Why Food Brands Should Work With Dietitians
Dietitians apply the art and science of nutrition to help people better understand the link between food and health. As a profession, we have long played an important role in public health by developing national nutritional guidelines, guiding health policy and providing dietary advice to clients.
Yet, in addition to these important fields, there’s also an opportunity for dietitians to play a pivotal role in the food industry. We can help to shape the future of food and ensure that our food supply is sustainable, nutritious and free from unsubstantiated marketing hype. After all, improving the nutrition in our food supply may have the greatest public health impact. A clear example of this is the almost complete eradication of thiamin deficiency following the mandatory fortification of thiamin in flour. This was a dietitian-led initiative.
So how can food brands benefit from working with a dietitian?
Dietitians can work across a variety of areas within a food company such as product development and reformulation, media and communications, and marketing and sales. We also have the skills and knowledge to inform new product development and can determine whether a food or supplement complies with regulatory standards. Plus, we can effectively communicate news, translate the science and share a company’s views with the public.
I have been fortunate enough to work with a number of prominent and admired Australian and international food brands during my time as a food industry dietitian. My work has involved media opportunities including TV appearances and commercials, researching consumer and diet trends, developing recipes, articles and educational materials as well as sharing content on my social media channels.
It’s been a dream come true to work with leading industry companies to help them spread the word about the nutritional attributes of some much loved and well-known foods and products.
When I was at university, there was very little talk of dietitians working in the food industry. And there was ZERO talk of how dietitians could work in marketing roles. The curriculum was focused squarely on traditional dietetic jobs in the clinical, community and food service fields. But that has all changed in the past decade.
So, let’s explore several key areas in a little more detail to highlight why a dietitian is a wonderful asset for food brands and businesses.
Responsible and ethical marketing
Dietitians undertake at least 30 hours of professional development annually in order to stay abreast of the scientific literature and new developments and trends in nutrition. Therefore, we can help to feed this valuable information back to the marketing personnel to help shape new advertising campaigns. Dietitians should become an important cog in each brand’s marketing department. Consumers are becoming increasingly perceptive and aware of marketing spin. Therefore, relying on nutritional science to help support credible and fad-free marketing initiatives is the way forward for food businesses.
Consultant food industry dietitians working closely with food businesses can help to formulate strategy as well as nutrition policy. It is wise for brands to share their nutrition philosophy with the public, especially when consumers are hungry for this information. Employing a dietitian to carefully devise and implement policy can help to position the company as a leader in the health and nutrition space. This can also play a pivotal role in guiding future works and new product development.
Resource development/content creation
Every successful marketing campaign relies on great content. We can work with health-focused brands that want to share their nutrition message with a wider audience. We can develop science-based articles and educational materials for companies to use as marketing collateral and to help inform and inspire their customer base. Articles and blog posts exploring nutrition concepts and trends in the industry or championing new products can achieve an enormous impact for food brands. These marketing assets can translate to increased sales and a boost in trust and credibility for the business.
Dietitians working in the culinary nutrition setting marry taste with good nutrition. Better yet, a dietitian with culinary skills can help to develop nutritious and delicious recipes incorporating different ingredients and novel products. I have been fortunate enough to work (cook) with apples, pasta, Weet-Bix, strawberries, nutritional supplements, honey and a variety of dairy foods. A recipe tester’s other office is the kitchen. And, dare I say it, the rewards are delicious.
After all, food is so much more than a source of nutrition. Good nutrition practices start in the kitchen and dietitians experienced in recipe development can create nourishing and appetising dishes for all skill types, cuisines and dietary requirements. This can give food businesses a competitive edge over rival brands.
Product development and reformulation
Food companies need to carefully consider both nutrition and innovation. For brands to stay relevant and top of mind, the reformulation of existing food products, as well as the development of new products, are central to a brand’s survival. Food industry dietitians can work with brands to develop new or transform existing food products to boost their nutritional qualities (e.g. make foods higher in fibre and protein or lower in salt and sugar) and to better suit those with food allergies or dietary intolerances. Dietitians have a unique understanding of the food matrix and can advise research and development teams about which elements or ingredients can be changed or adjusted in foods without compromising on taste and safety.
Nutrition and health claims
Dietitians can help craft health and nutrition claims for front-of-label packaging. Nutrition content claims and health claims are voluntary declarations made by food businesses on their packaging, and they can also be used in advertising. They are statements about the content of particular nutrients or substances in a food, such as “High in fibre” or “A good source of iron”. These claims need to meet certain criteria set out by FSANZ. A dietitian is trained to develop these claims to comply with the Standard.
These statements also help to inform the customer of particular nutritional and health attributes, such as a product’s calcium or fibre content. So they have the ability to influence purchasing behaviours. It’s crucial to get these right – from both a legal and a marketing standpoint.
Media-savvy dietitians working in the food industry can successfully communicate a brand’s key health and nutrition messages to the public. There is an abundance of misinformation being peddled by self-styled ‘nutrition gurus’, so employing a dietitian to help clarify nutrition concepts and simplify the latest scientific research will give food companies a competitive edge. Many health-minded consumers are now more confused than ever about what they should be eating. Working with nutrition professionals can help to better position the company as an effective communicator of sound scientific principles, and educate as well as motivate the brand’s customers to make healthier choices.
In an age of excessive marketing spin and pseudoscience, dietitians are more important than ever to the food industry. We can assist brands to find their nutrition voice, and we provide a source of education and inspiration to a company’s customer base that is increasingly health-focused and who have an appetite for more nutritious foods.
Dietitians must be welcomed to the food industry table. Because improving the quality of the food supply is everyone’s business.