The Packaging Pitch: The other half of the plate debate -

The Packaging Pitch: The other half of the plate debate

By Fresh Produce Marketing founder Lisa Cork

Back in 2015 when the USA replaced the food pyramid graphic, the fresh produce industry rejoiced. Released as part of ‘Dietary Guidelines for Americans’, the pyramid was gone and in its place was…a plate. Using the new plate icon, what to eat daily became simplified: make ½ the plate fruit/veg, ¼ the plate protein, ¼ the plate grains and add a small amount of dairy to the side. Easy-peasy.

What worked about the plate diagram was its visual simplicity. It is not hard to imagine what is required to ensure 50% of every meal is filled with fruit and veg. Think of what you ate at your most recent meal. You may not know how many ‘servings’ or grams of a fruit or veg you ate, but I am sure you would be able to estimate what percentage of your total plate was fruit or veg. Was it 50% or more? Pat yourself on the back. Was it 50% or less? You’ve got some work to do.

The half the plate concept does not require a kitchen scale or a measuring cup. It is a simple, visual icon that anyone can see, understand and embrace. It is a hugely positive tool for our industry.

As the fresh produce industry, we are also in an enviable position about owning 50% of the plate. At the moment, there is no real argument against half the plate being fruit or veg. Yes, our industry has some contentious issues (chemicals, GMO, plastics, labour), but for the most part fruits and vegetables are seen as wholesome and good. This consensus definitely does not carry over to the other half of the plate!

Back in March, I had a chance to attend SXSW as part of a group from PMA USA. SXSW is a thought leadership conference covering hundreds of topics and bringing in attendees and speakers from around the world.

As part of attending various sessions within the food stream, one thing became very clear to me – there is huge debate about the other ‘half of the plate.’ And I mean huge debate!

One of the SXSW sessions I sat in on was about plant based diets. This session had speakers from Memphis Meats (growing meat in vats using animal cells) and Beyond Meat (plant based meat patties). The gist of the session focussed on plant-based and vegan diets and showcased the various diets and meal delivery kits that made converting to a vegan life style easier.

An example used was Beyoncé/Jay-Z’s investment into a diet plan called 22 Days. 22 Days focusses on providing meal kits and recipes to move people from consuming animal proteins to consuming a more plant-based diet. It includes foods like Beyond Meat’s plant based protein patties, grains and legumes. The mental analogy I formed in the session was – half the plate is fruit and veg and the other half of the plate is vegan and uses foods like grains and plant based proteins to replace meat.

Just one hour after the plant-based protein session had concluded, I attended another food session. This one featured the developer and supporters of what is called the Whole 30 Food Plan. Within the Whole 30 plan, which is more like Paleo, the diet discourages legumes and grains and encourages more meat and plant consumption (e.g. vegetables). The belief is that legumes and grains create gut issues and diets with higher protein and fat are better for the body. In this session, my mental picture was more 75% of the plate had mainly veggies with an animal protein making up the other 25%.

With these two contrasting mental pictures in mind, can you see where this column is heading? The good news for our industry is there is almost no debate about our ‘our half of the plate.’ But there is huge debate about the other half of the plate. What this says to me is we need to own our half proudly…and boldly. We need to continue to promote that whatever diet you follow, whatever the other half of your plate looks like, one half needs to be filled with fruits and vegetables.

Being bold extends to your marketing and branding. If you are still using a grower name or farm name brand, I strongly believe now is the time to make a change – especially if you package your product in some way. There has never been a better time to create bold, clever names as a tool to get cut through and attention and promote fruit/veg’s ownership of half the plate. Bold branding is my specialty – contact me if I can help.

Explore: for plate icon to be used as a graphic?