Marketing Nutrition

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Marketing Nutrition is a book that examines the intersection of consumer psychology, nutrition, and business and which is written by Cornell professor and current Executive Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, Brian Wansink. The term "marketing nutrition" also refers to encouraging healthier food choices and behavior through the use of marketing strategies and tactics in addition to the conventional use of nutrition education.


Marketing Nutrition contends that many efforts to encourage better nutrition—whether they be by companies, health professionals, or parents—are disappointingly ineffective. In addition to nutrition education, the book argues that changing food choices will be most effective when efforts focus on leveraging consumer psychology. The same tools and insights that have made less nutritious foods popular also offer the best opportunity to reintroduce a more nutritious lifestyle that has been lost. The 14 chapters in the book are divided into five parts:

Part 1. Secrets About Food and People

  • Chapter 1. Nutrition Knowledge That Matters
  • Chapter 2. Classified World War II Food Secrets
  • Chapter 3. If it Sounds Good, It Tastes Good

Part 2. Tools for Targeting

  • Chapter 4. Profiling the Perfect Consumer
  • Chapter 5. Mental Maps That Lead to Consumer Insights
  • Chapter 6. Targeting Nutritional Gatekeepers

Part 3. The Health of Nations

  • Chapter 7. The De-marketing of Obesity
  • Chapter 8. Why Five-a-Day Programs Often Fail
  • Chapter 9. Winning the Biotechnology Battle
  • Chapter 10. Managing Consumer Reactions to Food Crises

Part 4. Labeling that Actually Works

  • Chapter 11. Leveraging Food and Drug Administration Health Claims
  • Chapter 12. Health Claims: When Less Equals More

Part 5. Marketing Nutrition

  • Chapter 13. Introducing Unfamiliar Foods to Unfamiliar Lands
  • Chapter 14. Global Best Practices
  • Conclusion: Looking Backward and Speeding Forward

Secrets about Food and People

The first three chapters argue that nutrition information is not a primary motivator for many of the segments of people who are most in need of better nutrition. Such information often backfires, leaving consumers predisposed to not enjoy food that is positioned to them as healthy or nutritious.[1] Wansink supports this with a series of studies conducted in the Food and Brand Lab that shows how changing the names of foods (adding descriptors such as “succulent” or eliminated words such as “soy”) changed people’s taste of these foods and how much they were willing to pay for them.

Tools for Targeting

Two key tools for better understanding and identifying those individuals whose behaviour will be easiest to change including laddering and prototyping. Laddering is a directed interviewing method that asks representative people of potential markets a series of questions focusing on the type of person they are and on their specific goals, motivations, and aspirations in life and on a daily basis.[2]

Wansink then argues it is important to identify those most predisposed to change. The method he describes for doing this is called profiling, and it involves focusing on behavior patterns and motivations of ideal consumers and making generalizations that can improve targeting efforts.[3]

The Health of Nations

In addressing obesity, the book uses an industry-centric analysis to suggest what it refers to as “win-win” tactics companies can use to better think about profitably de-marketing obesity. This focus on basic principles of behavioral economics as they relate to availability, cost, palatability, knowledge, and convenience.[4]

The book takes a balanced view of biotechnology, showing how both favorable and unfavorable attitudes toward biotechnology are formed and how misunderstandings can be remedied by addressing four biasing fallacies that both opponents and proponents have. In Chapter 10 Wansink argues that understanding these fallacies will make it much more effective to manage the communication dimension of a food crisis.

Labeling that Actually Works

Chapters 11 and 12 generalize from the findings of studies conducted for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on soy health claims and on calorie labeling.[5] These chapters warn against the unmerited inferences that people make about the overall healthfulness of food based on what packaging details they happen to focus upon. The results further emphasize ways in which labeling can be used to minimize the inferences made by an uninterested or uninvolved shopper. One of the solutions, argued by Wansink, includes the use of double-sided claims that present an abbreviated claim on the front of a package and a more detailed claim on the back.

Marketing Nutrition concludes by synthesizing a series of global best practices for marketing nutrition. These best practices are distilled for the four target groups Wansink argues will benefit from the book: 1) Dieticians and healthcare professionals, 2) administrators of food aid programs and public policy officials, 3) brand managers, and 4) scientists and researchers.


  1. Wansink, Brian, Randall E. Westgren, and Matthew M. Cheney (2005), “Hierarchy of Nutritional Knowledge that Relates to the Consumption of a Functional Food, Nutrition, 21:2 (February), 264-8.
  2. Wansink B. (2003), “Using Laddering to Understand and Leverage a Brand’s Equity,” Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 6:2, 111-118.
  3. Wansink, Brian (1994), “Developing and Validating Useful Consumer Prototypes,” Journal of Targeting, Measurement and Analysis for Marketing, 3:1, 18-30.
  4. Wansink, Brian and Mike Huckabee (2005), “De-Marketing Obesity,” California Management Review, 47:4 (Summer), 6-18.
  5. Wansink, Brian and Matthew M. Cheney (2005), “Leveraging FDA Health Claims,” Journal of Consumer Affairs, 39:2 (Winter), 386-398.

External links

Calories and Nutritional Information of Foods


52 weeks of weight loss and wellness videos

Glossary of healthy eating | Nutritional value of foods: UK Foods | US Foods | Dietary Supplements | Nutrition values of foods | Nutrition lookup (USDA) Portions of content adapted from Wikipedias article on Marketing Nutrition licensed under GNU FDL.



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