Canadian Vending

Features Consumer Behaviour Trends
From the Editor: October 2007

A Salty Dish


March 7, 2008
By Cam Wood


Topics

At a recent meeting with a major Canadian foodservice operator, the
subject of what will be the next major lobby “in the best interest of
consumers” arose. It was not an unusual discussion mind you, given the
suffering over the past few years that many operators have faced
surrounding legislative interference in school vending, nutritional
labeling demand and the demonization of all things indulgent.

At a recent meeting with a major Canadian foodservice operator, the subject of what will be the next major lobby “in the best interest of consumers” arose. It was not an unusual discussion mind you, given the suffering over the past few years that many operators have faced surrounding legislative interference in school vending, nutritional labeling demand and the demonization of all things indulgent.

The unified sentiment was that once the self-appointed consumer protectionistas had finished off soft drinks and bottled water – as they have with tobacco – salt content would be next.

The move has already begun to take shape, with the release of a study conducted by cardiologists at the University of Calgary earlier this year. The headlines surrounding the news professed that if Canadians reduced the amount of sodium in their diet, millions of Canadians would be spared the prospect of a life with hypertension and high blood pressure.

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Like an Al Gore movie, the alarmist approach found success, despite flaws in the actual science. Little attention was paid to the core of the study beyond the executive summary that claimed Canadian consume twice as much salt as necessary.

Fortunately – to a degree – the study was attacked by equally “qualified” professionals who pointed out that the results were not from a clinical study, and that the outcome was that “they seem interested that they could save health-care dollars and improve the health of Canadians by reducing the amount of salt they put in the food.”

One detractor of the study said the researchers wanted to apply an intervention strategy on a wholesale scale that has been shown to work in only 50 per cent of the people who already suffer hypertension – never mind the entire Canadian population. They also failed to identify the risks associated with low-sodium diets.

But the greater point made in the massive publicity that surrounded the “revealing” study from Alberta – the target has been identified.

Our food industry is barely recovering from the battle with trans fats and sugar content, despite the massive gains made in providing healthier choices of traditionally indulgent products.
Next on the course is salt.

Be warned vending industry: it’s likely that in this drive to shelter consumers from themselves, the issue of where vending machines are located will come into the protectionistas’ sights. Should operators choose the wrong side of the street, the “researchers” will focus on how many injuries can be prevented if people no longer have to cross against traffic to buy something.

We can only await the results of the study that show an increase in Canadians’ hypertension from having too many people doing the worrying for them.


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