different liquids: tap water, a 1 percent baking soda/water solution, and a U.S.-EPA-approved commercial bleach solution often used on produce.

The baking soda solution proved the most effective at removing pesticides, eliminating 80 percent of the thiabendazole and 96 percent of the phosmet, respectively, after 12 and 15 minutes of the fruits being soaked. Plain tap water and the bleach solution were far less effective.

The different percentages are likely due to thiabendezole’s greater absorption into the apple. Mapping images showed that thiabendazole had penetrated up to 80 micrometers deep into the apples, while phosmet was detected at a depth of only 20 micrometers.

So, there you have it, if washing is your preferred method of removing pesticides off your fruits and vegetables, using a baking soda solution is the way to go. If all other options are to be considered, then peeling your produce is probably your best bet.

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