Better health through better eating: A vital role for companies
MONTREAL, Dec. 12, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - Although Quebecers recognize that they should eat healthier foods, most are unable to change their eating habits. Consequently, agri-food industry companies have a vital role to play in helping consumers improve their health. These are the two central findings to emerge from a Melior-led consultation among Quebecers and key players in health and nutrition on the first anniversary of the Melior program.
Healthcare stakeholders: well-entrenched habits are hard to change...
Eating habits are often associated with health problems. To better understand the perceptions of health professionals in this area, Ipsos Marketing organized a Melior discussion group among nurses, as well as six individual interviews with general practitioners. The main findings are as follows:
- Eating habits are increasingly on the radar of healthcare professionals
- These health professionals do not perceive themselves as THE solution
- Patients are the link between health and nutrition
- Changes in eating habits are difficult for most patients
- Nutrition labels are hard to understand
- Improving health with better quality foods requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders, including businesses
It is clear that while Quebecers recognize that they should eat better, they are unable to change their eating habits. Furthermore, most healthcare practitioners admit that they do not address preventive nutrition in depth due to a lack of time and because they believe the task is better suited to other stakeholders such as nutritionists. According to one doctor surveyed : "The industry has a role to play and must guide consumers toward making informed choices."
General public consult nutritional labels…mostly for calories
According to a survey conducted by Ipsos Marketing in October:
- 63 per cent of Quebecers read nutrition labels mainly to ascertain the amount of calories in a product
- Only 11 per cent of respondents consulted nutrition labels for sodium content first, even though reducing the daily intake of sodium by 6 grams decreases deaths related to cardiovascular disease1 by 18 per cent
Most respondents, however, are open to consuming products with sodium reduced and sugar reduced to minimize the negative impacts on their health. Quebecers, for example, would consume reduced-sodium chips (61%) and canned soup (61%) as well as reduced-sugar cereals (65%) cream and frozen yogurt (60%).
"This snapshot confirms that most people know what is needed to improve their health through better eating, but that changing behaviours is often difficult. It also illustrates how the role of the food industry in offering healthier products is vital to improving the health of Quebecers," explained Annick Van Campenhout, CEO of The Council for Food Progress Initiatives (CFPI), the organization that manages the Melior program. "Retailer shelf space offers little room for expansion. It's not just about adding new products; it's about making existing products better. Improving existing products promotes better eating without modifying consumer behaviours."
The Melior indicator: the progress of participating companies
After only a year in existence, five companies (Pacini, Commensal & Cie, IGA, Nutrifrance and Compass Group) have already joined the program. In France, by contrast, it took more than a year and a half before signing the first company.
To promote program thoroughness, Melior launched the Melior Indicator, a measurement tool that lets people follow the progress of companies involved in this new form of social responsibility by visiting www.programmemelior.com/entreprises/indicateur-melior/. Today, for example, the Indicator shows that Pacini has already met its commitment to offering whole wheat pasta.
"We are very proud to already have the involvement of five companies from all sectors of the industry. The companies we met with are open to the program and recognize that they have an important role to play. We anticipate more companies joining the program in the coming weeks," concluded Ms. Van Campenhout.
Companies that participate in the Melior program have made voluntary commitments to improve the nutritional value of their products.
The Melior program, from the Latin meliorare, meaning "to improve," is a Quebec initiative aiming to stimulate food progress and to help improve the food supply in Quebec. The Melior program is designed to help agri-food industry members create charters of voluntary commitments toward nutritional progress. Inspired by a similar model implemented in France, it is the first initiative of its kind in North America and is fully adapted to Quebec realities.
This initiative is made possible by the financial support of Québec en Forme.
1 World Action on Salt and Health (WASH)
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