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Food Guide To Tackle Portions

Many Feel It Has Place In Vending Industry


June 16, 2008
By Stacy Bradshaw


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Health Canada has said it is planning to launch a revised edition of Canada’s Food Guide by next spring.
The aim of the new guide is to address issues, such as portion size, and better reflect the ethnic diversity of the country.

Health Canada has said it is planning to launch a revised edition of Canada’s Food Guide by next spring.
The aim of the new guide is to address issues, such as portion size, and better reflect the ethnic diversity of the country.
 
Although the hope is that its wisdom has already seeped into the general consciousness, the influence of Canada’s Food Guide is still most evident in our government institutions. Either way, according to Glen Jackson, sales manager for Ryan Vending in Victoria, B.C., “Canada’s Food Guide definitely has its place in the vending industry.”

healthyJackson thinks suppliers in the vending industry are currently following the guide – at some level.  “It’s important if they want to be successful. Whether it’s spicy foods or different packaging, you have to appeal to all your customers.”

And if there’s a reluctance to do so, Jackson said, “We have to find new suppliers.”

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Gilles Cloutier, registered dietician with Ottawa Public Health, suggested suppliers look around the world, use it as a source of ideas and find stores and manufacturers who supply ethnic foods.

“It’s a great way to come up with new products … the pita used to be an ethnic food and now it has made its way into the mainstream,” he told Canadian Vending magazine last month.
 
Cloutier said Baked Pita Puffs by Handy Foods, for example, are low in fat and a decent source of fibre. They’ve been rated very good, or the colour green, in Ottawa Public Health’s award-winning Fuel to Xcell venture. In the program, snacks and beverages in school vending machines are evaluated and colour-coded to help students identify healthier products. The Fuel to Xcell program was designed to improve the nutritional value of snacks in schools while still maintaining revenues obtained through vending machines.

Schools are among the many institutional settings that derive nutritional standards from Canada’s Food Guide.
“It’s becoming evident that schools, recreation facilities – anywhere there’s a certain level of government control – will ask for healthy vending,” Cloutier said.

Whether the message of the new Food Guide will make it into the general consciousness, “will depend on how well it is distributed to the public,” the dietician explained. “The goal of the Food Guide is not just to be scientifically correct, but to make it known.”

Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh hopes the Food Guide will become more palatable for all Canadians, no matter their   cultural or language background, age or social environment.

The Food Guide can be a useful tool for new and old Canadians alike, but its current influence can be debated.
Canadian Vending contacted Citizen and Immigration Canada to find out if they use Canada’s Food Guide as an educational tool in their Immigrant Settlement and Adaptation Program. The program is designed to help new Canadians adapt to the culture, including shopping, managing a household, and everyday tasks. Media Advisor for the CIC, Greg Scott, gave a very formulated, “we do not use Canada’s Food Guide on a regular basis,” and suggested the magazine contact one of the non-governmental multicultural organizations.

Abla Ali from the Inter-Cultural Neighborhood Social Services in Mississauga, Ont., revealed, “I don’t believe I have seen such a guide before – at least it hasn’t come by my way. We are a Community Service Agency … I guess they do not distribute it here.”

Needless to say, the revisions to Canada’s Food Guide are warranted and cannot be ignored by the vending industry.

“People’s eating habits are changing and as they create a demand for healthier products, the vending industry is a perfect vehicle for distributing these products … convenient, healthy food should be our vision for the future. The key is to gain support from our suppliers,” explained Jackson.

Eric Becker, director of sales for Royal Touch Foods, also suggested Canadians look at the trends.
 
“There are two different types of people … there are   people looking for nutritional, healthy alternatives, and there are a lot of people who don’t and will continue buying regardless of nutritional content … there are factory workers who are looking for product size – more bang for their buck.”

Becker also expresses the same frustrations many have with the confusion over what constitutes a serving size. Clarifying serving recommendations is among the areas for revision in the new guide, according to Mary Bush, director general of Health Canada’s office of nutrition policy and promotion.

Cloutier suggested the vending industry get together and set portion limits ourselves.

“That way no one loses because we’re doing it as an industry.”

He recognizes that there is an economic incentive to make larger products, but there comes a point, he added, “where you have to take into account good-will … there will come a point where ill-will will wipe away the monetary advantages of going ‘super-size.’”
 
If that is the case, it would be economically feasible for the industry to “right-size” instead of “over-size,” and more importantly, illustrate to critics that the vending industry cannot be singled out as a cause of obesity, Cloutier said.

“If obesity is a multi-factorial problem, it has a multitude of causes and it obviously needs a multi-factorial solution.”

A multi-factorial solution in Canada’s multi-cultural country could lead to higher revenues for the vending industry – if the industry chooses to recognize the evolving cultural profile and eating habits of consumers and supply products accordingly.

And that, said Cloutier, is one of the main goals of Canada’s Food Guide: “to take people from knowing, to doing.”