By: Carrie Dooher, Director of Trends and Consumer Insights Date: 12/28/10
2010 was a busy year for food with big stories and changes affecting both food safety and health and nutrition. We saw increased attention to food stories ranging from recalls to the obesity epidemic and associated health concerns, calls for reduction in nutrients such as sodium, and increased regulations and requirements on all the stages of food from manufacturing to labeling to retail.
2011 looks to be as busy, if not more, when it comes to food and food issues. The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act,food safety legislation, the expected release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and voluntary initiatives such as labeling and reformulations will all drive heightened awareness and media coverage on all stages of our food and food production system.
Looking forward into the new year, top of mind issues will include:
• Food Safety: In the final hours of the lame duck session of 2010, the House moved forward the long-awaited Food Safety Legislation, which is considered to be the most extensive reform to food safety requirements in the US in over 50 years (some argue over 70 years). This legislation will bring about a slew of new regulations, requirements, and guidance documents. This legislation will also bring about increased attention and coverage of whether or not the new requirements are achieving the goals of the changes, have maintained status quo, or alternatively, are failing to address the food safety concerns both domestically and abroad (i.e., import concerns). Media will continue to cover stories about contamination and the human toll contaminated food has, as well as chemicals in our food and regulation of our food processing systems.
• Label Changes: With upcoming changes to dietary guidance, and anticipated changes to both the front of food packaging and perhaps even the back of packaging (e.g., nutrition facts panel), even more attention will be given to potential and actual food label changes. Overall labeling and guidance will change in 2011, but there will also be changes to individual nutrient levels (i.e., sodium) due to the current dietary guidance, population demographics, and increasing demands from consumer advocates for “nutritious” products (keeping in mind, nutritious is defined differently by different subpopulations).
• Sustainability: Although sustainability has been around for many years, in 2011, sustainability will rise to be a leader in issues affecting food, health and nutrition, and food safety. Sustainability has multiple meanings, ranging from sustainable packaging to locally sourced ingredients to using the full value and function of ingredients and products. We’ll see this trend manifest in micro-trends such as foraging, a recent culinary trend to use ingredients found in the woods and land that are traditionally not utilized. Sustainability will also be covered through stories discussing food processing and packaging, as more and more companies will seek to explain and publicize where their ingredients come from and how their products are made. Efforts will continue to “tread lightly” on our natural resources, and replenish diminishing resources.
• Instant gratification and personalization: With additional information about food in both traditional and social media, and consumers’ increasing comfort levels with technology, consumers and the public will not only expect instant information on nutrition and food safety stories, but they’ll also seek out ways to individualize health, nutrition, and food safety messages. Mobile devices and applications will continue to make health, nutrition, and food safety information easy to access and use, both through speedy delivery and through user-friendly descriptions. As more and more messages about food become public, individuals will see out mechanisms and methods to sort through the “noise” to identify which messages are relevant to them, and how those messages can be personalized to their busy lives and lifestyles.
What are the issues you’re watching in 2011?