Positive  consumption

As potential litigation simmers, the dairy industry continues its proactive stand against obesity.
by Pamela Accetta Smith
The nation is struggling with a health crisis of epidemic proportions — more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and this percentage has been growing at an alarming pace for the past 20 years.
In 1980, 47 percent of American adults were overweight. Today, overweight and obese adults comprise 65 percent of the population.
Approximately 9 million Americans are “morbidly obese” — overweight by at least 100 pounds — and the nation’s weight issue is becoming an economic drain on the nation.
Determining the cause of the nation’s health crisis is spurring a heated debate, with answers vacillating between finding genetic or hormonal causes, blaming the consumer, the food industry or the sedentary lifestyles that many Americans lead.
The issues are complex, and the truth is that no definitive conclusion unites all theories and factors. But what is clear is that the food industry has been asked to respond to the obesity epidemic with responsible products and marketing messages that are in the best interest of our nation’s health.
This new food paradigm will require changes from all involved — consumers, food companies, industry organizations and the medical community — if we are to become a slimmer, healthier nation. And it doesn’t hurt to have IDFA backing you either.
Food manufacturers and the restaurant industry are beginning to concentrate on childhood obesity, too. With more nutritious products, healthier menus and new activity programs, companies have begun a big push aimed at the youngest generation.
But critics say these companies are taking a new direction only to escape or mitigate possible court verdicts that could blame the food industry for the fact a good portion of American youths now are plumper than they should be.
How exactly does the dairy industry fit into all of this? Walk more, eat less and include dairy products to help burn fat is the scuttlebutt of late. More specifically, scientific research indicates that including lowfat dairy products in the diet can help burn fat. In fact, industry marketers have created several campaigns leveraging data to show dairy’s positive impact on weight maintenance.
Organizations Weigh In
According to Washington, D.C.-based International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), the current obesity crisis and issues concerning proper nutrition are driving dairy product development and education efforts. “We have heard of a variety of companies within all segments of the industry who are working on product formulations and concepts that maximize their weight-loss positioning,” says Tom Nagle, IDFA vice president of marketing. “Our regulatory team is working to promote dairy ingredients as part of formulations for lower-fat, sugar and carbohydrate products.”
Organizations such as IDFA strive to promote dairy’s place in a healthy diet. Just how IDFA fits into the equation as dairy positions itself for a bigger role in better nutrition is clear, says Nagle. “We are positioned as a leader. IDFA, the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) and DMI together launched the Healthy Weight with Dairy campaign to educate consumers about dairy’s role in weight loss. The campaign’s two ads kicked off the entire initiative last fall,” he says. “IDFA is also the administrator for the license dairy companies need to use to promote weight-loss claims with their brands.”
MilkPEP continues to produce marketing communications that are still the strongest voice for dairy and weight loss — both in terms of spending, and development of increasingly specific and compelling claims, says Nagle. “Prior to the Healthy Weight with Dairy effort, MilkPEP focused many of its ads on good-for-you messages with claims about stronger bones and teeth, and beauty,” he says. “Of course, now we’re adding weight-loss messages.”
In terms of health-claim licensing, the University of Tennessee holds a patent on some of the key research concerning calcium and weight loss, and Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) has exclusive rights to the license for this research. “Therefore, IDFA and DMI have completed an agreement that allows licensed companies to make claims in advertising and on labels for qualified products regarding dairy and weight loss,” says Nagle. “Companies that make claims but do not have a license could face legal action.”
As more and more research on the role dairy products play in weight loss is published, the claims processors can use will continue to evolve, says Nagle. “As the evidence mounts, the more aggressive the claims will become,” he says. “Currently, we’re putting the final touches on new claims for packaging, point-of-sale and advertising materials that are a little stronger than the original claims we developed.”
It’s also important to realize, says Nagle, that weight-loss claims are not considered “health claims” and therefore do not need pre-clearance from the Food and Drug Administration. “These claims still need to be substantiated by science,” he says.
Although IDFA isn’t aware of any litigation against the dairy  industry, Nagle says IDFA and MilkPEP are educating companies to make sure they understand that they need a license from IDFA to make any weight-loss claims. “Without a license, companies could face legal action,” he warns.
To that end, IDFA has created a marketing guidance memo containing examples of weight-loss claims. “While not all-inclusive, the memo gives general guidance on what kinds of claims can be made, depending on the product. Once companies apply for and receive a license, IDFA will give them more detailed marketing guidance information to use in developing product and marketing claims,” says Nagle. “Because of the context-specific nature of the legal standards, dairy processors are advised to have their proposed labeling, advertising and other promotional materials reviewed by IDFA or qualified legal counsel to ensure compliance.”
Overall, IDFA believes the existence of an array of compelling scientific research positions dairy as a weight-loss solution, not part of the obesity problem, says Nagle. “However, inherent in being perceived as part of the solution, is being responsible in the use of claims,” he says.
It’s important, Nagle says, for dairy processors to expedite the connection of weight-loss messages with their brands. “While we don’t know all the reasons why dairy foods help you lose weight when on a reduced-calorie diet, we do know that calcium is a key player in the process,” he says. “Therefore, processors need to jump on these messages and own them before other calcium-fortified foods make similar claims.”
IDFA is behind dairy’s nutrition/obesity-related marketing efforts and strategies. “For 2004 and 2005, MilkPEP’s primary strategy is promoting milk’s role in weight loss. Last spring MilkPEP launched the ‘24/24 Milk Your Diet, Lose Weight’ initiative, which includes public relations, advertising and promotional efforts,” Nagle says. “More specifically, one side of the Milk Mustache Mobile has been re-designed to include weight-loss messaging aimed at moms. The vehicles travel with a portable diet bar that allows processors to sample smoothies and other nutritious drinks made with milk. Often a registered dietitian is on hand to answer consumer questions about nutrition and milk’s role in weight loss.”
New television and print ads, says Nagle, educate moms about milk’s weight-loss benefits in a reduced-calorie diet. “To date, TV talk show host Dr. Phil and actress Kelly Preston have donned milk mustaches for print ads,” he says. “Three new television spots have aired on TV. This summer, MilkPEP’s ‘The Shape You Want to Be In’ promotion educated consumers about milk’s weight-loss role at retailers and then the ‘Show Off with the Top Down’ promotion rewarded consumers for adding milk to their diets by giving away 24 VW convertible Beetles.
“On the Internet, MilkPEP’s promotion with WebMD gave consumers a chance to find their ideal weight and learn how milk can play a role in their weight-loss efforts. We’ve also launched a new Web site, www.2424milk.com, that has all of the medical research and other resources to educate consumers about milk’s role in weight loss.”
In 2005, MilkPEP has two new promotions lined-up for weight loss. One will partner with ABC-TV’s “The View,” the other with the Curves women’s fitness center chain. “New ads are in the works to continue to use celebrities to help make this claim,” Nagle says.
Processors Respond
In terms of addressing obesity, especially among children, Chelsea, Mass.-based HP Hood LLC works closely with its school customers to develop programs to help educate children on the benefits of drinking milk and consuming dairy.
In fact, the company launched a new line of milk available in 8-ounce paper packages and 10-ounce plastic containers to kick off this school year. The new school milk packages were designed to be more appealing to students with hope of ultimately increasing milk consumption. Each package exhibits a cow graphic participating in a popular sport such as skateboarding, bicycling, baseball, soccer or basketball. Varieties include 1%, 2% and fat-free white, as well as lowfat chocolate and coffee-flavored milks.  
“The graphics on Hood’s new 8- and 10-ounce school milk packages communicate the message of nutrition and exercise and target an important audience: children,” says Cindi Arvanites, Hood senior brand manager. “The graphics are intended to encourage physical activity and healthy, nutritious eating habits, while being kid friendly.”
Given the recent statistics on childhood obesity, says Arvanites, it’s more important than ever to encourage students to make healthy choices. “We converted our 8-ounce milk line to a more attractive package and package design and introduced a new 10-ounce plastic package to enhance the school milk program,” she says. “We hope to see an increase in participation of the school meal program as well as an increase in milk consumption.”
In addition to encouraging youngsters to drink more milk, Hood has created a variety of dairy products for those Americans following a low-carb lifestyle in their weight-management efforts.
The company says it’s providing a solution for the estimated 24 million Americans following a low-carb lifestyle who may be lamenting the absence of dairy in their diet. “With an average of 12 grams of carbs per 8-ounce serving of white milk and 33 grams of carbs per 6-ounce serving of regular yogurt, it hasn’t always been easy to work such dairy products into this lifestyle,” Hood notes in a recent press release.
The solution is Carb Countdown™, Hood’s line of dairy beverages and yogurts touted as the only such product line approved by Atkins Nutritionals. “Many consumers following a low-carb lifestyle have told us they miss milk and yogurt in their lives,” says Mary Ellen Spencer, vice president of  brand marketing. “Our Carb Countdown line of dairy products includes delicious and healthy milk and yogurt replacements that provide an ideal combination of protein, bone-building calcium and significantly reduced carbs.”  
Atkins was enthusiastic about teaming up with Hood for the new line, says Matt Wiant, chief marketing officer for Ronkonkoma, N.Y.-based Atkins Nutritionals Inc. “There are many health benefits in milk and yogurt products, but their carbohydrate content makes it difficult to include them in a low-carb lifestyle on a regular basis. Now with Hood Carb Countdown dairy products, there is a healthy solution,” Wiant says.
Made from milk, Carb Countdown provides milk’s essential vitamins and minerals but with significantly fewer grams of carbs, in part due to the use of the no-calorie sweetener Splenda®. Hood’s Carb Countdown Reduced Sugar Lowfat Yogurt, which also contains the Atkins seal of approval, is a good source of calcium, contains live and active cultures, and 3 grams of net carbs, the company says. The 6-ounce cup yogurts, offered in strawberry, strawberry banana, French vanilla, raspberry, peach and blueberry, are also sweetened with Splenda.
Another processor meeting America’s health concerns head on is Des Moines, Iowa-based Anderson Erickson Dairy Co., which communicates dairy’s weight-loss benefits in many of its consumer messages.
“Even though as processors we have been hearing about the link between dairy products and weight loss for nearly two years, this message is new to consumers,” says Miriam Erickson Brown, AE president and chief operating officer. “I am certain consumers need to hear our new milk health messages — from weight loss and management to the general nutritional components of milk.”
Marketing at AE is very brand oriented, says Brown. “As a part of that, we like to provide the latest breaking news about dairy to our customers,” she says. “For the past four years, we have been telling AE customers about the nutritional benefits of milk in our marketing campaigns. We combined the current research along with branded messages to tell them why milk especially, needs to be a part of their diet plan.  
“Sixty-five percent of Americans are overweight, and this summer one-third of the nation was either following or had been following a low-carbohydrate diet. Our most important goal right now is to get the word out about the weight loss and dairy link. I call it being a ‘dairy ambassador.’ The message definitely fits the trends, it is supported by the medical community and is golden. Never before have we had a better story to tell.”  
Brown says it is important to position milk as a nutritional powerhouse and tell people that no matter what diet they choose, dairy has a place in that diet. “At AE we use this message — and have been — in our television, radio, billboard and point-of-sale advertising,” she says. “Of course, we do have a license to use the weight-loss claim from IDFA and have followed their recommendations in terms of our messages.”
According to Brown, there is a lot of misinformation about dieting and how dairy fits into that equation. “I especially like to talk about the natural goodness of milk, that it does not contain artificial sweeteners and has nine essential ingredients a body needs,” she says, “emphasizing that for consumers to get the weight-loss and other disease-fighting benefits of milk, you have to consume dairy, not just a supplement containing calcium. That is very important.”
The company’s primary goal is to tell consumers how AE milk fits into their diet plan, says Brown. “Most people eliminate milk when they begin to diet,” she says. “Now we tell them if they want to lose weight and maintain muscle, keep the weight off, burn more fat, lose weight around their waist and prevent disease, three glasses of milk with a reduced-calorie diet is the best choice.
“We have to get the message out and then we have to give consumers time to believe it. When I speak with friends and family about all of the new research, they often react with shock and then disbelief. When they see that the medical community is behind the claims, they start drinking more milk. It takes patience, time and consistency.”
Because the dairy industry has made the commitment to fund and provide research on milk and dairy, Brown believes this protects manufacturers from litigation and adds to overall credibility. “The work continues, and I feel confident that if we are challenged, we have the studies to back our findings,” she says.
Shape of the Future
In the end, the obesity epidemic is problematic because a true solution will require action on several fronts, including changes in consumer behavior as well as reformulation of food products. For the industry, research indicates it may be as easy as promoting what already exists — encouraging the intake of calcium by consuming lowfat dairy products as a way to maintain weight.
With the support of conscientious organizations, educational programs and innovative producers, the dairy industry will continue to do its part in fighting the war against obesity.  df
Obesity statistics and information taken in part from “Fed in America,” Stagnito’s New Products Magazine, August 2003.
Obesity Fast Stats
The topic of obesity has statisticians working overtime. Here are a few of their findings:
•In 1980, 45 percent of adults in the United States were overweight or obese; by 1990, it was 55 percent. Today it’s 65 percent.
•Fifteen percent of children between the ages 6 to 19 are overweight, an increase of 10 percent during the past 10 years.
•The cost of obesity to the U.S. economy is estimated to be $120 billion a year in medical expenses and lost productivity.
•Traditional clothing retailers report more than 20 percent of all clothing sales for women are plus sizes.
•Obesity was the most reported food story of 2003, with the Atkins diet close behind.
•Demand for eggs created by Atkins diet followers created a 20-year high egg price in 2003.
•Nearly 32 million Americans say they are on some kind of reduced-carbohydrate diet.
•Studies of twins indicate 50 to 70 percent of the tendency toward obesity is inherited. The chances of becoming obese if both parents are obese are 60 to 80 percent. The chances when both parents are thin is 9 percent. There is no indication that the tendency to be overweight is inherited.
•Worldwide, obesity affects 300 million adults and 17.6 million children younger than 5.
•Of the 10.3 million cases of cancer per year, 3 to 4 million may be preventable with proper diet and exercise, according to the World Health Organization.
•About 150 million people worldwide have Type II diabetes. That figure is expected to double by 2025 due to aging, diet, obesity and sedentary lifestyles.
•Americans spend more than $33 billion annually on weight-loss products and services.
Sources: USA Today; Hunter Public Relations; Harris Interactive/Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News; Euromonitor/World Health Association; IRI/The Centers for Disease Control; eMedical Supplies and Equipment Inc.
Overweight or Obese?
Most Americans are unclear on what makes someone “overweight” and how one is diagnosed as “obese.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a person with a body-mass index (BMI) between 25 and 30 is overweight, and a person with a BMI above 30 is considered obese.
BMI is a calculated ratio of weight to height. Some of the dissenting voices in the obesity issue point out that a 5-foot-6-inch woman weighing 155 would be considered overweight at a BMI of 25, yet this body shape and size is not considered abnormal.
But despite the debate over where the line should be drawn, it is clear that Americans have been gaining weight.
The American Obesity Association (AOA) uses the following criteria for determining overweight and obesity:
• Overweight and obesity for children and adolescents are defined as being at or above the 85th and 95th percentiles, respectively, of BMI.
• Some researchers refer to the 95th percentile as overweight, others as obesity. The CDC, which provides national statistical data for weight status of American youth, avoids using the word “obesity,” and identifies every child and adolescent above the 85th percentile as “overweight.”
The AOA uses the 95th percentile as criteria for obesity because it:
• Corresponds to a BMI of 30, which is obesity in adults. The 85th percentile corresponds to a BMI of 25, which is adult overweight.
• Is recommended as a marker for when children and adolescents should have an in-depth medical assessment.
• Identifies children that are very likely to have obesity persist into adulthood.
• Is associated with elevated blood pressure and lipids in older adolescents, and increases their risk of diseases.
• Is a criteria for more aggressive treatment.
• Is a criteria in clinical trials of childhood obesity treatments.
Taken from “Shape of the Nation,” Stagnito’s New Products Magazine, August 2003.
Dairy Council of California
Group makes it easier to eat healthy.
Since 1919, the Dairy Council of California (DCC) has been an innovator in nutrition education. Its vision leading into the 21st century is to become the recognized pioneer in advancing the role of food in achieving whole health through individualized learning.
The organization says its nutrition education programs for school-age children and adults have touched the lives of millions of Californians, enhancing health and well-being by enabling individuals to make healthful food and lifestyle choices.
DCC embraces a nutrition approach that centers on a core of lowfat choices, based on the USDA Food Guide Pyramid. Individuals are encouraged to eat a wide variety of foods, moderate portion sizes and balanced food choices over time. The organization believes all foods can be a part of healthful eating when managed for variety, moderation and balance.
The Council does not label individual foods as “good” or “bad,”  recognizing that favorite foods, regardless of fat or calorie count, can be part of a balanced diet when using the above principles. It values individual choice and recognizes there are multiple factors influencing food decisions, including taste, family and cultural traditions.
The organization promotes 30 to 60 minutes of daily physical activity along with a nutritious diet to enhance overall health and well-being.
Regarding its education philosophy, DCC says it strives to be on the leading edge in applying the latest, proven educational methodologies. The organization’s individualized learning model supports multiple learning styles. DCC maintains that truly effective nutrition education works best one person at a time, when individuals are educated to make the best food choices for themselves and their families, and can clearly see how to put their choices into action.
The organization works with education and nutrition experts to develop its programs and, through constant monitoring, identifies emerging trends in health, nutrition and education. As a result, its programs reflect advances in research and the most current health recommendations.
DCC’s school programs connect to core curriculum, making it easier for teachers to teach nutrition education while teaching California content standards. The organization’s staff of experts develops its programs with input from teachers, education consultants and health professionals.
Nourishing Tools
Meals Matter, a non-commercial Web site developed and supported by DCC, provides customized nutrition information that enables users to plan healthier family meals. The interactive educational tools, thousands of recipes, cookbook, meal planning calendar and shopping lists provide a range of useful features to make planning healthy meals easier.
Meals Matter was developed to promote healthy food choices for families. The site’s Back-to-School Health Feature, for example, contains advice for parents including healthy lunch and snack ideas, nutrition information and recipes. Registered dietitians who are skilled in education create practical and nutritionally accurate tools customizable to a family’s unique needs and interests.
Informative articles, downloadable references, interactive tools and nutrition activities can be found at www.mealsmatter.org.
As with all of the Council’s initiatives, its Calcium Connection program addresses weight management by using a behavior-change model to help instill positive lifestyle changes.
But this program is unique in that it targets women throughout their lives with information that applies to their specific life stage and age. In addition, women can use this information for themselves and/or their mothers or daughters.
Dairy Council of California is a not-for-profit organization funded by the dairy industry. For more information on the organization and its programs, visit www.dairycouncilofca.org.
Drink Milk,
Lose Weight
In June, retailers across the country began featuring the “The Shape You Want to be In” promotion sponsored by the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP). The promotion is part of MilkPEP’s “24/24 Milk Your Diet. Lose Weight!” initiative that was launched in May to spread the word to consumers about the scientific link between milk and weight loss.
In the “Shape” promotion, MilkPEP partnered with Shape magazine to distribute about 13 million copies of a 24/24-themed weight-loss guide, offered free with any milk purchase. The guide includes articles about milk, healthy living, weight loss and exercise tips from the magazine.
In addition, the publication contains more than $300 in coupons and a mail-in offer for a “starter kit,” which includes an hourglass-shaped bottle to help consumers count up 24 ounces of milk each day.