Media plays oversize role shaping consumers' diets

Health and wellness specialty firm Pollock Communications has partnered with Today's Dietitian for the third consecutive year to survey 500 registered dietitians and predict 2014's hottest diet trends.

NEW YORK: Health and wellness specialty firm Pollock Communications has partnered with Today's Dietitian for the third consecutive year to survey 500 registered dietitians and predict 2014's hottest diet trends.

Louise Pollock, founder and president of the eponymous firm, said the survey can help its clients because they can use the information to keep pace with what consumers want to better market their products.

“I think that most food companies are really looking at ways they can be responsible promoting food and lifestyle activities, seeing how they sit into a whole diet,” said Pollock. “The survey is a deeper dive into the trends that we can share with our clients.”

Pollock said some of the findings include consumers wanting more nutritional information, despite the national obesity rate continuing to climb. While some trends begin because of a scientific finding, they continue because they are popular in the media, Pollock said. Consumers see celebrities touting the effects of a certain food or hear it mentioned on TV or in the movies, and that increases its popularity, as was the case with chia seeds.

According to the study, 44% of dietitians say more consumers are now content with an unhealthy weight. More than two-thirds (67%) also said that nutritional information is based on personal beliefs and half-truths rather than research. Three-quarters (75%) say consumers will be faced with a preponderance of misinformation this year.

While Americans are seemingly “always on a diet,” as Pollock put it, the survey indicates that many people respond more to marketing than science. For instance, 34% of dietitians surveyed said consumers compare themselves to TV personalities, health-focused shows, bloggers, and other websites.

“When it comes to food and nutrition, registered dietitians are the go-to resource for consumers, brands, and the media, so it's important to listen to their predictions,” said Pollock.

Consumers will continue to show an interest in wheat-deprived food plans such as the Paleo, gluten-free, or “wheat-belly” diets, according to the survey. Nearly one in three (32%) of dietitians predicted consumer affinity for ancient grains, while 27% cite kale as a trendy food in 2014. In terms of ingredients, 37% of dieticians said coconut oil is trending, according to the study.

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