Excerp from Stanfors Innovation Review:

The Power of Business to Change Food Culture for the Better

The key to getting people to adopt healthier eating habits may lie in leveraging the power of the private sector. 

By Nancy E. Roman Spring 2019

For full article see: https://ssir.org/articles/entry/the_power_of_business_to_change_food_culture_for_the_better?utm_source=Enews&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=SSIR_Now&utm_content=Title

The Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA)—a Washington, D.C.-based NGO that works to leverage the power of the private sector to improve food and increase physical activity—has helped food companies remove six trillion calories,2 not to mention tons of fat and sugar, from their products.

Our work with convenience stores illustrates the model. PHA partnered with the National Association of Convenience Stores and nine convenience store chains selling food at more than 2,000 locations. The partners agreed to increase the availability of fruits and vegetables, and to offer healthier prepared food items and snacks, and zero- and low-calorie beverages. PHA worked with the stores to identify foods that would meet daily nutritional requirements, audited and verified the inventory changes through a third party, and then celebrated the success of the retail chains at a national summit with hopes that other businesses would follow the model.

As we worked on this partnership, convenience stores complained that their suppliers weren’t offering enough healthy choices. So PHA moved further upstream, partnering with six distributors to help them identify and source a broader supply of healthier convenience foods, and increase their supply in low-income areas. About 75 percent of PHA-partner convenience stores operate in areas with poor food access, and they are influencing the culture of their shoppers. If bottled water rather than soda gets prime positioning, or if packaged almonds or walnuts replace—or even sit alongside—greasy pizza slices, people’s expectations gradually begin to shift.

Rebooting Fast Food

The next big sector to tackle in the effort to promote healthier eating is fast food. About half of the money Americans spend on food is spent eating out. Although the days of supersizing are over, major chains still offer calorie-laden meals, and new offerings tend to result in more calories, salt, and fat.

McDonald’s took a bold step in removing soda from the kids’ menu. Now, for the first time, more than 50 percent of Happy Meals sold come with healthier beverages. And soda consumption by children eating at McDonald’s has dropped 15 percent. That improvement merely scratches the surface of possibility for the industry: Restaurants nationwide could revamp kids’ menus, shrink the size of cups dispensing soda, reduce portion sizes, and develop lower calorie meals that taste good. 

At some point in our social evolution, we hope to live in a food culture dominated by delicious food that will help us live well and disease-free. Until then, business has an opportunity to lead—not follow—the consumer toward sustainable health.