Last month, the food and beverage industry got something new to chew on: the revamped version of Canada’s food guide. Since 1942, Canada’s food guide has endeavored to help Canadians follow a healthy diet. It translates dietary analyses, national nutrition goals, consumption data and food supply and production issues into practical recommendations for healthy eating habits. Beyond providing guidance to health practitioners and consumers, it also shapes the Canadian food environment by forming the basis of federal food and nutrition policies.
As the first update in over a decade, the new food guide recommends some big shifts for Canadians—shifts that will require food and beverage companies to change their approach to consumer engagement. Brands will need to pivot their product development, marketing, and communications strategies to demonstrate leadership and credibility in line with the latest guidance.
Let’s take a look at some of the main recommendations and their implications for food and beverage companies.
Holistic healthy eating focus
Instead of offering a specific diet prescription, the food guide focuses on broad principles for healthy eating. Guidance is provided not only on what to eat (vegetables, fruits, protein, etc.), but also on how to eat. Canadians are asked to consider habits like mindful eating, cooking, and eating with others, which matter just as much as food choices.
Business implication: Go beyond product
Offering new and reformulated products aligned with dietary guidelines is critical for supporting a healthy food environment. However, there is also a need to empower consumers with skills that support healthy eating such as cooking, understanding portion sizes and mindfulness. Programs and communications that support this skill development can be beneficial and demonstrate leadership.
Food marketing under fire
The food guide cautions consumers to be wary of food marketing, especially marketing directed at children, as research shows it can influence food preferences and purchasing behaviors.
Business implication: Market responsibly
The World Health Organization and many countries around the world, including Canada, are pursuing restrictions on marketing and advertising to children to shift consumption habits and improve public health. Companies must begin exploring ways to strengthen responsible marketing practices to align with these actions. Ensuring that brand messaging and promotions support healthy eating practices, as outlined in dietary guidance, is critical.
Sustainability in view
While health is the primary focus of Canada’s food guide, there is also a nod to the environmental impact of food choices and food production. Food waste is referenced as a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, with calls to reduce waste throughout the food supply chain and ensure a long-term, abundant food supply.
Business implication: The whole supply chain matters
Increasingly, the global nutrition and health dialogue is expanding to consider the whole food system. Just this year, experts under the EAT-Lancet Commission examined the environmental impacts of various foods and made recommendations on how to build a healthy, sustainable diet to safeguard the planet and promote human health. Public health and consumer advocates are thus beginning to look beyond the end food/beverage, pushing for change throughout the supply chain. With heightened interest in sustainable practices, manufacturers should evaluate their ingredients, resources, and production methods and identify ways to deliver good nutrition with minimal environmental impact to earn public trust.
Disclaimer: The above summary of food guide changes is paraphrased from Canada’s food guide and does not represent the opinion or beliefs of FoodMinds.
This article was initially published by FoodMinds, a division of our sister company Padilla on the Food Thoughts blog.