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JG: Even though I do the majority of the food shopping in my house, I’m surprised that men are doing 50% of the shopping.
PL: The world has changed dramatically. More people are working at home. More people have both mom and dad working to earn a living. So with all that, the dynamic has changed and food companies and supermarkets have really catered to understanding what dad needs when it comes to recipes, what dad wants when it comes to different food products and are really thinking in terms of the much more holistic approach to the family versus than just the mom.
JG: Is there a different style of shopping between men and women?
PL: Major shopping differences. It goes back to Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. On one hand, you have the female household member who puts together the shopping list and tells the man “don’t come back with anything else.” But I think technology has eased that. There are a lot of apps now. An example is one where everyone in the family from their iPhone or their Droid can put together a shopping list. Whether it’s the mom or the dad that goes shopping, it’s a combined list. I think a major difference is that men are still hunters and gatherers. They go into a store and get this, this, or this and they want to get out. . . . Men are more snackers; in fact, I just brought a group of shoppers, men and women, to a Shop-Right in Long Island. They spent some time in the snack aisle. In fact, there were 3 men on the panel that live on David sunflower seeds for protein. One was a UPS driver and another cable company and they needed a fix. If you go back 15 years, those guys were probably eating Snickers bars. Now they’re really looking for something that can give them protein in a snack form, but a bit healthier. So I think all those attributes combined are what makes a very different shopping and eating experience for the whole family.
JG: Since men do 50% of the shopping now, have you seen a big jump in marketing towards men in commercials in the past? In the past, we had beer, lawn care, and car commercials and that was it.
PL: I don’t know if it’s about advertising as much as because the world has changed. It is not just running TV ads, but in store where registered dieticians are running store tours designed for men where there are products that are highlighting the benefits for men. A great example is Hunt’s crushed tomatoes that talks about the benefits of lycopene to ward off prostate cancer. I think it’s a combination when it comes to marketing to men that substance is key. Health attributes are very important and different than that for mom or for kids. And also taste. And when you put those all together, it is a whole different aspect for marketing. A lot of it is being done online and some of it is being done on radio. Some of it is being done on TV. I think that when you look at advertising in general, that’s the direction it has gone.
JG: Is there a healthier way for families to swap in different foods?
PL: There’s no question science and medicine suggest that whole grains are better for us. So we should be trying to consume as many whole grains as possible and what we got to do is read the label carefully. Sometimes it might say whole grain on the front, but it’s a combination of white bleached flour and whole wheat flour. So read the ingredients carefully so you know what you’re getting. Look for that whole-grain stamp that’s on the package. I am not in favor of hiding vegetables in foods for kids. That is totally wrong and the reason is we want our kids to enjoy fruits and vegetables. And when you think about it, vegetables and fruits are among the most colorful, which kids love; and flavorful and sweet; naturally sweet. So again, if you get your kids in charge of the produce every week. Get them to understand. I’ve heard a million times that kids don’t like green. I know a lot of kids that do like green. It depends on how you present it to them. And what we’ve got to do, and this sounds silly, but what we got to do is market vegetables to our own kids. And we got to present them in a way that we are creating a TV commercial or an add. I know it seems like a lot of work, but we’ve got to think through our kids’ eyes. We know that kids like smaller portions and finger foods. So cut up things and make them more exciting.
JG: Do you have advice on how to get kids to be more adventurous with their food?
PL: First, set a good example. If you’re a picky eater, guess what, your kids are going to be picky eaters. If you go to a restaurant and say, “oh can I have this this way or does this have this in it?” Kids are going to learn and you’re modeling behavior that they’re going to follow through. If you’re adventurous in what you eat out or what you eat at home, that you cook at home, that you celebrate food as nourishing and exciting, the kids will follow suit.
JG: What are your suggestions for getting the family more involved in cooking?
PL: Take your kids grocery shopping with you. That’s very important so they can understand food and value at the same time. My two recommendations are:
1. Put your kids in charge of produce, so that every week each kid has to pick a different produce item. Talk to the produce manager about it and have the child prepare it for the family. And when they prepare it, talk about it. The produce department has about 500 items in it and typically we buy about 8. We buy the standard-age stuff. So if you have your kids involved in buying the produce, it’s going to be more exciting for them and they’re going to eat more fruits and vegetables.
2. Put them in charge of the coupons. Give them your shopping list and let them go through the Sunday paper, magazines, online coupon sites; sites like ReadySetEat.com and let them collect coupons and give them a percentage of the savings as their allowance. What you are doing is teaching them about value. How to use coupons. How to save. And then also, let them pick one or two items every week on your shopping list for them to buy. A great example of that is kids love chicken nugget products. In the grocery store, you’ve got products like all-white meat boneless chicken from Banquet that comes in a big bag that you can bake off and it’s healthier for them. They’re going to like it, and they take ownership. They’re thinking about profit.
JG: You brought up couponing. Prices are going to continue to go up. What is a good way to find bargains in regard to grocery shopping?
PL: To your point, if we look at USDA numbers, prices of beef and poultry are going to go up at least 5%. We are going to see major increases across the board. And it has to do with weather. People are going to have to understand the weather conditions and food because they don’t remember that all food comes from the ground. That’s why we see these increases. Because of drought, because of hurricanes and everything else. It is very important to always have your shopping list. Do your coupons. But also think about alternatives. One of the things that I’m seeing a lot of is because we understand finally how important protein is in our diet. And meat and poultry are going up, so people are eating fish, which is less expensive and even eggs. Eggs have really moved past breakfast, and people are having them for lunch or even dinner . . . You could have a great omelet for dinner where you put in a little meat and a lot of vegetables and some cheese and the entire family loves it. For those that are concerned about their cholesterol level, you’ve got products like egg beaters that are out there that are even more convenient because they come in that refrigerated carton and it’s made from eggs. You’re not giving up anything but the cholesterol and so it’s easier for people and it’s a lot less expensive.
JG: How much longer can we expect weather conditions to drive up the cost of our groceries?
PL: If you look at the USDA predictions over the next 20 years, we’re going to see this continue. Their estimate is at least another 9 years. I would say that we’re going to see it the rest of our lives. If you take a look at global climate conditions, things have changed dramatically. The price of coffee went up 2 years ago dramatically. People were up in arms. The reason was that in Columbia, it was raining straight for like a year and a half. It’s that simple. Until we build enough hot houses, or enough weather protected environments on a big scale to feed our population, we’re always going to have these impacts. If you look at tomatoes, in California so many acres are under hot houses, we’re not seeing those price fluctuations in tomatoes. That’s because they can control the environment. That’s still a good 10 to 20 years off and hundreds of billions of dollars to build.
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