Americans recognize new food pyramid, but not its improvements

CAMBRIDGE, MA: Within a week of its unveiling, many Americans already recognize the new food pyramid, but most do not believe it improves over the icon's original design.

CAMBRIDGE, MA: Within a week of its unveiling, many Americans already recognize the new food pyramid, but most do not believe it improves over the icon's original design.

Those are the findings of food industry researcher Opinion Dynamics Corporation, which polled 1,000 adults the week after the Food Pyramid's launch to track consumer attitudes toward the changes.

The independent poll found that 40% of respondents were familiar with the new graphic, but awareness was significantly lower among minorities, individuals earning less than $75,000, and young people under age 30.

Of respondents who were aware of the changes, 28% said they are more useful, 14% said less useful, and 46% said equally useful.

VP Larry Shiman called the findings "pretty impressive" considering the high level of detail conveyed by the graphic.

"There are a lot of ways [the Pyramid] is complex," he said, adding that the new interactive content "doesn't fit very easily on the back of the milk carton."

It's a familiar paradox for the Department of Agriculture (USDA); the old pyramid already showed that just because Americans are aware of something, it doesn't mean they are likely to heed its instruction.

Jean Daniel, a spokesperson for the USDA, called the findings "a place to start."

"These are not things that are going to happen overnight," she said. "There's a lot of information there, and it's going to take some time [for individuals] to incorporate nutrition and physical activity" messages into their lifestyles.

She noted that the USDA, which works with Porter Novelli, is communicating about the new icon through partnerships as well as its nutrition assistance programs.

Shiman noted that the USDA must reach people where they get their information; for young people, for instance, it might be through TV or the internet.

Opinion Dynamics conducts research for industry groups such as the Produce Marketing Association and the American Beverage Association.

But Shiman noted that the firm did not receive outside funding for the survey.

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