Produce for Better Health Foundation: A Lot to Celebrate

Produce for Better Health‭ (‬PBH‭) ‬has several milestones to celebrate‭. ‬Last year was our 25th‭ ‬corporate anniversary and this month we celebrate the 10th‭ ‬anniversary of the‭ ‬Fruits‭ ‬&‭ ‬Veggies‭ ‬‮—‬‭ ‬More Matters‭ ‬health initiative‭.‬

A great deal has been accomplished since the 2007‭ ‬launch of the‭ ‬Fruits‭ ‬&‭ ‬Veggies‭ ‬‮—‬‭ ‬More Matters‭ ‬campaign‭. ‬The campaign replaced the 5-A-Day program‭. ‬Since the launch of‭ ‬Fruits‭ ‬&‭ ‬Veggies‮—‬More Matters‭, ‬we’ve seen annual increases in media and social media impressions‭, ‬website traffic and industry support‭. ‬The 2016‭ ‬year ended with nearly 50‭ ‬billion media impressions‭, ‬16-fold higher annual impressions than just five years ago‭. ‬Ten years ago we weren’t even talking about social media‭, ‬and today we have nearly 1‭ ‬million Facebook likes‭, ‬59,000‭ ‬Twitter followers and a strong presence on Pinterest and Instagram‭ (‬12,000‭ ‬likes and 14,000‭ ‬followers‭, ‬respectively‭). ‬Visits to the‭ ‬consumer website averaged 364,000‭ ‬each month last year‭, ‬eight-fold higher than in 2007‭.

One key strategy that we have used for the past 25‭ ‬years is to leverage industry and public health resources to help carry messaging to consumers‭. ‬For the industry‭, ‬this includes‭ ‬Fruits‭ ‬&‭ ‬Veggies‮—‬More Matters‭ ‬messaging on packaging and/or in marketing‭. ‬For health professionals‭, ‬this includes helping them answer questions about tough topics like pesticide residues‭. ‬The 83‭ ‬Fruits‭ ‬&‭ ‬Veggies‮—‬More Matters‭ ‬role models and 29‭ ‬champions who did this most effectively last year will be honored at Produce for Better Health’s 2017‭ ‬Consumer Connection Annual Conference‭, ‬held April 5-7‭, ‬2017‭, ‬in Scottsdale‭, ‬AZ‭. ‬We celebrate these role models and champions because‭, ‬without them‭, ‬much of our messaging wouldn’t reach consumers‭.

Ten years later we see positive attitudinal shifts among our key target audience‭:‬

• 48‭ ‬percent of moms self-report that they are likely to purchase a product when it has the Fruits‭ ‬&‭ ‬Veggies‮—‬More Matters logo on‭ ‬it‭, ‬up from 39‭ ‬percent in the early years

• 42‭ ‬percent of moms say it motivates them to help themselves and/or their family to eat more fruits and vegetables‭, ‬up from 20‭ ‬percent in the early years

• 78‭ ‬percent of moms say they intend to include more fruits and vegetables in their family’s meals and snacks‭, ‬up from 69‭ ‬percent in 2007‭.‬

Results‭:‬‭ ‬Every five years Produce for Better Health measures actual fruit and vegetable consumption‭. The good news is that we are seeing progress and positive forward-looking trends in fruit and vegetable consumption among consumers under age 40‭, ‬which includes PBH’s target audience of parents with young children‭. ‬The bad news is that consumer groups traditionally most interested in health and who eat the most fruit and vegetables‭, ‬including those ages 50‭ ‬and above‭, ‬are trending downward in their consumption over time‭.

Many factors contribute to this lack of overall increased consumption‭, ‬including a drive for convenience‭, ‬fewer side dishes‭, ‬confusion about sugar in 100‭ ‬percent juice‭, ‬disproportionate advertising‭, ‬and national food and agricultural policy‭. ‬For example‭, ‬despite great strides‭, ‬USDA spending in the form of subsidies‭, ‬research‭, ‬extension‭, ‬food purchases and nutrition assistance is dominated by foods that‭ ‬are not under-consumed‭. ‬Meat receives about six times USDA funding relative to its proportion of a healthy diet‭, ‬while USDA spending on fruits and vegetables is only one-third of its proportion in a healthy diet‭. ‬The same is true for government research‭. ‬Only 1‭ ‬percent of the National Institute of Health’s research projects on cancer‭, ‬coronary heart disease and stroke focused on fruits and vegetables‭, ‬despite the fact that their low consumption contributed between 6‭ ‬to 22‭ ‬percent of the risk of those three major diseases‭.

The Future‭:‬ ‬What started out as a cancer prevention message in 1991‭ ‬with 5-A-Day is now a‭ ‬“total diet”‭ ‬message with‭ ‬Fruits‭ ‬&‭ ‬Veggies‮—‬More Matters‭. ‬No other food group can say that‭ ‬“more matters‭.‬”‭ ‬There are thousands of beneficial phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables‭, ‬many of them not well understood‭. ‬Vitamins and minerals help prevent deficiencies‭ (‬like scurvy‭), ‬but it’s these phytochemicals working synergistically with other nutrients that offer protection against chronic disease‭. ‬Much like they protect fruit from the sun‭, ‬they protect our bodies when we eat them‭

Phytochemicals are to nutrition what vitamins and minerals were just 100‭ ‬years ago‭. ‬For example‭, ‬a class of phytochemicals called flavonoids may help slow the absorption of sugars‭ ‬‮—‬‭ ‬that’s good news for some 100‭ ‬percent juice products‭. ‬Emerging research also suggests more immediate psychological benefits to eating‭ ‬fruits and vegetables‭, ‬as opposed to just long-term health benefits‭, ‬which could create greater urgency in the consumer’s mind to eat more of them‭.‬

After 27‭ ‬years in the industry‭ ‬‮—‬‭ ‬with more than 25‭ ‬years at Produce for Better Health‭, ‬with 20‭ ‬of those years at the helm‭ ‬‮—‬‭ ‬I recently retired‭. ‬I could not have asked for a better career than the one I enjoyed at PBH‭. ‬It offered many opportunities‭, ‬not the‭ ‬least of which was the honor of working with those who grow and help bring to market our nation’s most nutritious foods‭. ‬I thank the industry for giving me the opportunity to do so‭.‬

PBH - More Matters