business news in context, analysis with attitude

We continue to get email on the whole subject of obesity and nutrition. MNB user Dave Tuchler wrote:

I agree that there is a significant difference between overweight and
unhealthy overweight

I also feel that contrary to today's PC culture, overweight folks are among the only remaining 'fair game' for jokes - - I remember reading a Newsweek editorial years ago by a heavy woman who, despite a dramatic commitment to intense running/exercise/diet to slim down, remained heavy (and considered herself 'the most in-shape fat person she knew'), but was still subject to snide comments from strangers about her weight, even though she was without doubt in better condition than most of them. For some people, you can't dramatically change what you're born with.

Having heard about 'ugly Americans', it was shocking (and disappointing) to visit Europe and to see that, apparently, Americans are on average heavier (but do not have a lock on 'obnoxious'). Am reading a book called "What's so great about America" (which could also be titled "why everyone hates us") which quotes an immigrant, who when asked why he would risk everything to move to America, said "I want to live in a country where even
the poor people are fat".

On the related subject of trans fat labeling, which we have been lobbying for here on the site, one MNB user from the manufacturer community wrote:

We are awaiting the final word as to date and format for including trans
fats in our product ingredients declarations. Often, when food producers complain about these regulation revisions, it is not because the companies are not consumer friendly. It's because these package changes cost a small fortune. In the day of private label, when most small food producers are packing a brand as well as private label, the label count can easily exceed 100---even for a small company. Do you know what it costs to re-do films for 100 labels? A lot. In addition, there is a huge back-up at food graphics houses because everyone needs their labels changed at the same time. And, finally, do you think any of these costs can be passed on? No, they're all absorbed.

The FDA will probably piece meal their changes as usual. They'll put out the trans fat regulations, and the food producers will collectively spend millions to change their labels. Then, the FDA will require the allergen information, and the food producers will again spend millions to change their labels. We can't combine these changes into one collective revision because we don't know what the formats will be until they're announced. We could probably reduce our national debt significantly if the FDA started a graphics side-line business.

Excellent points. We wouldn't argue that regulators ought to take a more holistic approach to the labeling issue.

Another MNB user wrote:

I've had a bugaboo about trans fats for years & shopped (& worked) at a natural foods grocery store where the incidence of trans fats in most foods was nominal. So last weekend I was at my regular, local grocer looking for graham crackers to make a pie crust. Of course, all the ready-mades had hydrogenated/fractionated fats. So then I went thru the cookie & cracker aisle to make my own. Of scores of products--I read each label--there was ONE box of ginger snaps imported from Finland that contained no hydrogenated fat. I know what to look for on labels to make a considered selection. I know that others don't, and probably would not spend the 20+ minutes that I spent, reading labels. In today's market, unless you 1) shop at a natural foods grocer, or 2) read each label thoroughly (which you should do at the health food store too), consumers are pretty much at the mercy of the manufacturers.

Another MNB user wrote:

Labeling on the trans-fats is a good start, but how about taking the next step. Change their food products, replacing TFA with healthful fats and labeling the fats that are GOOD for you? The mounting evidence that TFAs are unhealthy will force ingredient changes eventually (hopefully soon). So...take a problem and create a solution.

Companies converting products that contain trans-fatty acids to other forms of shelf-stable fats should closely examine the potential for using fats that are known to be supportive of the body, such as GLA, EPA and DHA (won't bore you with the scientific names.) These fats are found in many food sources (olive oil, nuts, seeds, and oils from grains) can and will be used as part of our future mainstream dietary offerings. Already, you have seen infant formulas and eggs developed with added DHA, which turns this into a much healthier food product.

DHA is great for the brain, can help reduce cognitive dysfunction in the elderly and helps pregnant mothers and infants immeasurably. Want a smart baby? The expecting mother can make it happen by eating foods high in this brain-friendly fat.

If manufacturers can see the glass half full, they can exploit the change and create an entirely new base of customers. They can label their foods in a positive manner, rather than admitting on the label that they put ingredients in the products that are unhealthful! Instead, make a BIG deal about how they changed their products, dumping the bad stuff, created new and healthy stuff and PROUDLY label that in an instructive manner.

"This food contains added DHA to support brain function" really shows a commitment to change,

"WARNING: this food contains trans-fatty acids, known to be dangerous..." only shows a commitment to CYA in court. Which foods would you rather buy?

Of course, all this discussion about trans fats and obesity leads to the next, inevitable subject…

I find it very telling that you feature a story on obesity litigation right before the story about the Krispy Kreme customer getting in line at "three in the morning" and Dunkin' Donuts trying to create easier access to their product.

Are consumers just receiving too many mixed messages or do they want to have their doughnut and eat it too?

Yes to both.

And MNB user Jerry Donahue chimes in:

Despite more stores and denser store-to-population ratio, Dunkin Donuts fails to provide the two things that have made Krispy Kreme legendary: a process for delivering a superior product, and, consistent good service.

Krispy Kreme donuts are fresher and taste better. Krispy Kreme personnel do not act like they are doing one a favor.

Another MNB user wrote:

As a self-proclaimed donut connoisseur, I have sat in the lines down the street in my car waiting for a hot Krispy Kreme, lived in Texas -it was summer - no one stood outside! I like that both donut chains are very different - I go to Krispy Kreme for the glazed original, but only as it rolls off the conveyor - I go to Dunkin Donuts because their donut holes, Munchkins, are the best around.

I happen to live in an area that seems to be donut sparse, I would welcome a Krispy Kreme AND a Dunkin Donut, but then again, with the proposed fat tax maybe I couldn't afford to support these two chains if they were local?! I have been known to drive 90 miles on a Saturday morning just to have Krispy Kreme donuts and return home. I am an example of why Krispy Kreme doesn't advertise, I do it for them! When I visit family and friends - I look for both Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts - and plan "eating" occasions around them! Both chains need to realize there are many of us that like them both equally - yet for different reasons, but then again, I am speaking for those of us who are there for the donuts - not the coffee.

And you folks think the Content Guy is obsessive…
KC's View: