A food manufacturer's perspective on balancing nutrition, taste and consumer preferences
By Trish Zecca, Program Manager, Global Nutrition & Health, Campbell Soup Company
For me and many others, the words “Campbell’s Soup” have always meant cold winter evenings…a warm bowl of soup and feelings of home, comfort, and contentment…as well as the catchy "Mmm Mmm Good" jingle.
Today, after having worked for Campbell Soup for the last three years I still feel all that and more.
For more than 100 years Campbell’s has strived to Nourish People’s Lives Everywhere, Everyday. This is not just a sentiment but a way of doing business that is embodied in the people who work here and the food we make. As a nutritionist and mother of three, I am proud of the work we are doing to offer nutritious, delicious, and affordable food products that can be enjoyed as part of a balanced, healthy diet.
But “eating healthy” means different things to different people. Some of us focus on eating more vegetables or whole grains or lowering the fat in our diet, while others are looking to lose weight by choosing foods lower in calories.
As a food manufacture this means satisfying increasingly diverse consumer needs around health and wellness while also delivering on taste, convenience and affordability. As a nutritionist this means I have the opportunity to positively influence the foods millions of people eat every day!
With over a century of lessons and successes behind us we know that progress comes from listening to our consumers, understanding their needs and adapting our products to meet those needs. As part of this process we benchmark our product portfolio against the Dietary Guidelines recommendations to ensure we are offering products that address the gaps in the American diet.
In addition we track US retail sales of “healthy” products, as defined by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) as well as those products that deliver against the Dietary Guidelines foods and nutrients to encourage. We also measure sales of products where we have improved the nutrition profile by reducing sodium, trans or saturated fat, or have limited calories or sugar.
Measuring Success: Taste is King
The growth in sales of our nutritionally advantaged products is impressive. In FY 2011, US gross retail sales of healthy products exceeded $2.3 billion, up 30 percent from 2009.
While the data shows that consumers are interested in eating healthier, it is important to note that TASTE remains king. If food doesn’t taste good, people won’t eat it – plain and simple - and we have had some hits and misses along the way.
Another metric we track is sales data of products that deliver foods and nutrients, such as vegetable and fruit servings, whole grains, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, that according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are under-consumed in the U.S. diet.
Since 2009, U.S. sales of these products have increased by more than $170 million, a telling indicator of our consumers' preferences and how we are adapting to the marketplace.
Nutrition: A Constantly Moving Target
Despite our clear progress, consumer interest in foods with specific nutritional benefits remains a constantly moving target.
Since Campbell Soup sells products in over 100 different countries, our responsibility toward an increasingly diverse consumer base grows multifold. We are committed to understanding region-specific dietary recommendations and taste preferences and provide a variety of products to meet taste and nutritional attributes expected by our global consumers.
[Previously: Nourishing Our Neighbors: Audacious CSR Goals Demand Revolutionary Ideas]
For example, in Canada my product development and nutrition colleagues are working on sodium reduction across the soup portfolio and expanding our selection of products that meet the criteria for the country's Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check™ program. In Australia, the team has responded to our consumers’ demand and is working on reducing the level of saturated fat across the entire Arnott’s Shapes range.
Educating – and Learning With – Our Consumers
After spending nearly 20 years of my career in public health I recognize the importance of educating consumers about nutrition and food safety. And I'm honored to work for a company that has made this a commitment. We understand that good nutrition is achieved through a total diet approach and that all foods in moderation can be enjoyed as part of an overall healthy diet. Therefore we work hard to inform and educate our consumers about healthy eating and how our foods fit.
Our Campbell Wellness website, for example, offers access to science-based content, tips from our nutrition experts, and downloadable resources like healthy eating plans and a food diary, all designed to keep you on target with your dietary goals. We have also made the content interactive so you can share the information you find useful across social media platforms as well as through our monthly Wellness Newsletter.
Our destination goal is an ambitious one: To “Continually advance the nutrition and wellness profile of our product portfolio.” We recognize that we still have work to do.
As we celebrate our successes – stay tuned for our 2011 CSR Report – we know that with increasingly complex social and environmental crises facing our planet, our future efforts must focus on offering consumers additional choices of nutritious, delicious, and exciting foods that also meet expectations of convenience and affordability while minimizing our global footprint.
This is a journey that we are committed to.
About Trish Zecca
Trish received her bachelor and master’s degrees in nutrition science from the Pennsylvania State University. She has more than 18 years of experience in various areas of nutrition, including public health program regulation, nutrition education, training, and communications. At Campbell, Trish is the lead nutritionist for Health and Wellness Communications through campbellwellness.com and at health professional conferences where she promotes the benefits of Campbell’s products across the portfolio. She supports nutrition initiatives, new product development for Campbell’s soup and simple meals portfolio, and is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Society for Nutrition.