Hacks are essentially creative solutions to problems people face every day. When it comes to offering creative solutions for increasing fruit and vegetable consumption there are endless creative solutions to address barriers related to access, choosing, buying, preparing and eating fruits and vegetables. Here are few to consider when thinking about shoppers in your stores and team members in your foodservice operation.
Turning Hacks To Habits At Home
The first step in providing consumers with creative solutions is to address our own bias when it comes to consumer-friendly hacks. Do you as a food and nutrition professional avoid giving consumers permission to eat and enjoy foods with fat or added sugar? If so, you may be missing out on opportunities to help people eat and enjoy more fruits and vegetables.
The PBH Hacks To Habits research report, released in September 2022, shared that respondents say that dairy is the easiest food group to feed children. A creative solution focused on food pairings suggests combining dairy foods with produce like serving flavored yogurt with fruit or cheese with vegetables. Yes, fruit is sweet, and kids love dipping. This pairing may prompt more fruit consumption because of the interactive fun of dipping. Putting cheese on vegetables helps overcome aversions to bitter flavors that are very offensive to young palates. The fat in cheese coats the taste buds and makes bitter flavors less apparent.
Another Hacks To Habits insight is that shopping habits are stronger than consuming habits, which leads many to worry about food waste. Helping people overcome food waste fears or guilt is an important strategy for ensuring that foods that make it into the home are eaten and enjoyed, not wasted. Here, the creative solution needs to focus on ease of preparation. Fresh vegetables that are past their prime work well in pureed soups and overripe fresh fruits work well in smoothies. No time to make a soup or smoothie? Freezing is a great option to save these produce items to use later.
One hack that helps make high-frequency fruit eaters consume more types and larger amounts of fruit is keeping fruits of all forms on hand, including fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice. If you’ve been focusing your promotion efforts on fresh, think about expanding your messages to reinforce the many benefits of fruits in various forms, especially the convenience for people who don’t like washing, cutting, peeling, seeding or coring at home. Having all forms of vegetables on hand is an even more powerful hack for high-frequency vegetable eaters, which proves the behavioral science principle: If you want someone to do something, make it easy. This is what processed forms of fruits and especially vegetables do; they make it easier to eat and enjoy fruits and vegetables!
Turning Hacks To Habits In Restaurants
Habits are often based on behavior-based cues; when you get up in the morning you brush your teeth, then grab your coffee. You don’t need to remind yourself to do those things; they are the habits many of us have because of the behavior of getting out of bed. Habits in the workplace are often driven by the environment, organizational culture and policies that provide guardrails for employee behaviors.
The following 10 strategies may help your foodservice operation establish more behaviors that can turn into habits around menu R&D, marketing and more that drive increased use, promotion and enjoyment of fruits and vegetables in all their glorious forms.
Principles: What principles guide menu R&D in your operation? Do you have a goal for the amount or percent of new menu items that is made up of fruits, vegetables, or a combination of them? Principles and goals, when reinforced, build habits among menu R&D professionals.
Produce Mix: What percent of your menu is made up of produce-centric items? Must all menu item categories and types—from healthful to indulgent—contain fruits and/or vegetables? Are you excluding indulgent items from containing produce? If so, why?
Portions: Do portions of fruits and vegetables make sense or should they be increased? If plate waste is a concern, should you focus instead on preparation and presentation to increase appeal and intake?
Proportions: Can you increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in mixed dishes while decreasing the amount of other ingredients? This may have a positive impact on cost food and calories without affecting overall portion size. Can you increase check averages by changing proportions? An example of this is making fruit the star of dessert. Instead of placing a single raspberry on a big slice of chocolate cake, can you provide a smaller piece of cake with more raspberries? Doing so may get more diners to say yes to dessert due
to less guilt.
Preparation: The PBH Hacks To Habits research report shows us consumers believe vegetables are one of the most difficult food groups to make taste good. Let your culinary team demonstrate their expertise in developing delicious flavors in vegetables. If you’re steaming vegetables, would roasting be an option for increasing flavor and appeal. What other preparation techniques can your team use to make vegetables more flavorful and appealing?
Presentation: Can you use a different plate, bowl, cup, or glass? Can you present fruits and vegetables in more dramatic, fun or enticing ways? A pile of fries on a plate are great, yet fries served standing upright in an edgy metal cup add height to the plate and an element of surprise when the meal is served. This is just one example of how presentation can make the experience of eating a fruit or vegetable more fun, memorable, desirable, and repeatable.
Power: Can you present information that helps the consumer make a more informed choice? Taco Bell did this with their Fresco option, giving consumers the opportunity to add more vegetables to their meal and sometimes decrease calories. They also added a Veggie Cravings section to their online menu. By putting this on their app with a bit of persuasive language they were able to give their customers the power to order and enjoy more produce. What opportunities are you creating for consumers to use their power to gain access to more fruits and vegetables? Many consumers will never ask, but if you make the default the option with more fruits and vegetables consumers don’t have to exert the effort. As I mentioned in the earlier section, if you want someone to do something, make it easy.
Promotion: The names and descriptors for menu items can have a huge impact on a diner’s interest in ordering an item. Research by Datassential shows that rich, descriptive menu language that elicits a positive emotional response can increase purchase intent significantly. Think about the difference between a “house salad” and “tender mixed greens with sweet, dried cranberries, spicy candied walnuts, and tangy blue cheese vinaigrette”. One makes the reader go “Ho hum,” while the other makes the reader’s mouth start to water with anticipation of the first yummy bite.
Persuasion: Research in school nutrition environments has shown that persuasive calls to action can entice young children to choose and eat more fruits and vegetables. Can you apply the same to your foodservice environment and call on front of house team members to encourage people to order or take more fruits and vegetables? Charming servers can be especially powerful allies in getting diners to Have A Plant® and order a glass of 100% juice with breakfast or more vegetable side dishes with dinner.
Partners: Who is helping you promote your focus on Have A Plant®? Are senior executives committed to this? Are resources being allocated for sharing your commitment to increase use and consumption of fruits and vegetables in your operation? Are front of house team members excited and proud of their company’s commitment to creating delicious menu items that prominently feature fruits and vegetables? Do you have external partners, including the media or social media influencers, who are helping share your story about your commitment to increasing use and enjoyment of fruits and vegetables in your operation? By showcasing your organization’s thought leadership on this front, you may inspire others in the foodservice arena to follow suit and do more to support behaviors that build fruit and vegetable consumption habits that have an impact on health and happiness.
These are just a few examples of ways you can help shoppers, home cooks and foodservice professionals increase the use, consumption and enjoyment of fruits and vegetables. All of us at PBH look forward to hearing how you take these insights and turn them into action wherever you are promoting Have A Plant®!