On Sugar

Sugar Cubes

Your first hit of sugar is so powerful. It’s no wonder that Americans consume 13.8 billion gallons of soda per year. In childhood, soda builds up an emotional connection – it’s forbidden, but it’s also a treat. That emotional connection carries over into adulthood – even though you know the bad effects, you drink it anyway.

Soda was developed by scientists in a lab, concocting a sweet beverage that would hook consumers with no nutritional value. The formula is based off of the fact that sweetness is one of the main taste senses the human body originally developed to motivate eaters to seek out fresh fruits, with natural sugars, combined with other macronutrients.

When you walk through a supermarket today, aisles are filled to the brim with processed, packaged foods, filled with sugars. According to researchers like Robert Lustig and documentaries like Fed Up (in theaters May 9), added sugars are the leading culprits for the rise in both diabetes and obesity across America. The scientists in labs figured out a formula that kept people coming back for more, and the processed-foods industry figured out how to market sugar in an irresistible way.

Can we fight what we’re programmed to crave?

Keep an eye out for our next posts on protein, fiber, and satiety.

Startups are to Corporations, as Miles Davis is to Beyonce

Consider the following:

Beyonce has a recipe. She has a full, iterative plan every time she comes out with an album. She records, runs an ad campaign, develops and produces a tour with amazing choreography, then takes it international. Similarly, corporations take calculated risks and make decisions after considering all options.

In contrast, startups are more ad-hoc in their decision making. Things are less pragmatic and more emotional. Much like Miles Davis on his trumpet, it’s a stream-of-consciousness process that relies on intuition over data. It’s not about playing sold-out shows, it’s about nurturing an idea in the moment until it comes to fruition.

For startups, the story is being written in real time.

We’re Allergic to Gluten Free

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Every year, we see new eating trends: gluten free, paleo, Atkins, juicing, cleansing. People singing the virtues of cottage cheese or kale. These mixed messages (many put forth by biased interests) create macro shifts in eating habits. Eaters end up zig-zagging through their diets because they don’t have a solid foundation of eating or an understanding of how food affects the body.

Whatever’s topical, we’re allergic to, because it detracts from having a truly productive conversation about what healthy eating looks like.

San Franola Kale + Peanut Butter Smoothie

Happy St. Patty’s Day! Drink this kale + peanut butter smoothie from the archives for luck!

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Ingredients
1 cup California Raisin Granola
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup yogurt
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1/4 cup cacao powder
Handful of coarsely chopped kale
Splash of coconut milk

Instructions
Combine all ingredients in the blender and blend to desired consistency. As an alternative, top smoothie with San Franola Granola instead of blending in.

Make one large smoothie for yourself or two small smoothies to share with a friend!

Expo West Breakfast Recap

A huge thanks to all who woke up bright and early and made our Expo West breakfast a big success! Smári provided their delicious organic Icelandic yogurt, and Chameleon Cold-Brew killed it on the coffee front (Austinites, we’re jealous!!).

To kick things off, Lawrence Williams of the US Healthful Foods Council gave an excellent talk about the Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL) Certification program, which is quickly becoming the trusted, nationally recognized mark of excellence for food and foodservice operators committed to holistic nutrition and environmental stewardship. According to the most recent data, the average American adult buys a meal or snack from a restaurant 5.8 times a week, and more than 30 percent of children eat fast food on any given day. As such, it is vital to consider the salt and sugar content of prepared foods, or whether or not the vegetables used are fresh or frozen. By pioneering a public-private partnership between the food service industry and consumers, the REAL Certification gives eaters unprecedented access to information about the origin and preparation of their food.
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Not only does improved nutrition decrease obesity, diabetes, and cancer rates, it also leads to mental, physical, and emotional transformation. The Nutrition Babes, also known as Lauren Harris-Pincus and Kathy Siegel, are registered dietitians and nutrition consultants and followed Lawrence’s talk with a discussion about these changes that come from creating healthy habits. Weight loss and improved physical health is most often discussed in relation to good nutrition and health, but the mental and emotional effects of good nutrition are equally important. As such, Lauren & Kathy’s motto is, “Think healthy…not skinny.” Specifically, they talked about incorporating 30 grams of protein per meal to increase both satiety and focus throughout the day.

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With the rise in convenient, on-the-go meals and snacks, it’s critical to have a holistic understanding of what we’re putting in our bodies on a day-to-day basis. Lawrence, Lauren, and Kathy shed some light on these complicated and increasingly intertwined issues. Expo West is the perfect place to have these conversations, as it’s the epicenter of healthy food trends. It only makes sense to get the best minds in healthy food innovation together to talk about these changes. Smári yogurt and San Franola granola filled eaters with those 30 grams of protein, and Chameleon’s coffee fueled some great discussions! Thanks again to all speakers and attendees, and to the Marriott for hosting. We can’t wait for next year!

The opportunity lies with health and wellness brands

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The Obama administration has once again shown that they’re not afraid to make bold changes when it comes to food labeling. The recent proposed changes to the nutrition label represent a dramatic overhaul to a system that was established in the 1970s and no longer accurately reflects how much Americans are eating. For example, the standard serving size of a soda is listed as 8 oz, but bottles are regularly sold and consumed in 16-20 oz increments.

Though grocery industry groups have remained tactful in their initial statements on the proposal, there is no doubt they will fight tooth and nail over every detail of the proposal before it’s approved. And it’s no wonder – consumer food companies have been able to successfully sell products with these outdated guidelines for years.

This is an open challenge to health and wellness brands: Create a product that kills it on both nutrition and flavor. Represent a lifestyle so compelling, the alternatives pale in comparison. Build a brand recognizable around the world, with a story that stirs the hearts of consumers. The opportunity lies in the ability to craft a product and image so powerfully irresistible that consumers and “big food” will have to pay attention.

The message AND the medium are important in food packaging

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Visual cues play an instrumental role in forming a consumer’s opinion of a product. Value is communicated at all levels of a consumer’s experience with a product, from the way a package is designed to the fonts used to write product descriptions. Food brands use their aesthetic to capture the emotions they want to elicit from consumers. That’s presentation.

The First Lady’s proposed updates to nutrition labels wholly embraces the idea that design is about communicating value. New font sizes draw the eye to calorie counts. Creating an additional line to call out added sugars in foods gives the consumer more information about where the flavors in their food are coming from. And a two-column panel puts greater emphasis on Percent Daily Values. These changes make a clearer connection for consumers about what goes in to their food products, and how those ingredients impact their overall health.

The era of transparency has caught up to food labels

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We’re in the era of transparency. Consumers have access to a depth of story, an understanding of sourcing and distribution; a transparent look at the whole brand. Products and services are attainable. Brands are pioneering this by giving consumers bountiful access to their decision making process, their sourcing standards, their company thesis. People want access to more information instead of less.

There is an inherent decline in quality when people aren’t aware of the process. This is true in food, too. In the 100+ years the USDA has been making recommendations on diet, we’ve seen countless changes in what’s thought to be “good” nutrition. Early iterations of food guidelines simply highlighted nutrient adequacy, and didn’t make recommendations around calorie consumption. In the mean time, we’ve seen the rise of countless fad diets claiming to be the one stop shop for an eater’s nutritional needs.. There is so much noise, it’s hard to distinguish from what’s true and what’s marketing hype.

With Michelle Obama’s announcement of the proposed changes to nutrition labels, the era of transparency has finally come to the food label.

Updating serving sizes to reflect what people actually eat and calling out added sugars gives consumers more – and better – information about what they’re eating.

“This will be the new norm in providing consumers with information about the food we buy and eat.” – FLOTUS

Athlete Endorsements – Where are the Health & Wellness Brands?

Just days after the Seattle Seahawks put a beating on the Denver Broncos in the Superbowl, athletes descended on Sochi, Russia to fight for national pride and physical superiority in the Winter Olympics. We’re surrounded with examples of athletes in their peak physical shape.

How do these athletes achieve pick-six speed or mogul gracefulness of a feather?

Sponsorships and TV commercials lead viewers to believe it was a Big Mac and copious soda pop, or a late night pizza washed down with a bionic energy drink. Athletes themselves have us believing that they eat this junk on a regular basis too!

Placing blame on a consumer food company for trying to sell products or on athletes for taking an endorsement deal is misguided. It’s up to health and wellness brands to fill the gap.

This is an open challenge to health and wellness brands: Create a brand that gives athletes the opportunity to endorse healthy products. Have the ubiquity of an international presence and the cache to stir emotion. Represent a lifestyle so compelling that the alternatives are seen as compromises.