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Progress in Preventing Childhood Obesity: How Do We Measure Up?
them, smaller companies are more likely to follow. It may also influence the house brands or “value” brands of leading food retailers so that they emulate the changes made to the brands of the more recognized companies. This process could lead to a chain of events that has the potential to substantially shift the product portfolios of food, beverage, and restaurant companies and influence how companies, food retailers, and trade associations conduct business. However, these changes need to be evaluated to assess the extent of the changes that companies have made, the impact of these changes on consumers’ response and dietary behaviors, as well as business impact.
The food retailer is an important stakeholder in childhood obesity prevention because it serves as the interface between manufacturers and consumers. Industry stakeholders and public health practitioners often overlook this untapped setting as a means of reaching young consumers with healthful products and health-promotion initiatives. Supermarkets, grocery stores, and other food retail outlets are venues for product selection, merchandising and product promotion, and consumer education. Opportunities exist to make the products selected in these settings more healthy. Such opportunities include identifying for children branded products that have healthier profiles; developing healthier private-label products for young consumers as well as the entire family; introducing portion-controlled, packaged foods and beverages; and increasing the convenience of purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables. A variety of in-store merchandising and promotion activities can bring healthier choices to the attention of consumers. These include shelf markers, package icons or logos, and special displays that can be used to flag healthier products for children, youth, and family meals. Cross-merchandising, premiums, product sampling, in-store promotional entertainment, and price promotions can also be used to highlight healthier options (Childs, 2006).
Expanding Consumer Demand for Healthful Products
A substantial barrier to this progressive shift in the food, beverage, and meal product landscape is the continuous need to build consumer demand for healthful products. The new products must have an appealing taste, look appealing, be convenient, and represent value to consumers compared with those of the products that they will replace. Although health is an important driver of the food industry, consumers are less willing to trade taste for health (Sloan, 2006). Taste is consistently identified as a key driver of consumption, followed by price, convenience, ease of preparation, and