Watch your language: tasty words 'luring' people to healthier foods

by Thin Lei Win | @thinink | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 5 February 2019 18:35 GMT

A waiter presents two types of salad served by Habibi restaurant in Peshawar, Pakistan January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Fayaz Aziz

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Language such as 'low fat', 'reduced-sodium' or 'lighter choice' tends to lessen enjoyment of food because people believe healthy food is not tasty, researchers said

By Thin Lei Win

ROME, Feb 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Rich and zesty or low fat and vegan? Clever marketing with mouth-watering words can boost sales of plant-based dishes by more than 70 percent, experts said on Tuesday, amid a drive to cut meat intake to improve human and planetary health.

Describing sausages as 'Cumberland-spiced' rather than 'meat-free' and promoting a soup as 'Cuban' instead of 'low fat vegetarian' increased sales in British and U.S. cafes, found research by the World Resources Institute (WRI) think tank.

"Right now, the predominant language is 'meat-free', 'vegan' and 'vegetarian' and that doesn't have associations with deliciousness," said Daniel Vennard, head of WRI's Better Buying Lab, which aims to get people to eat more sustainable foods.

"Language isn't a silver bullet, but it's going to have a key role in reframing the food and luring in a whole new set of the population," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Many people in the United States and Europe eat more than double the recommended levels of meat for their health and experts say reducing consumption of animal products would be a relatively easy way to tackle climate change.

Scientists unveiled in January what they said was an ideal diet - doubling consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes, and halving meat and sugar intake - which could prevent 11 million premature deaths and cut planet-heating emissions.

But vegans are often seen as weak hippies and consumers dismiss vegetarian meals as bland, the WRI's two-year study found, urging restaurants and retailers to emphasise instead the provenance, flavour, look and feel of food.

Language such as 'low fat', 'reduced-sodium' or 'lighter choice' also tends to lessen enjoyment of food in the United States and Britain because people believe healthy food is not tasty, the researchers said.

"The findings can help the world move towards a more sustainable diet by making plant-based foods to be more normal and more appetising," said Vennard.

"Our challenge on moving the world to a sustainable diet is about getting the masses ... the omnivores out there ... engaged in this." (Reporting By Thin Lei Win @thinink, Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, and property rights. Visit www.trust.org)

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