Farm Food Facts

Trends in Consumer Nutrition with Kara Behlke

March 10, 2020 Episode 67
Farm Food Facts
Trends in Consumer Nutrition with Kara Behlke
Chapters
Farm Food Facts
Trends in Consumer Nutrition with Kara Behlke
Mar 10, 2020 Episode 67
USFRA

It's March and that means it's National Nutrition Month. So we're going to talk about trends in consumer nutrition with a real expert, Kara Behlke RD, who's the director of health and wellness strategy at Schnucks markets. She started with Schnucks in 2012 and created an in-store nutrition program in just one store as a test, partnering with stores and buyers to source healthier products. She also started a celiac support group, to engage customers in new ways through in-store nutrition events and worked on company-wide nutrition marketing programs.

Show Notes Transcript

It's March and that means it's National Nutrition Month. So we're going to talk about trends in consumer nutrition with a real expert, Kara Behlke RD, who's the director of health and wellness strategy at Schnucks markets. She started with Schnucks in 2012 and created an in-store nutrition program in just one store as a test, partnering with stores and buyers to source healthier products. She also started a celiac support group, to engage customers in new ways through in-store nutrition events and worked on company-wide nutrition marketing programs.

Phil:
0:01
Farm Food Facts where every farmer, every acre and every voice matter. Welcome to Farm Food Facts for March 11th, 2020 I'm your host, Phil Lempert. Hey, guess what? It's March and that means it's national nutrition month. So we're going to talk about trends in consumer nutrition with a real expert Kara Behlke RD, who's the director of health and wellness strategy at Schnucks markets. She started with Schnucks in 2012 and created an in-store nutrition program in just one store as a test, partnering with stores and buyers to source healthier products. She also started a celiac support group, so to engage customers in new ways through in-store nutrition events and worked on company-wide nutrition marketing programs. Kara, welcome to Farm Food Facts.
Kara:
0:54
Thanks Phil for having me.
Phil:
0:56
So let's talk about what's coming as it relates to health than wellness in 2020 what are you looking at right now? What are the trends that are going to help Schnucks customers as well as Schnucks employees?
Kara:
1:09
Well, our company, it's always been our mission to nourish people's lives and it's been that way since the very beginning. But as we continue to watch consumers, behaviors change and preferences evolve, um, we've really committed to health and wellness in a big and new way. So we are, yeah, again, renewing our support and making a key business pillar. I'm focused on health and wellness and again, trying to promote healthier choices for our customers and we're doing that in many ways across the store, outside of the store, um, to help consumers personalize their health and wellness goals.
Phil:
1:44
What do you think the biggest challenges for your shoppers?
Kara:
1:48
Yeah, I think for shoppers, I mean there's quite a few. It's, you know, we hear a lot in our consumer research, it's always going to be time and budget. So those always come to the top of the list. I also think, um, you know, there's so much information out there and every product on the shelf is claiming something different and, and all of them think they're unique and special and so that sometimes can create conflicting information so that consumers are confused and again, they're bombarded with messages across the store. So it's just, there's so much information that it's hard to sift through it all. And do they have the time to do it. So again, there's lots of reasons, but yeah, they continue to tell us that, you know, health and wellness is important to them.
Phil:
2:31
I want to go into some of the trends that we're seeing now and get your take as a registered dietician, whether or not it's a fad or a trend or something we should be paying attention to and certainly our audience of farmers want to know what consumers are looking for so that they can grow the right foods for consumers. So you know where I'm going to start is probably a strange one, but I hear a lot of buzz about intermittent fasting. Is this something that is healthy? Is it something that people should be doing?
Kara:
3:06
Yes, I hear a lot about this one as well. And in my current role, I'm at the corporate level, so I oversee all consumer campaigns at the higher level. So I used to be out in stores where I had the pulse of what consumers were asking. And so now I don't have the consumers. I mean we still interact with consumers on focus groups and panels, but I think it's pretty interesting because I have people just stopping by my office. And this is one of the more common questions I get is about intermittent fasting and a lot of testimonies about it. And what I always tell people, you know, usually they come in my office and it's a loaded question and Carol, what are your thoughts on intermitting fasting or Kara, is this good for me? And instead of just, you know, firing away with my thoughts and opinions, I think it's the same for any type of eating habits that someone wants to pursue.
Kara:
3:57
It's just, you know, I don't know until I know you better. So that's where I have to dive in and ask them questions with fasting. Essentially what the, I guess the American dietetic association recommends is, you know, breakfast, lunch and dinner and then you know, snacks in between to meet your caloric needs. So essentially with this fasting, the most popular method is a 16 hour fast where you might stop eating or you might eat between the hours of one to 9:00 PM and then you fast for 16 hours in between. So you're just restricting your intake. So while you know, I'm always encouraging people for well balanced meals throughout the day. I had a unique case where someone came in and he asked me. And so again, I have to get to know them, understand their needs to understand, you know, if it's something that might be right for them.
Kara:
4:48
So for him, his biggest thing was at breakfast and he said that, you know, Oh I think this will really help me. You know, I just want to lose. I'm in good shape, but I'll, you know, I'm having problems with my eating, I want to lose a little bit of weight. And so at breakfast he sits down, he has cereal, but he said he can't stop with just one bowl of cereal. He continues to eat. And so he ended up eating three bowls of cereal. And so I said, well, why can't you just eat one bowl? And he's like, because if it's in front of me, I'm going to, and so while I wouldn't necessarily recommend yes, go for intermittent fasting, what I said is you have to think about the core root of your behavior. Why is it that you're doing that and you can't stop eating?
Kara:
5:24
There's some unmet need. And so maybe if he really committed to doing something like this fasting, maybe it would break his habit where I don't think it's something he could sustain longterm. Because again, our lives aren't created for that. We have refrigerators, we have grocery stores, you know, that can deliver. We have food everywhere. So to think that you could do intermittent fasting without, you know, unless it's part of your religious beliefs, it's probably not sustainable for him, but at least it might make him more mindful of his behaviors and might encourage him to make a change. So again, I left it in his hands to kind of decide, but educated him on, you know, the benefits of eating three meals and getting the proper nutrition and keeping your brain fueled with, you know, glucose and all of all of the science, but then allowed him to kind of, um, sit on it, ruminate and decide what's best for him.
Phil:
6:12
Let's move to another hot trend. CBD and hemp.
Kara:
6:16
Oh yes.
Phil:
6:17
What do you, what do you think about these kinds of products and are there any, you know, when I'm talking to farmers in particular, a lot of them are now switching some of their land to grow hemp. It's a very sustainable crop. It's a very profitable crop. Is this going to be something that's going to continue to grow?
Kara:
6:38
Yes, it is. And can we all say that the CBD regulatory landscape is complex and quite ambiguous. And I would also say like rapidly changing. I think you would agree with me, wouldn't you feel?
Phil:
6:49
Absolutely.
Kara:
6:50
Yeah. So it's definitely something that we continue to talk about internally and is at every conference and it just continues to grow. And you know, as you've seen too, when we go to these product expos, same CBD over the past two years, how much does it has exploded? And I anticipate this year it will be in everything cause it's in bars and supplements and edibles and beverages, pet food. So we just continue to see it grow and there is significant consumer demand for this. And I think some of the States where marijuana is legalized, where you see, you know, I had a recent trip to Colorado and you could find it, you know, you go in a local coffee shop and you can find CBD, you know, in the coffee and the scones and everything. So I think it's going to continue to grow. And it's one of those trends where even people that aren't like the core of health and wellness, they still have heard of it because it's just such a buzz.
Kara:
7:44
It's something to talk about. So yes, there is consumer demand is going to continue to grow. But I think right now the FDA knows there's a significant public interest because you know, people are telling them that, but they have many unanswered questions about the science and safety. So obviously, you know, they're working through all of that and that's kind of, you know, slowed, slowed it down from hitting retailers shelves. But I think once you know, there's some more guidance and clarity from FDA, we'll only see it continue to grow. And I think according to Nielsen, the, the latest results I saw, um, the U S hemp based CBD and is expected to reach 6 billion by 2025 so it's going to be big. And like you said, the, the dollars that can be created off of, you know, a few acres of land compared to traditional crops is pretty big. And something that, you know, I know farmers are interested in, but yeah,
Phil:
8:40
now probably the, the opposite end of the spectrum are what we're seeing that I'm going to call mocktails. So we're seeing a lot more beverages coming out that are replacements for alcohol or low alcohol. So how do we balance that in our diets? Do you think that's going to be a trend that's going to continue?
Kara:
9:01
Yeah, I do. And I would say five years ago I made, made a trip for work to the U K and there was um, it was around the end of the year, beginning of the new year and they have their dry January was a big thing there. And I remember at the time it was interesting and it hadn't really caught on as big in the U S I mean we continue to see if we look at um, center store growth of sparkling water, that category continues to grow as people, you know, replace soda. But I think also in some cases they might be replacing alcohol, but that whole sparkling water trend where, you know, it's competing with soda, it's competing with bottled water in ways that we never thought possible, but it just continues to, to grow. And then we saw the emergence of the hard seltzers into this category. And I think you have a younger generation of millennials where they're looking for a low in sugar, low calories, and actually less bloating.
Kara:
9:54
So these are the introduction that we saw of these hard seltzers. So there's so many interesting things going on related to, you know, the alcohol consumption and what's trending there. And we also see things like kombucha. So it's a functional beverage that you might find in produce. It's a fermented tea beverage. It's a carbonated bubbly, has a bit of a vinegary taste to it, not continues to grow as well. And it has probiotics, which are good for digestion, but they also have hard copy witches that we see, you know, resonating with the younger generations as well. And I know working with some local suppliers of kombucha, you know, their goal is not to be introduced, their goal is to be on tap at bars where they are the preferred beverage, you know, competing with fear. So I think it's interesting to see the emergence of different things and seeing the, you know, dry January and the silver spring continue to grow because it looks like we have a generation who is looking for those types of beverages.
Phil:
10:52
Let's talk about generations for a second. Do you think a lot of the millennials who are certainly very into food are leading some of these trends or, or are we seeing it across all generations?
Kara:
11:05
Yeah, I think we see, they definitely are more interested even for sure of millennials and even younger definitely have that interest and I think they're just used to it. So if they're used to having all of these options of foods that you know are organic and natural and free from high fructose corn syrup, I think if that's the standard, you're going to continue to push for more. And I think there are a lot more value based where, you know, they're wanting foods that you know, resonate with, like who they are as a person, who they identify with and we see the emergence of food tribes and different things. So I think they're more passionate about it. I think older generations, if it's the boomers or gen X, they're still interested, but it's more about managing chronic disease and quality of life where you know, they want to feel. But I think the younger generations it's more like this is who I am and this is how I want to express my values to the world and it's my way of fitting in. So it's, it's definitely more, I would say emotional driven for the younger and again for the boomers, a little more rational. Again, those were some gross generalizations, but just kind of what I see among our consumers,
Phil:
12:16
let's talk about plant-based. Plant-based is hot at all the shows, whether it's expo West, whether it's fancy food show, you can't walk five feet without seeing something that's plant-based, whether it's a burger, whether it's a snack food, whether it's chips, a lot of controversy is out there about some of these plant-based products that you know might be GMO or they might have a long list of ingredients to that. What's your take on plant-based?
Kara:
12:44
Yeah, and I agree all of with what you said is that, you know, there is some controversy and I think you have some pretty big people like burger King who turned it into a really clever marketing campaign so it got a lot of attention. So I think there's different companies that are doing it as a very clever, you know, marketing tactic. But I think what it has done is we have, you know, we're seeing more and more flexitarians where they're just wanting to eat less meat. So vegetarian and vegan, I mean there's still, I think vegetarian is growing among our specific consumer base, but they're still relatively small numbers compared to the majority of our customers. But we definitely see flexitarian as a growing trend. And so they're just looking to eat less meat and they still eat meat. So these products are really tailored to them.
Kara:
13:36
And I know we have grown our, our plant based meat options, something that our category managers, you know, probably didn't think was possible or they'd ever see. But we continue to grow that and there's more and more suppliers that come with these products. But the hard part in doing that is, you know, we want to support that those people that are looking for those meatless options to sport their flexitarian lifestyle as a retailer, we want to provide that. But the tricky part is some people are using that to kind of have a health halo where they're promoting it in a way that might necessarily be the most truthful. Because you know, by saying this is healthier than you know, than something else. And what she said in the beginning, Phil isn't always the case because again, how are we defining healthy? So again, we're trying to offer a wide variety to meet that need.
Kara:
14:27
But it's been really interesting just to see, you know, the number of food outlets that continue to jump on this plant based trend. And even with Starbucks, with their, I think in the new year when they kicked off, they have their own milk locking that they, they are really pushing. So you see, I mean with the oatmeal category, it's been continuing to grow. But now with Starbucks getting on that trend, it's just been huge to see. And I think, you know Oatley who is the provider of of their oat milks is seeing that growth. So it's been, it's been good for them and are you know, plant based milks, that category that continues to grow. But I think then that's where the confusion is because you think about the produce department, well they are the original plant based products, right? Fruits and vegetables and we have nuts and whole grains.
Kara:
15:16
Like these all come from a plant. So the produce for better health foundation has really done some creative work and really trying to, you know, remind consumers of the original plants and the nutrition benefits of it. But it gets confusing for consumers because you have, you know, your fruits and vegetables and your whole grains and your nuts. But then you have these plant based milk alternatives and then you have plant based meat products and it gets confusing for them on where the line is and isn't. And so we have a lot to figure out and how we message that. But we've, we've ran a few programs and just trying to stay relevant for consumers.
Phil:
15:53
Let's talk about sugar. Sugar has come under a lot of lot of scrutiny. We're starting to see a lot more alternatives to sugar like jackfruit and some of the other products we're, we're moving away from artificial sugars or artificial sweeteners. What's your take on what I'll call the new sugar-free trend
Kara:
16:15
at Schnucks we continue to see people looking to reduce, you know, sugar. I would say that among reducing sugar and increasing protein are probably two of the biggest things that I hear about. And I think with the updating of the nutrition facts panel, it's made people made it easier for people to start being able to tell like is this added sugar or is it naturally occurring? But I think the big wake up for people is they didn't realize how many places sugar was hidden. And in fact, just last week I was talking to a colleague about this and she's trying to eat better the new year. And you know, started reading the nutrition panels and just couldn't believe how many products had sugar. And she really has to start scrutinizing. And just because like you said, they want lower sugar doesn't mean they want an artificial sweetener. So we haven't, you know, we've seen a rise. I think as we look at Nielsen trends, Stevia continues to be a claim that grows and is seen as natural sweetener. We continue to see that grow. But yeah, I think people are just looking to cut back because they don't necessarily want it in their bread or you know, want all the extra sugar in their yogurt or in their cereal and they're just now more aware.
Phil:
17:28
Kara, if you could do one thing in 2020 for the, for the Schnooks shoppers and the Schnooks employees to really promote health and wellness, what would that be?
Kara:
17:40
The one thing that I'm pretty passionate about and I think that needs to be, you know, we need to do something about it, is just around personalization and using technology to help people personalize their health and wellness. I think there's been, you know, many great strides and many retailers who've led the way regarding health and wellness in the past. But now that we have technology and we have access to so much information and so many different platforms and having a way where we can tie all of that together. I mean that's, that's the complicated part because if we think you know about everyone listening to this podcast and the different parts of the supply chain that they come from, there's information about this food all along the way. So I think about my brothers in Nebraska when they are growing the product, you know, on the land there's lots of information technology that they're using and make sure, you know, the crops are growing properly from all the way to, you know, shipping in the Packers and then by the time it's made into something to the retailer, your home for consumption.
Kara:
18:41
All along the way, there's information about this product. And so for me, what I'm looking at doing is personalizing health so you can, you know, help find the information that's most relevant for you. It's difficult. Like I said in the beginning, there's so many messages, there's so much information and you're just constantly bombarded with that. Well what if that's not important? Like what if, you know gluten free or organic or non-GMO aren't important to you, you know, you're gonna ignore those messages. So I want to be able to know what's important to you, fail and then be able to tailor my message to you to say, Hey, check out. You know, if you're a vegetarian and you're wanting to know like how can she looks better serve my vegetarian diet, I want to be able to give you an ad or recipes that swap out meat for vegetarian or if you're a gluten free, be able to, again, customize ads, customized communication, newsletters, all of this to help you find products within Schnucks. Cause right now it's more of a mass media blanket approach where we tell you all the great things we have. But I'd love to be able to help personalize. And I just think it allows, you know, customers will appreciate it because it seems like you better understand them and you can help them better navigate the grocery store.
Phil:
19:56
And the one thing that you'd like to share with farmers and ranchers, what they should be doing.
Kara:
20:01
Well I want to share that. I appreciate, you know, all that they do to help feed the world. And I know, again, having grown up on a farm and ranch in Southwest Nebraska, I appreciate all the hard work and effort that goes into what they do and the appreciation and the pride they have in their craft is truly remarkable. They're very good people. And I would say what they, you know, as far as what I think they need to know as we look to the future, and I think about, you know, personalization and health and wellness and big topics that you talk about a lot on your podcast around sustainability and traceability and all of these things. I think it's really going to take a collaborative approach. So I just think about how big and complex our food system is and coming together to be able to, you know, provide information to our customers is important without, you know, retailers and CPGs going off, doing their own thing and, and adding additional costs into our supply chain. So I hope it's something that they continue to think about that consumers do want this information, they do care about health and wellness, but we need to do something together as an industry so that again, we can keep the affordable food and the variety and choice that we still love.
Phil:
21:18
Kara, thanks so much for joining us today on farm food facts.
Kara:
21:21
Thanks them.
Phil:
21:23
For more information on all things, food and agriculture, and to listen to our archives, please visit food dialogues.com under the programs and media tab and visit us on Facebook at us farmers and ranchers or on Twitter at USFRA. Until next time.
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