ALAN MATHIOS: Hi there, everyone. Welcome. My name is Alan Matthews. I'm the Dean of the College of Human Ecology. It's my great pleasure to welcome you to the second Joyce and Steven Wolitzer lecture series. And we're privileged to have them, the donors, with us today. So if we can just wave your hand and give a round of applause.
And this lecture series is just a wonderful opportunity to blend the study of nutrition with the practice of nutrition, and the different ways that it changes people's lives, both in the public and private sector. And really, it's a great way to take a big concept of the College, which is to blend the curriculum with experience, to blend the curriculum with practice, so that we don't just sit in ivory towers and study the world, but we experience the world. And there's no better way than to both experience it through our work as students in these environments, but also to get practitioners in that field who do this blend of how they use the research and how they understand nutrition and its interaction with everyday life.
And so today's speaker, Phil Lempert, is a great example of how consumers interact in the marketplace, how consumers interact with nutrition knowledge, and with what I would call the integration of the public and private sectors, in terms of understanding the role that nutrition education plays, the role of how our food system works, and how we interact with it in our everyday lives.
So I'm really pleased that Phil is here. Phil and his wife, Laura, are also very philanthropic to the College, so this is a great way to celebrate that, both from a topic and a content point of view, and also the support and how important philantrhopy is for the mission of the College. So I'm really, really pleased to be able to introduce this speaker series, again, to you.
Again, this is the second lecture. Two years ago we had Marion Nestle, who is a very well known nutrition, a person who does nutrition advocacy at the national level. And she was here two years ago, and so here we have Phil. But I'm not going to introduce Phil. Our students are going to introduce Phil. So let me introduce to you our students Michelle and Maggie, who run an organization called-- now what's the name? Nuts?
ALAN MATHIOS: HealthNutS.
SPEAKER: Officially Cornell Undergraduate Health and Nutrition Society.
ALAN MATHIOS: Perfect. Health Nut S, it says, HealthNutS. But the S is capitalized in my notes.
SPEAKER: Yes, it stands for Society.
ALAN MATHIOS: OK, great. And it really is great to have student involvement in helping organize and participate in the seminar series. So again, I'll introduce and hand the podium over to Michelle and Maggie.
SPEAKER: Thank you.
ALAN MATHIOS: Great. Thank you all.
SPEAKER: Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us this afternoon. I'd like to welcome you to the second annual Joyce Lindower Wolitzer and Steven Wolitzer Nutrition Seminar, featuring Phil Lempert, the supermarket guru. Mr. Lempert will be discussing 2014 consumer and food trends with us today. And the opportunity to bring Mr. Lempert to campus was made possible through the generosity of Mr. And Mrs. Wolitzer. Joyce Lindower Wolitzer, an alumni of nutritional scientists from the class of 1976, and her husband Mr. Steven Wolitzer, in honor of her 35th reunion in 2011.
The Wolitzers established the seminar to enhance the experience of students studying nutritional sciences and to expand their career horizons. This is the second of three lectures to be given. Through the Wolitzer's support, HealthNutS has been given the opportunity to invite accomplished and high profile speakers in the field of nutrition to campus.
In addition to delivering the lecture, the invited speaker engages with undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty in the Division of Nutritional Sciences throughout his or her visit, as Mr. Lempert has done today. We are very pleased that the Wolitzers were able to attend today. Please join us in thanking the Wolitzers for making this seminar possible.
SPEAKER: As one of America's leading consumer trend watchers and analysts, Phil Lempert is recognized on TV, radio, and in print. So for more than 20 years, Mr. Lempert has served as Food Trends Editor and Correspondent from the Today Show, reporting on consumer trends, food safety, and money saving tips, as well showcasing new products.
He has also made regular appearances on The View, the Oprah Winfrey Show, 20/20, CNN, CNBC, and Fox, and has authored several books, including Healthy, Wealthy and Wise. Phil Lempert is one of the pioneers of the new information media, founder of supermarketguru.com in 1994. The website is now one of the leading food and health resources on the internet visited by more than nine million people annually. Please join us in welcoming Mr. Lempert to Cornell University Division of Nutritional Sciences.
PHIL LEMPERT: First up, I want to thank everybody for joining me, and I hope that in our brief time together I can share with you some of the things that we look at. We have a consumer panel of over 110,000 consumers. And we're constantly surveying them to find out what they like, what they don't like, and what those next trends are, and I'm going to share some of that with you today.
The food world is a very challenging world these days. When it comes to nutrition, even more challenging than that. So hopefully, we can just think about consumers a little differently than we did before we all got together. So I want to start by showing you an ad. This is an actual ad about 100 years ago. And I know you can read it, but I get such a hoot out of reading it, I'm going to read it to you. It's a picture of a hog with a child's head on the body. It says, "makes children and adults as fat as pigs. No cure, no pay. Groves Tasteless Chill Tonic on the market over 20 years, priced $0.50. $0.50 100 years ago, an enormous amount of money, enormous.
I would suggest that we haven't come that far from this ad, that we're still faced with the same problems. And what I'd like to do is I'd like everybody to close your eyes for a moment. Close your eyes. Come on, everybody close your eyes. And what I want you to now do is picture a huge, big, gray elephant in your mind.
Now open your eyes. For me, trends are elephants. They are big and they're lumbering, but typically what happens in the food world is we get an email. We get a phone call. We see something. We get this idea, and we then start running after that trend. Gluten-free, high fiber, whatever the trend of the moment is, we go after it. And in the food world, what happens is we typically have an arsenal, and I'm going to call them bows and arrows-- advertising, marketing, PR, social media, call it whatever you want.
So what do we do? We focus on that elephant and we start running after that elephant. We're just running after the elephant. We take our bows and arrows, we let it fly, and guess what happens? There's now an arrow in the butt of the elephant, and it keeps right on going. We've done nothing. What we need to do is we need to follow that elephant and get in front of it, and dig a big hole and capture it.
We all know the story about gluten-free, but I promise you that as many gluten free products that are on the market today, there's more being developed. And when the trend is far over, they'll still be companies developing gluten-free products, and nobody will buy them, which is why if everybody is talking about gluten-free today, you've got to train yourself to say, what's next? What's coming up next? What do I have to get in front of for that trend to work for me, for my company, for the world?
Why is it so important that we're here? First of all, and what I'm here to do is underscore the first point, the consumer needs change and evolve. Just when you think you have them figured out, they're over here. So it's a constant process. You've got to train yourself. Even when you think you've got it set, it's going to move, and you've got to move before it and with it.
The retail landscape is changing as we know it, both supermarkets, all kinds of food stores, restaurants. We're seeing stores getting smaller. We're seeing more consolidation, and the days of walking into a supermarket that has 50,000 or 60,000 products in it it's probably over. We're going to see less products, not more products. We're going to see more differentiation. We're going to see more store brands that are truly unique, not just knock-offs of the number one product.
Many of you are millennials and you're in power when it comes to food. Millennials have a passion for food, and we're going to talk about some of those opportunities. And technology, technology, technology. We were talking earlier, the iPhone has changed everything. And when it comes to food-- acquiring food, storing food, making food-- it's all there, and I'm going to give you some examples of that.
So when I wake up every morning, this is what I say to myself, what is the consumer thinking? What is the consumer thinking today? Because we know it's different than yesterday and different than tomorrow.
These are actual ads just a few years ago. They're happy because they eat lard. More doctors smoke camels than any other cigarettes. And we wonder why consumers are confused when it comes to health and nutrition, and we have got to learn how to communicate better than we communicate today about health and nutrition. Since the '60s, we know about obesity. We know about diabetes. We know all these rates are going up. No question, no surprise, but they're still going up. So it's not about the awareness of them, it's how do we turn it around? And I would suggest that we haven't figured that out yet effectively to turn that switch off to empower people.
We could talk for days and days and days about trends, and some are real, some are not real. And the question is, how do we separate out the trends from the fads? What's going to stick? What's going to change behavior? What's going to change the world? And that's hard to do. We have a new approach to food. Foods have become a universal language. Every time you look at the rankings on Google and in every other search engine, recipes are at the top of the list. We love talking about food. It's primal. We need it. It's passionate.
Just remember, when you go into a supermarket, where do you go first? Into the produce department, and that's on purpose. Because when you go into the produce department, it's aromatherapy. It's colors. It's aromas. It puts you in a better mood. And when you're in a better mood, guess what happens? You're in the store longer and you spend more.
So it's not by accident that Kroger, some 40 years ago, moved the produce from the back, where it's more convenient when you think about it. You'd need water. You need everything that the back of a store gives you. But when they moved it to the front, sales went up, and that's why we continue to see that. And there were other formats that have tried to move produce elsewhere, and they're always moving it back to the front.
Local is one of the most interesting trends that I've seen in a long time. We have farmers going into stores, talking to consumers. We've got stores advertising. We have stores advertising milk by explaining methane gas. We like local. It makes us feel good. But the reality is, how far can local go? It started out being up the block, and then within 40 miles, and then 125 miles, and then 250 miles, 450 miles. Now, people are talking about it's within the same state.
I have a new definition of local, it's on the planet. Local is not sustainable. Sure, I live in California. California local works really well. Iowa, not so much. So what the trend is moving away from local to locale, because what people want to know is they want to know where their foods come from. It doesn't really make a difference to somebody if it's 100 miles away or 500 miles away, they want to know where it comes from.
Earlier today over lunch, we were talking about foods from China. There are people, myself included, that read every label and will avoid foods from China. I've been in food factories in China. Our seafood, a majority of it, in the frozen food department, comes from China. We have a lot of produce. Estimates are 30% to 40% of all produce sold in restaurants come from China. China now wants to start exporting chickens to the US. China is also one of the largest pork producers in the world. Is that local? We don't know.
But the problem that we have, the problem that we've created in this country, is we demand the cheapest food supply in the world. If prices go up $0.5, there's panic. There's people in front of stores holding signs, boycotting that a store went up in price $0.5 on milk. If, in fact, our food supply, and agriculture in general, will prosper and grow amid water problems, air problems, and land problems-- farmers have to make money.
We can't just keep on taking more waste and more waste and more waste out of the system to drive prices down. At some point, we have to-- if we want pork from the farmer up the block, we've got to pay for that. It can't be a tenth of the price imported from China. And we all have a responsibility for that because when we go to that cashier, we get very upset when we have to pay for our groceries.
I love the supermarket world, but 2/3 of people really don't. And when you dig down into the surveys, it's not that people don't like food shopping, it's that people hate the checkout experience. So I want to show you a brief video, where Tim Conway the comedian went undercover. As you watch this, think if anything like this, even close, has happened to you.
- Thank you.
- Thank you.
- Thank you. Now, [INAUDIBLE]
Is this check good?
- This is [INAUDIBLE]
PHIL LEMPERT: With a show of hands, how many of you have ever gone to the express lane in a supermarket? All of us. It's a rite. I want you to think about the idiot who came up with this idea. Think about it. We're going to give the best service to the people that we lose the most money on. If I come in, I get a soda, bag of chips, I'm gone, out. Love it. If I'm a mom shopping with a full shopping cart worth $200, maybe I've got a kid or two with me, we're going to put her through hell.
So what I tell supermarkets is we think that, that elephant called the checkout. Why not have express lanes for full shopping carts only? Get the best cashier and get two baggers. What would the result be? Everybody who lived within that area that spent a lot of money would come to my store, because we know we hate the checkout experience.
So we've got to think differently every step of the way if we're going to change behavior, if we're going to make shopping a better shopping experience. This is what our grandparents shopped in. Men with ties, a very small assortment. We've come a very long way, and there's more changes on the horizon as we're seeing Amazon Fresh, as we're seeing Google same day delivery. We're going to see a lot of changes in the landscape of acquiring our food.
Back in 1988, we hired an artist to depict our vision of the supermarket in the year 2000. We're still not there. We're still not there. We're getting closer, but we still have a long way to go. So what will the supermarket look like in 2025? Will it be the Jetsons view of how they acquire food? We don't know what it's going to look like, whether or not it's going to be all mobile, which a lot of pundits are saying. Will it be more fresh? But then we've got the problem, where are we going to grow the food?
And if you take a look, and we talked about this earlier today at the immigration bill, there's a lot of fresh produce sitting on the ground in California because there's nobody to pick the fruit or the vegetables. So how do we get more fresh if we don't have any people in the field? Are we going to see more artisan foods? Are we going to see more expensive foods? These are all questions that we should be thinking about when it comes to nutrition because each of these affects consumers and affects the stores.
Will everything be delivered to us automatically? IBM, 12 years ago, had a refrigerator that had scales built into the shelves. And what it would do, it scanned around the door. When you put a product in, it scanned it, and it would automatically alert you in the front of the door when you were going to run out with things. So it would learn how much milk you consume. Every time you put the milk back in, a little less went in, a little less went in, and it would alert you. That's over 10 years ago.
So there's a lot of technology out there that we're going to see occurring in our homes in the next couple of years. But I will tell you, no matter what happens, we're going to see more personal in our stores, or online. People love food. It's primal. And what we have learned from the various experiments, whether it be Webvan or Fresh Direct, is that people want to pick their produce. They want to pick their meats. Not so much the toilet paper. That you can deliver to me. Not so much the heavy bottled waters or sodas. Big, bulky branded items are perfect to be delivered.
What we saw in the past few years is that with the recession, people started buying foods elsewhere, not just the supermarket. They're buying at the dollar stores. They're buying at a grocery outlet, Save-A-Lot, Bed Bath and Beyond, Ikea. Everybody sells food. Everybody wants to sell food. And why not? We shop for food more often than we shop for anything else, 2.2 times a week. And if Ikea can get you to their restaurant and maybe pick up some of their award-winning sardines while you're there, maybe you'll buy a rug. So we're seeing everybody clamoring to sell us food.
The reality is that most people, 3/4 of us, know that we need better nutrition, eat better, better health. What are we concerned about? Well, according to our panel, chemical additives, sodium, fat, and sugar. That's top of mind. But only one in 10 say that their diet is as healthy as it could be. So 3/4 of us know we're doing it wrong, only 10% are doing it right. Wow. That's a huge difference here, a huge difference.
The internet is the number one trusted source for nutrition and health information. That should scare everybody in this room, because what we know-- and I'm going to take a page from John Wanamaker talking about advertising. And he was just to say that he knew that half of his dollars spent in advertising were wasted, he just didn't know which half. And when it comes to search engines, I would say that 50% of everything that you read about in nutrition and health is wrong. But again, consumers don't know which is wrong and which is right, which is why what you all are doing is so important.
Doctors have now finally gotten some nutrition training, so they're moving up the ladder. And the great news is that we're seeing more dieticians in stores than ever before. Retail dieticians, helping people one-on-one figuring out what to eat, how to eat, how to choose their foods, store tours, going to schools, out in the community, in the media.
This is the newsletter that Natalie Menza, who's an RD for ShopRite supermarkets, puts out every week. She's put together programs for ShopRite that has also made them money from vendors that they never received money from before. She has a very strict nutrition criteria of what foods can be advertised in her program, and there's no exceptions, regardless of money. If you're above the level of sodium and you go to her and say, here's 100 grand, put me in your circular, she says no, change your formula. And we're seeing more and more of that happening.
We're also seeing more people cooking at home. A lot of that has to do with the economy. But I can tell you that only half of them think that they know what they're doing. So again, another huge opportunity to educate people how to cook healthfully at home. It's not just about buying, but what you do with it that's critical.
We have a wonderful-- I'm not getting into politics-- but we have a wonderful First Lady who is out there talking about exercise and food and education, and she has really pushed the envelope in many ways with the food industry. And it's great. We have chefs clamoring to be part of the Chefs Move to School program. We have food industry clamoring to work with her and Sam Kass on educating and empowering, and even changing formulas. It's great.
And the funny thing is that I don't know how many of you have been to the White House garden, it's tiny. It's 120 feet by 60 foot. But the impact that it's made, especially with kids in Washington who go there to plant, has been huge. We've got to keep that going. Local, as I said before, is spreading out. It's becoming more pervasive, and frankly, it's losing a little bit of its substance along the way. So it's being replaced by locale and the new regionals, and we're going to continue to see that happen.
When we look at the ad world, and some of you know this far better than I, we're a mess. We're a mess when it comes to our weather, our hurricanes, our tornadoes, and food prices will continue to rise. And we've got to figure out how we communicate this effectively to consumers who don't think that, whether it be a supermarket or a food brand, it's just ripping them off. We've got to instill in them that food comes from the ground, where it comes from. Because most of them think that it just comes from the store. How it got there, they don't care. They don't want to know. But it's critical if we're going to be able to make changes in this industry.
It's also critical for us to stop wasting food. It's estimated that 40% of all food goes uneaten. That's a quick way to reduce price, by stopping to waste food. Over in England, they had a campaign called Love Food Hate Waste, and they were able to reduce, just from awareness and empowerment, they were able to reduce waste by half. That's huge. We also see that McKinsey has stated that if we had clear expiration dates on foods, we would reduce waste by 20%. And think about it the next time you go to a supermarket.
Best by, best used by, best quality by, there's probably 10 or 12 different ones. And then you get to those cans. I love the canned foods with the embossed dating, QLK422A. That tells me a lot. And you call up the 800 number, and I have, and you talk to the customer service person and say, I've got this code. What does it mean? And they say, I don't know. I've got to check. It's absurd. We must demand better transparency and better information.
And by the way, the reason for those codes is many of those canned foods have been sitting in a warehouse for a year or two years or three years before it even got to the supermarket. So that's why they don't want us necessarily to know what the data is, because if you walked into a store and you saw something that had a date from three years ago, you probably aren't going to buy it. So we've got to demand more transparency when it comes to expiration dates. Or I've got a very simple solution, that the expiration date should just read, very simply, eat this by whatever date or die.
Baby boomers, 76 million baby boomers who control food. We love food. People born between the ages of 1946 and 1964. We are so powerful that we got Cheech and Chong back together again. They weren't talking. We got them back together again. And what did we get them back together to do? To sell us Fiber One bars. When it comes to baby boomers, who are the largest food influencers and purchasers, it's all about health benefits. So we're going to see more Fiber One. We're going to see more foods that have all these health benefits. And there's a good reason why, because the aging baby boomer is going out kicking and screaming.
- (SINGING) Get your Motrin ready. Head out on a treadmill.
- The heating pad is warming in case your herniated disk kills. We're aging Boomers but refuse to show it. I just got implants and a tummy tuck. A triple bypass and two knee replacements. Getting old really sucks.
- I just took Viagra. Both the kids are out late.
- I'll go get some Merlot. Let's hope it won't inflame your prostate.
- We're Baby Boomers, the original rebels. Used to smoke pot but now we drink green tea. We tripped on acid, now we have acid reflux, we're in the AARP. We were spoiled, pushy, wild. But now we're bored, tubby, and mild. We used to get so high, now they call us spry. Bored, Tubby, Mild. Bored, Tubby, Mild.
- Oh, I'm exhausted.
- Is [INAUDIBLE]
PHIL LEMPERT: So how do we educate 76 million people as they're getting older when it comes to nutrition? How do we do that so it empowers them? We're seeing breakfast becoming a huge trend for a bunch of reasons. Number one, it's cheap. It's one of the cheapest sources of protein that's out there. And we're seeing people eating breakfast throughout the day to save money, but to get protein. We're also seeing lots of great data that supports why breakfast is the most important meal of the day from a health standpoint.
You're going to see a huge amount of attention given to breakfast. McDonald's is talking about serving breakfast all day long. We're seeing just about every major food company coming out with breakfast sandwiches that are frozen, and it's just the beginning. We're also seeing more men in the supermarkets and in the kitchen, and in fact, now about half of the primary grocery shoppers are men.
And there's a lot of reasons for that. More men are working at home, by choice, and some have been laid off, not so much by choice. But they're home and they're getting more involved in food preparation than ever before. They now represent a third of all grocery store shopping. And over half of them are now making the weekly meal plan. That's a huge difference from just a couple of years ago. And we're going to see that continue as well.
The iPhone has changed everything, and what the iPhone has done is given us our own food lab. This device uses probes to test for allergens, whether or not a product is organic, whether it's ripe, all with the iPhone, and that's kind of cool. But also, I would challenge you by saying everybody having a personal food lab might not be such a good idea.
This is an app from Japan that tests whether or not a watermelon or a pumpkin is ripe. First, you select the size of the melon, then the color of the melon, and then you take the iPhone, you put it on top of the melon, and you thump it three times, and it tells you whether or not it's ripe. We've tested it. I was right six times. It was wrong six times.
Now, many of you might feel the same way I do. I can't live without my iPhone. It is my most valued possession. I trust it. In fact, if you lose your phone, your mobile device, it takes about two hours for you to report it and call up AT&T or Verizon. If you lose your American Express card, it takes you about 2 and 1/2 days to report that that was missing.
So as we move forward and we rely more on technology, we have a problem. Because if we can't trust the technology to tell us whether or not a melon is ripe, or we can't trust the technology to tell us whether or not a certain food is nutritious for us or not, we're in trouble. And there's a lot of apps out there now on food and nutrition that are not accurate, that they've got bots just scanning data and assigning grades to certain foods or certain companies based on sustainability and everything else.
There is an olive company called Musco Olive in northern California outside of San Francisco. They are among the most sustainable companies, food companies, that I've ever visited. What they do is they take the pits from the olives, they grind them up, they use them as fuel for a steam engine, the country's largest steam engine, and power their entire facility, which is huge-- refrigeration, electric, everything from the olive pits. GoodGuide gave them a D rating in sustainability because their bots didn't know about this. And it took them about a year in talking to the people at GoodGuide to get them to change their rating. So just because it's on our phone doesn't mean that it's right.
The millennials are fascinating to me when it comes to food. There's so much passion about food, but there's high college debt, low paying jobs, a lot of them are living at home. But what we're sensing is the evolution of the palate with this generation. They really care about food, not preparing food, but eating food, looking at food, taking pictures of food, going to food raves.
I don't know how many of you have ever been to a food rave, but it's fascinating. It's 11 o'clock at night, you get an email for where the rave is going to be. And it starts at midnight and you go, and they're a lot of fun. But what's amazing to me is they're all at midnight and they're always underground. It's dark out, you don't have to be underground. But we're seeing all of this activity, and some of it's good, and some of it's not so good.
- I'm am proud to present our sous vide flash-seared local organic Pacific true cod, with brown butter hedgehog mushrooms and hand-picked Peruvian inca berries. This is all topped with fronds of finocchio and Yakima applewood smoked sea salt. Enjoy.
- (SINGING) Life is a dish best served hot, and a dish is a book with a menacing plot, and a plot is a song dipped in sauce that was simmered in a pan with a demi-glaze. I'm just a kid in a candy shop of culinary dreams that can't be stopped on a search for the perfect ingredients to post on my social medias.
- You are pathetic, we're not photogenic.
- Hurry it up, we're getting cold.
- Don't talk back.
- Come down here and taste us, don't humiliate us. No one gives a damn about what you post.
- Artisan bread dipped in artisan cheese dipped in artisan nuts dipped in artisan greens. Artisan heirloom radicchio. This carpaccio's f-ing ridiculo. A little foie gras and tuna tartare, black truffle butter chickweed, ha, ha, ha. I'm just a guy with a camera, in your feed with my foods as my canvassa. Lobster bisque buttered lightly. I see you in a bowl and I need you inside me. I love soup, don't call me a Nazi. I'm more like the culinary paparazzi. Or gastronomic Annie Leibowitz. I can't see the food, could you move your tits? It's unthinkable to dine out and not record it. I want the world to know I can afford it.
PHIL LEMPERT: So we've got the millenials going into restaurants and annoying just about everybody. So how do we take that passion and make it constructive? That's the challenge. We've seen some interesting things occur because of millennials, the rise of food blogs, Pinterest, Instagram, with all the recipes, all the communication. It's great.
We're also seeing a sense of community being formed. Food trucks, that phenomenon is millennial 101. And what I tell supermarkets is go out and hire people who have food trucks. Because think of the model. In a supermarket you have prepared foods. They're behind glass. There's somebody behind it in a dirty apron. Everything's served in black plastic plates, and they're waiting for you to come to them.
Food trucks have more authentic recipes, typically. They know about the food. They can talk to you, and they're reaching out to grab you. They're tweeting that in 20 minutes they're going to be at 5th and Vine, and there's 50 people waiting for them. That's brilliant marketing.
And what we're now starting to see are people with food trucks making enough money to now open up a restaurant. And that's going to change the restaurant business as well, because it's no longer going to be putting up a sign or buying a Groupon, it's going to be reaching out to you through social media to make a connection to get you to want to come to the restaurant. That they're going to say that, oh we just got some fresh Pacific salmon in. We only have enough for 20 portions. We're going to start serving it at 6 o'clock. Do you want some? Think of how powerful that becomes for the restaurant world and what we should be doing in supermarkets.
Another big trend that we see is certainly transparency, what I talked about before with labeling, but we want to know where our foods are coming from. We've got more farmer's markets than ever before and it continues to grow. But the sad thing is-- and I live around the corner from a farmer's market every Sunday in Santa Monica. When I first moved there 20 years ago, it was 100% produce. Today, and we talked about this before at lunch, it's 25% produce. It is 25% cheap clothes. It's 25% jams and jellies, and it's 25% really bad artwork. It's killing farmer's markets. It's killing them.
What farmer's markets brought is empowerment to consume more fruits and vegetables. You could talk to the guy behind the counter who grew it. Now, they're not even there. Now it's somebody else who goes to a produce market, picks it up, and has the boxes behind that say Grown in Mexico. It's changed.
So what we have is we have these really cool ideas to take hold, and again, elephants, trends. And we chase it, and that's what we've been doing with farmer's markets. And we've got to change the farmer's market model because it just doesn't work anymore. It's broken. It's not fun. It's not produce.
The people behind the counters can't answer the questions anymore, and that was more of the fun of the farmer's market than anything else, discovering new fruits and vegetables. We have to have, for the industry, a much more holistic approach to buying food. We have to do that.
What angers me, and we talked about this earlier in one of our groups, is the fact that the industry thinks that consumers are either too stupid or too lazy to turn around a package and read the ingredients and the nutritional panel, that we've got to have all these different front of label package schemes that are in disarray, that are different. So if I go to one store and it's got stars and I go to another store and it's got numbers, and I go to yet another store and it's got some other signage, I'm confused. And until we can get a standard, and until we can empower people to understand how to read labels, we're in trouble.
We're starting to see some movement. In schools, and that's great news. We have a new school lunch program. We have chefs going to school. It's changing behaviors. We have over 5,000 salad bars that have been donated to schools. And I'm sorry to report that about half of them now have become taco bars, because the kids just don't eat the fruits and vegetables. We have to learn how to communicate better.
And when we look at food, even the baby boom generation is going through changes. These are the TV dinners that we grew up with, peas with butter. Same company, Healthy Choice. It steams. Instead of using sodium, they use red wine. Instead of using sugars, added sugars, they're using applesauce. They're using more vegetables than ever before, red potatoes, asparagus. It's an evolution that's taking place, and that's great. But we also need to support the companies who are making these changes if we want them to continue.
An example that I often give is Hunt's ketchup. Hunt's ketchup about four years ago took out high fructose corn syrup. Because every survey showed that moms cared about high fructose corn syrup and didn't want their kids to consume it. So big letters on the front label, No High Fructose Corn Syrup. A year later they put it back because sales went down.
So the challenge is how do we properly communicate what the consumer trends are to food companies, to retailers, in order for them to make changes and to have it hold so that they can run a business?
Food trends are like looking into a crystal ball, and a lot of them come and a lot of them go. Oops, sorry. The challenge for the industry is, how do we get to the future faster? That's what we're always trying to do, get in front of that elephant, beat out the competitor, whether it be a retailer or a manufacturer.
And the one way that I know you can get to the future faster is going to our website, supermarketguru.com and signing up for our free newsletters, Food Nutrition and Science, The Lempert Report, facts, figures and the future, and for those of you who are in the nutrition program, the dietetics program, signing up for the Retail Dietician's Business Alliance newsletter as well.
What we find is people, when they graduate, know everything about health and wellness, but know nothing about retail. And our job is to educate all of you to understand the nuances of retail so that you have a career path at retail versus just, oh, that's our RD, and staying in that position for 20 years. We also have the Food Journal, which comes out every other week, which is about very controversial issues. Contains no advertising, GMO-free labeling, water issues, just everything that goes on, and we show two sides to every story. This is designed for the media so that they can really collect their sources before they run stories that are half-baked.
There's three questions that I think you should be asking yourself. Number one, what's that next big elephant? What do we have to get in front of? And then when you've figured out that, look for the next one, and train yourself to constantly be looking at elephants. What are the three things about food consumers that you don't know, that you'd like to know? And find out. And the best resource you've got is the supermarket. And look at what is in people's carts and tap them on the shoulder and talk to them, why did you buy this? Why didn't you buy that?
What innovation have you seen that we need to capture in the food world? And I'll share with you one of mine. I got off a plane late at night, take a taxi to the hotel, walk in, and to the right of the hotel lobby is an avant-garde art museum. It was closed, it was about midnight. But I said, that's really cool. I've got to stop in there tomorrow, see what's in there.
I turned to left, walk up to the front desk, and as I'm walking I notice now, I'm walking from carpet onto a very thick plexiglass. And actually, they're running a movie from reverse projection on the plexiglass. And I'm walking on it and I'm actually now walking on two people. It's a couple in bed. And you know how when you sleep, you toss and you turn and you kick, and that's what they're doing. This is really cool.
Get my key, go up to my room. It's late. Decide to take a shower. Go into the bathroom and I pull back the shower curtain. And in the bath is a red plastic penguin about four foot high. So I finally figured out why they put phones in bathrooms. So I called down to the desk clerk and I say, there's a red plastic penguin in my bathroom. And he says, I know. I said, I know it's late, but red plastic penguin, my bathtub, don't want it.
He said, no, no, wait. We have 10 of those and every night we move them to a different person's room. And if you get the red plastic penguin, we send up a free bottle of wine. So I said, you better send up that wine because I got a red plastic penguin that's about four foot high in my bathtub.
Wow. What an experience. Think about the first time you went into an Apple store or a Nike store. How can we do better when it comes to food? You're very lucky. You've got a Wegmans nearby, one of the best food retailers in the country. That's one example. Trader Joe's, another example. When I go into Trader Joe's, I want one of those shirts. I want to ring that bell. I never want to leave. They're having so much fun.
How do we get more and more of those kinds of experiences in the food world, and in the nutrition world? Because for most people, most consumers, nutrition, kind of boring. You're going to tell me everything I'm doing wrong and I'm going to die a slow, painful death because of sodium and sugar and fat, and all this stuff. You're not a fun-loving group here.
How do we change that? How do we make nutrition fun? How do we make it empowering to people? There's a picture of my dad in one of my grandfather's milk trucks, and he was the best teacher in the world. And he taught me to go to supermarkets. I visited between 10 and 15 stores each and every week, just to see what's out there. And I urge you to as well. That's our lab, the supermarket. That's where people are buying food. What can we learn from it?
In my opinion, the future of this food world rests in what I call the three C's, catering to health and wellness, creating a convenient and a wow shopping experience, and celebrating food. Celebrating. We now have RDs at retail working with supermarket chefs to celebrate health and wellness and taste and it's great. We need to do more of that.
So some final thoughts. Number one, consumers want more information about food, no question about it. Number two, consumers are bored with food. Why so many recipes for meat loaf? For anything? Why Instagram? We want more interesting flavor, because that's what food is all about. The food world is in flux, retail and food service. A lot of changes happening in the next two, three years. For me, next year, it's all about health, social media, technology, food safety, convenience, and value. Those are the tenants that we're watching very carefully.
And focus on the relationships, the relationships between the farmer, the supplier, the retail, certainly, the consumer. Because who knows? Next week, Walmart goes up across street from the Wegmans. You can never win on price alone, never. Somebody can always be cheaper. Somebody can always build a new store. It's about that relationship that you have, and folks like Wegmans have done a fabulous job building relationship generation after generation after generation. We need to think beyond loyalty to whether it's a product and restore to advocacy. That's what social media has taught us. How can we have people telling our story for us? It becomes more powerful.
And lastly, and I'll leave you with a challenge, and then if there's any questions or any discussion, happy to do that. But my challenge to all of you, as you leave Cornell, is to make our food world better than it is today, because without you doing that, we're in trouble. We need the best, the brightest, the smartest, the most passionate about food, about nutrition if we're going to ever reverse obesity and diabetes and heart disease, and really have a strong ag center for our country and our world.
So thank you very much. And if anybody has any questions, just raise your hand, introduce yourself, and ask away. Thank you. Yeah, if you could get up and embarrass yourself in front of all?
AUDIENCE: Hi, my name is Darren. I'll try to not to project too much I'm getting over a cold.
PHIL LEMPERT: Oh, so that's why I'm coughing, because of you.
AUDIENCE: I'm not taking responsibility for that. But my question is just, in terms of education, what are your thoughts about maybe changing the nutritional labels on the back, because the reality is not everyone wants to read them. Sometimes the writing is really, really small. The graphics are kind of crappy. To [INAUDIBLE], how would you modify the grocery label structure to make it appeal to more consumers?
PHIL LEMPERT: Well, a lot of people have tried. As I mentioned, Guiding Stars and GMA and FMI, and so on. The problem is that for the most part, all that information that's in that nutritional facts panel, is the answer holistically. And when we separate out any nutrient or calories or fat, and we just have one symbol on the front of a package, people aren't getting the whole story.
The example that I used earlier is diet soda. So diet soda, you have zero calories a big thing on the front of the label, and that's only one part of it. What about the artificial sweetener that in tiny letters tells you that it could be harmful? Or the phosphorus that's leaching calcium out of our bones, that doesn't even appear on the label. So I don't know whether or not we have enough space on the package. What I feel is the next iteration of it is where we will have, whether it's a QR code or some device, some mechanism on a package that we use our cell phone to read, and that then tells us whether or not that product is compatible with our diet.
So I plug in that I want to consume x calories, x fat calories, x amount of vitamin C, whatever, and as I'm shopping, I do that. And it then quantifies whether or not that product meets that criteria that I've already set up. I don't think there's enough room on the package to fully explain everything that we have. But I certainly don't think that it's stars or a number that doesn't have an open algorithm for people to understand.
The problem that I've got with that is I would like everybody to get the most amount of stars and 100 score, and a manufacturer doesn't know how they score, so they can't do that. So if, in fact, they said, OK, if your sodium level is above x, you lose a star. So what that tells a manufacturer is let me reduce my sodium so that I can get another star. So it's not enough information out there. So I'm not sure that answers your question, but I think it's going to move to more technology, that something on the package triggers on my phone. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Thank you for your talk. My name is Jen. I'm a graduate student in the food sciences here at Cornell. You mentioned in your talk three ways and how big of a problem it is. And particularly this year, I think there were multiple reports trying to raise awareness on the issue, the Think, Eat, Save campaign or the [INAUDIBLE] report. Do you see any improvement in consumer awareness regarding this issue, because we're the biggest wasters.
PHIL LEMPERT: No. Unfortunately, I don't. There has been, again, some science to back up the whole expiration date issue, and I think there is going to be the first step, and hopefully that can reduce some waste. But you're right. Most of the food waste is at home. People overcook. I mean, all of that. And I haven't seen a really good campaign on that. I think from a manufacturer level and a retail level, they're getting much better very quickly on it. But consumers, not so much yet. Sorry, I wish.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] and on the same topic, how would you contrast the availability of calories and waste. Because a few years ago in the seminar, Marion Nestle said how we produced one third too many calories per person per day. And if that's the case, then waste would be a good thing.
PHIL LEMPERT: Well, let me answer the last part. I would hesitate to ever say that waste could be a good thing. And the reason that I say that has to do with the supply of food. We're very, very fortunate in this country. We don't even have a clue how lucky we are when it comes to the price of food, that they help build the food, and so on, contrasted to the rest of the world, where we're seeing a lot of war over food, people that have food and people that don't have food.
So no, I don't think that food waste is a good thing. And I think, to Marion's point, and again, she was just at the White House two weeks ago with the First Lady, and everybody talking about what we should and could be doing. There's no simple answer to this. And again, for me, it all comes down to communication. I think we don't know to communicate food waste, calories, I mean, in any of those things.
And part of it, in my opinion, and we talked about this before, is I believe that the average American has no taste buds. I think because of the amount of sugar, salt, and fat, we've ruined our taste buds. We can't taste what food really tastes like. So there's not that button that goes off that says I'm satisfied. And a good test of that is if you take good European chocolate with a higher than 70%, 80% of cocoa, and you have 1 inch square, you're satisfied, and it tastes really good. And you could have three Milky Ways and still be hungry. So for me, it's satiety.
And I don't think that our taste buds are as refined as they need to be. And I don't think that the average person can taste good food anymore, especially eating out at restaurants. So for me, it's education. Let's get our taste buds back, and that's one of the things that I hope that you will, as part of the millennial generation, can change, to getting back to taste buds. I mean, the cool thing about the millennials is you never want to have the same food twice in your lifetime. And I grew up in a family that Monday night was chicken and Tuesday night with pasta. It was very regimented, and millennials are changing all that, which is great. Yes?
AUDIENCE: My name's Margaret, and I was just wondering, what are your thoughts on making this new holistic movement available to people who have lower incomes, especially people that live in urban areas.
PHIL LEMPERT: I think it's great. And an example that I always use, Michelle Mashon who is a chef who lives in Connecticut, started a group. And what they do is if you use your food stamps at a farmer's market to buy fruits and vegetables, they double the value of it. That, to me, is a really smart approach to it. That gets food to the right people one-on-one. Building supermarkets in quote unquote "food deserts," very mixed reaction to that.
I mean, again, most of the people who live in food deserts had supermarkets there. They stopped going to supermarkets not because the products weren't available, but they got paid once a month. Their welfare check came in, they would shop throughout the month. The person behind the counter at the little store would have a notebook that said Phil owes me $22 on this date. When I got my check, I would go in, pay you, and that's the way it worked. Supermarkets didn't do that.
And for the most part, these folks didn't have credit cards to do it. So it's not just building a supermarket in a place where there's no affordability, but I think what Michelle and his group is doing is dead on the mark and just helping people. And also at a farmer's market, you're able to taste the foods and learn about the foods and do more than just say, OK, now fresh fruits are available to you at your supermarket.
AUDIENCE: My name is [INAUDIBLE]. Thank you very much for your very information talk. And I would just like to ask you if you can share the [INAUDIBLE] of the boomers, where we can get this, because it [INAUDIBLE].
PHIL LEMPERT: Yeah, you could go on YouTube and that's where we got it. And just type in boomers collect social security and you should be able to find it. And if not, send me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send it off.
AUDIENCE: My question is about food safety. This is a challenging problem. The supermarkets do a better job at that last thing. Other venues, maybe the trucks, what do you think about it, in terms of food safety?
PHIL LEMPERT: Well, it depends on the state that the food trucks are in, because some of them are inspecting, some are not. Food safety is a major problem, no question about it. We do have the safest food supply in the world. Let's not forget that. But the problem, again, and I mentioned Wegmans, we can solve E.coli in ground beef. It kills people really easily. And Danny Wegman tried to do it by selling meat that was irradiated. The problem is that we didn't communicate it properly to consumers. What we did is we created a symbol that was a circle. It was green and looked like a leaf, and that was called the Radura symbol.
So a consumer, or a consumer advocacy group, sees that and says, wait a minute. This is radiation. You're trying to hide something. It gets back to the transparency issue. Do I think we want to put a skull and crossbones on it? No. Do I think we want to have little lightning bolts? No. But we need something better than trying to put a green leaf on something that's radiated, and it just didn't work. So we have a lot of science, whether it's some GMOs, whether it's radiation, and so on, that can improve a lot. We just don't know how to communicate. And GMO is a perfect example of exactly that. And I don't know if we're ever going to learn how to communicate that.
And the other side, the anti-GMO side, does it much better. In California, and the labeling proposition was defeated, but in California, lots of celebrities, obviously. So they're getting on TV, saying, I want to know what's in my food, and so on, and really creating a groundswell. And then Michael J. Fox did a commercial, and he didn't take his Parkinson's medication for a couple of days before the shoot. And he gets on the TV commercial and says, I want to know what's in my food. And what people read from that is that he got Parkinson's by consuming GMOs. They just did a really great job with that commercial. So I think we've got to learn how to communicate, whether it's GMOs, radiation, anything.
But food safety continues to be very worrisome, and especially as we have more organics. I mean, if you take a look at the produce problem with food recalls, it is typically organic, because it's using manure as a fertilizer. And also, back to transparency, you look at Greek yogurt, which has changed a lot in supermarkets because of Chobani doing a great job with their recall. They blew it. I mean, they blew it.
They should have come out like Tylenol in a day, said, we've got mold in our yogurt. We're pulling it off the shelves, you don't have to worry about it. But they sent discrete letters that get to the press, to retailers, say, can you please remove this from your shelves? Not even telling the retailer why, and then all of a sudden in social media, Chobani goes from the golden food product to, what are they trying to pull? It's very fragile when it comes to communication. I think I've got to stop.
SPEAKER: Yeah, I hate to cut off the conversation, but at this point, we're out of time. You are all welcome to join us out in the Human Ecology Commons. There is a complimentary catered reception, and thank you so much for coming.
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Health and wellness alternatives, rising food costs, proteins, and portion sizes. What matters to the consumer? And what can we expect to come in 2014?
Phil Lempert, leading food industry analyst and correspondent for the Today Show, shared insights into the triangle of food producers, retailers and consumers Oct. 1, 2013 in the annual Joyce Wolitzer '76 and Steven Wolitzer Nutrition Seminar.