Today, health is no longer simply a question of nutrition. A healthy diet, product composition and CSR are some of the “health and society” topics at the heart of consumers’ concerns, and are thus a key focus for companies and brands. Sopexa, as a Food & Drink communications agency, has all of the expertise required to stay at the cutting edge of the latest trends.
Armelle Dardaine-Leopoli, a specialist in health and nutrition marketing, coordinates Sopexa’s Nutrition & Sustainable Development unit. She explains the importance of responsible communication on health-related topics, as well opportunities that allow companies to be creative and rethink their marketing strategy.
Why must communication on health claims be responsible communication?
First of all, it is important to remember that consumers are guided and influenced by several criteria when choosing their products. They rely on:
– sensory criteria, such as price, ease of use, flavour, etc.
– intellectual criteria, which are harder to assess, for example food safety and health.
These latter criteria have to be correct, credible and verifiable.
Today, health-related messages are everywhere! Everyone is trying to capitalise on the trend, to stand out from their competitors and reach consumers in new ways. In the area of health, communication must be in step with potential customer needs and desires, by conveying a message that they can relate to and that they understand.
You have to ask yourself a few questions before launching a health-related communication campaign: What are the aims of the communication? Who are the targets? What is the message? What is the brand’s positioning versus its competitors? (And how do they communicate on the same subject?) What is the company’s image? What are its strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of the product?
With all of the fashionable claims (the “- free” trend) invading store shelves, what can brands do to ensure that consumers don’t get lost?
Off the top of my head, I have a few examples of dishonest health-related communication. I’m thinking namely of the “gluten-free” marking now seen on products that have never contained any. Or “sugar-free”, with one campaign that uses as a reference wrong limits for added sugars specified by the WHO (25g a day, for the prevention of cavities vs. 50g a day, the recommended allowance). All of this is done in order to create a more alarmist message. This verges on intellectual dishonesty and demonises an ingredient that is useful for the body and is a source of enjoyment.
This is why communication has to be truthful and accurate and not simply ride the wave of fear in order to stand out from the competition. Of course, this communication must allow consumers to read and decipher labels and understand the entire message.
How does Sopexa help brands with their health and nutrition strategies?
We work on a very broad range of subjects and issues. We are namely interested in the children’s market, with the creation of educational guides for our clients and educational workshops on nutrition for children (8 to 12 year-olds). Teaching them to have a balanced diet is vital, as is discerning how well they understand the huge amount of information they are exposed to every day, both on television and from in-school educational programmes.
These workshops help us strengthen our knowledge of the children’s market. We work namely on vocabulary (for example, ‘portion’, ‘quantity’ and ‘piece’), concepts and messages. Everything must be tailored to the target that the kits are designed for.
Do you also spot trends and assist companies in their overall health and nutrition communication?
As part of our assessments, we identify products’ strengths and weaknesses. In addition to children, we also work on other targets such as consumers, opinion leaders and key influencers in health, either directly or via specialised websites and scientific journals. Sopexa also helps brands and companies to communicate at speaking engagements or in scientific publications, at conferences and symposiums or congresses on medicine or nutrition. This enables brands and companies to speak to a specific audience, to target and select their key influencers and to lend their health-related communication greater credibility.
Sopexa has published Mission Miam (‘The Yum Squad’), a comic book that encourages kids to eat well. How did this project get started?
Children know the official nutritional recommendations by heart, but the fact is that, although they can recite them, they don’t always understand what the guidelines actually mean!
It was urgent for Sopexa to better help children to discover taste, a balanced diet and eating well. So we focused on a message that is positive and easy to understand, that speaks directly to them using their own language. We look at food as a whole: the food guidelines, whether they focus on types of products or the times of day when they are eaten, are always shown in real-life situations, so that children can make the connection between their everyday activities and what they see on their plate.
Our aim was to give out Mission Miam free to all children from 9 to 12 years of age. Thanks to our supporters (AG2R, Bel, Coop de France, Danone, General Mills and Nestlé) we were able to distribute the comic book at schools taking part in the La Semaine du Goût® (‘Taste Week’) programme, as well as at 100% of France’s paediatric clinics (with 500,000 children reached as of today). We are thinking about other spinoffs in new formats for the future. Now all we have to do is find sponsors!