Is Marketing Widening the Nutrition Gap?

farmers-market“The greatest wealth is health.” – Virgil

A report released last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) confirmed the trend that overall American’s diets are improving and we’re eating better healthier food. More fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains and fish.  Less sugar, salt, processed foods and fat.

Today, according to the Organic Trade Association organic products are available across America in more than 20,000 food stores and nearly 3 out of 4 grocery stores. And it is projected to grow at a compounded annual rate of 16 percent through 2020.  Yay!!  Right?!

The JAMA report summarized in STAT, The Growing Diet Divide Between Rich and Poor, and discussed last week on NPR’s Here and Now, unfortunately also reveals that as the wealthiest become wealthier, they’re also becoming healthier due to a widening of diet inequality.



When Anna Vlastis, a fellow at STAT, was asked by NPR’s host what accounts for this difference, she replied that it’s not necessarily just related to how expensive healthier options might be for consumers. Findings revealed that healthy eating habits were mostly impacted by – TIME, KNOWLEDGE, ACCESSIBILITY AND… MARKETING.

But just how much is advertising contributing to the widening gap at the dinner table between rich and poor Americans?

And, as a growing movement of socially conscious natural and organic food companies and agencies who help them sell, what can we do to help fix the food system?

The host falsely stated that we are “all exposed to the same kinds of ads on TV and PSAs.” If you’ve been following along with the Grady Britton blog, you know that that assumption is wrong – hypertargeting makes sure we don’t all see the same information.

Hypertargeting is exactly what it sounds like: the process advertisers use to target very specific customers in crowded channels. Thanks to modern data, we can now efficiently and effectively micro-target people based on very specific lifestyle and behavior traits, ZIP codes, types of websites people visit, or types of products they buy, all of which may indicate a predisposition to buy our product or join our cause.

But in this age, it raises the question for advertisers and marketers who care about not just selling things, but also doing good. Yes, our job is to market natural and organic products to audiences who fit the target consumer profile of that product. But what responsibility do we have to ensure that the messages about the healthfulness of products reach a broader audience would benefit in a different way? In other words, in selling natural and organic products, can we also educate and potentially improve health and quality of life of all people, not just a certain income bracket or lifestyle target.

I certainly don’t have any answers, but I’m looking forward to Esca Bona in October, the event that New Hope Media is convening to discuss fixing the food system. At this event there will be food entrepreneurs, game-changing technologists and visionary business leaders from across the food supply chain in Austin for three days of discussion and collaboration on how to change the food inequalities and ensure good food for all.

Hopefully how companies are spending their marketing budgets and targeting their advertising campaigns to do greater good will be a part of the discussion.

Check out our hypertargeting blogs Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

Post Date
June 24, 2016
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