Last semester one of our projects in the GWU social marketing class was working on calorie labeling legislation in Washington, DC. At the time, we were in the innovator category. If the NY Times has it right today, it looks like the early adopters are arriving on the scene.
...some 20 other states and localities are considering measures that would require chain restaurants to provide calories or detailed nutritional information right on the menu or menu board, often next to the price and in the same size lettering.
Although the laws would apply only to chains, which make up just 10 percent of outlets, they serve about two-thirds of restaurant traffic, experts say.
Marketers LOVE to use point-of-purchase (or point-of-choice) to influence behavior (aka 'consumer choice'). There is a whole science and art to it. Tobacco manufacturers dominate check-out signage at convenience stores - and that's after decades of restricting tobacco advertising. Why, after traveling to a fast food restaurant, do you need to look at a picture of the meal before ordering it? [Hint: it is not an attempt by the store to communicate to non-English speakers or people with low literacy skills. Food photography has its own rules too - sell product!] The reason there is so much opposition by any industry to attempts to co-opt their POC space (and try and get material displayed at the check-out line in a grocery store) is because the PLACE is so powerful as a persuasion strategy - not 100%, but compared to a television ad...
I am a firm believer that simpler messages delivered at POC has to be part of a social marketer's behavior change arsenal. It's about providing people with healthy experiences when making eating out and food purchase choices. Consider these examples from the article:
The chicken Caesar salad at Chili’s is one of those items that might appear to be a healthier choice, but brace yourself: it contains 1,010 calories and 76 grams of fat, while the sirloin has 540 calories and 42 grams of fat (not counting side dishes).
Nor is a tuna sandwich the low-calorie choice at Subway: it has 530 calories, significantly more than the roast beef sandwich, which has 290. And a chai latte almost always has 100 more calories than a cappuccino of the same size prepared with the same kind of milk.
Notorious among nutritionists is the Bloomin’ Onion at Outback Steakhouse, a battered, deep-fried onion resembling a flower that is served with a dipping sauce. The damage, nutritionists say, is about 2,200 calories and more than 100 grams of fat, most of it trans fat.
And from Kelly Brownell:
“There was a time when an orange was an orange, and an apple was an apple...But people don’t recognize what’s in their food anymore — a Pop-Tart has 56 different ingredients. And the food industry is very good about cramming sugar, fat and salt into food, making it taste very good but making it a challenge to be healthy.”
So there's at least five reasons to focus on simple, direct POC programs for obesity prevention in addition to the other essential elements of your program. Remember: there are over 200 opportunities a day to influence food choices. That's a lot of openings.