retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Now available on iTunes…

To listen, click on the “MNB Radio” icon on the left hand side of the home page, Click here.


Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you this week by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.

Yesterday there was a story on MNB about a new set of recommendations issued by a Washington, DC, working group that focused on how the marketing of less-than-nutritious food should be regulated by the federal government.

I have to be honest. I feel like I’ve seen this story before...too many times. Sometimes it is the federal government, and sometimes it is states and cities looking to regulate this and ban that. I’m okay with some of these initiatives, as long as they promote transparency - people ought to be able to make informed decisions, and let’s face it, some companies aren’t exactly forthcoming about what’s in their products. But once you get beyond that, I draw the line. After all, we ought to be able to make decisions on our own...though I suppose there is an argument to be made that behaviors that affect health care costs, for example, ought to be subject to some sort of legislation because everybody ends up getting penalized for the actions of relatively few. But this is the problem. It’s such a complicated issue that simple solutions aren;t possible...but government keeps reaching for them because in the end, it doesn’t want to treat us like adults. (In fairness, there are a bunch of us who don’t want to act like adults...which is why we subject so many of our children to eating slop at school that barely passes for food, and we squeeze school budgets so that things like gym get eliminated.)

Ironically, the story about the new recommendations - originally reported by the Wall Street Journal - came out at about the same time as an MNB user forwarded me a BBC story about how the French are coping with the burgeoning obesity problem in that country.

Unlike the United States, however, the emphasis in France isn’t on bans and regulations, taxes and denial. Rather, they are dealing with the issue in an intelligent, mature fashion - focusing on common sense, moderation and education.

As the BBC reported, even those most concerned about obesity in France are not throwing out the croissants with the pate. They are highly focused on maintaining the food culture that is so important to that nation, and even believe that this culture will be critical to fighting the obesity problem.

They concentrate on eating a little less, without losing the variety. They try to cook smarter, cutting back on butter and cream without eliminating it altogether. And they understand that if kids are served balanced meals that taste good - at home and at school - they are more likely to develop healthier eating habits that will serve them for a lifetime. It is a holistic approach that is very much at odds with the scattershot approach we take here in America.

Now, in a lot of ways none of this is a huge surprise. France being France, it makes sense that they would deal with food issues in a more sophisticated way than most of us in the united States. (And it isn’t like the French have a whole health thing figured out - they still smoke way, way too much.)

But it is time that more of us adopted the French approach to food, which actually keys in on one statement with profound importance to food retailers: If you want to be a healthier eater, the best place to start is by doing actual cooking in the kitchen.

Now, there’s a resolution for the New Year.

For MNB Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
KC's View: