America is well into the 2017 Fall sports season, with team rankings and analyses of all types. We have Polls for the Top 25 NCAA teams. Power rankings for NFL and NBA teams. Handicaps and probabilities for bowl appearances and playoff berths. Office workers across America preparing for any number of brackets and betting pools.
Here in the food industry, we have our own special Power Ranking - - for highly nutritious or ‘Powerhouse’ Veggies. This ranking is brought to us by the folks at the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”). The CDC recently published a research report that ranked 47 leading vegetables and fruits using a statistical analysis of healthfulness and the association of each veggie and fruit with reduced risk of chronic disease. The report gave each vegetable and fruit a composite numerical score from 1 to 100 (1).
So, in the spirit of sports polls, here is our Power Ranking of the CDC’s ‘Top 25’ Powerhouse Veggies:
Beyond the cheekiness of a Top 25 poll, there are several important insights that we gained from our analysis of the CDC’s study of Powerhouse Veggies and other related research, which are relevant for food industry professionals:
1. The healthfulness of the top-rated veggies really is impressive:
· Multiple studies of each of the top Powerhouse Veggies shows a strong association with reduced risk of several serious diseases including heart disease and several forms of cancer.
2. The traditional wisdom to ‘eat your greens’ is backed by solid science:
· For decades if not centuries, traditional American diets have encouraged the incorporation of generous portions of healthy greens. The latest scientific studies now confirm what traditional wisdom has taught us – name, that eating greens really is a great way to stay healthy and thus happy.
3. There is tremendous variety of flavor and form in the Top 25:
· Almost any modern cookbook increasingly incorporates veggies and plant-based ingredients in its recipes. Five fabulous cookbook authors which immediately come to mind in regard to delicious recipes incorporating Powerhouse Veggies are Deborah Madison (“Vegetable Literacy”), Mark Bittman (“How to Cook Everything Vegetarian”), Melissa Clark (“Cook This Now”), Yotam Ottolenghi (“The Jerusalem Cookbook”) and David Lebovitz (“My Paris Kitchen”).
4. Americans still aren’t getting enough of these wondrous foods:
· According to research published by the CDC in 2015 (2), only 9% of Americans are regularly consuming the recommended daily servings of vegetables. This shortfall continues despite the robust and growing body of evidence demonstrating the multiple benefits of a more plant-based diet with more consumption of Powerhouse Veggies.
5. Food manufacturers have a significant business opportunity if we incorporate more of these plant-based superfoods into the CPG industry:
· Americans need tasty, compelling food solutions which incorporate more Powerhouse Veggies. We in the food industry are the ones who can make the delicious foods which can deliver this nutrition to the public.
Food industry observers know that we are in the midst of a long-term societal trend toward a more plant-based diet. That said, the general public still lags in the adoption of veggies in the diet, as witnessed by the recent CDC research. More needs to be done to bring tasty plant-based solutions to the market to give consumers more and better plant-based options. As food professionals, it’s our opportunity to use our product development and branding skills to create plant-based products which surprise and delight consumers with the savory flavor of Powerhouse Veggies.
(1) Di Noia J. Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach. Prev Chronic Dis 2014;11:130390. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5888/pcd11.130390
(2) http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/ fruit-vegetables
CLARK DRIFTMIER is Managing Director of Strobus Consulting (www.strobusconsulting.com) which provides clients with new product development and go-to-market business development strategies. He has been a food entrepreneur and start-up specialist for nearly 3 decades. Clark’s new product and management initiatives include more than 350 products in 32 food categories, with combined annual sales of nearly $2 billion. A published author of articles on natural and organic foods, Clark has also spoken at numerous conferences and has served on several national and regional not-for-profit boards. He and his family live in Northern California.