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Women Embrace Healthy Choices

According to the Centers for Disease
Control, 33% of adults and one in every five children
are obese. America is clearly in the midst of a national
crisis — and women, who make 90% of today’s
consumer health-care decisions, are
taking notice. This is particularly evident
from a six-month analysis of The Women at
NBCU Brand Power Index (July to December,
2010), which revealed food brands that have
embraced healthy alternatives are capturing
women’s attention like never before.

At first glance, the index findings seem
to indicate that fast food is on the rise, with
McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Domino’s Pizza
all climbing up the index. However, a closer
look at the recent announcements made by
these brands reveals another side of the story.
For McDonald’s, movement on the index
occurred around the same it launched a partnership
with the social game FarmVille, virtually aligning its
brand with fresh farm produce. Wendy’s climbed into
the top 100, to No. 96, after introducing four new salad
options as well as “natural-cut” fries seasoned with
sea salt. Domino’s Pizza catapulted 140 notches, coming
off a major push to educate consumers on the California
farm-grown tomatoes and 100% real cheese now
used in every pie.

Similarly, Nestlé, Sierra Mist and Frito-Lay all surged
up the index soon after they launched campaigns and
products that emphasized healthy offerings.

It’s worth noting that some fast-food, sweet-tooth and
snack brands generated more buzz in the six-month period
than other brands more commonly associated with
healthy offerings. This is a great example of the power of
positive brand equity. In this case, a brand
that is associated with great taste can leverage
that positive association to enter an area
of the market it has never played in before.

The index results also shed light on the
fact that women are looking for ways to
make “intuitively good” choices — products
labeled “all-natural” or which feature
a simple list of basic ingredients appeal to
this sensibility. Catch words that have been
called into question, like “organic,” are increasingly
confusing to consumers — and
therefore less likely to make an impact.

And it’s not just the fast-food chains that
are benefiting from tapping into the healthy
movement. Retail super stores and drug-store chains
are getting in on the action as well. Walmart, which consistently
held the No. 1 spot on the index over the last six
months, recently announced its commitment to stocking
healthier foods, pledging to reduce salt content by
25% and sugar content by 10% in its products.

Bottom line: Keep it simple, keep it healthy and you’ll
keep women talking.

Melissa Lavigne-Delville is vice president, strategic insights and trends
for Women at NBCU, NBC Universal’s female-targeted
ad sales, marketing and research initiative.