Washington — A new report examining the relationship between indulgent foods, diet and obesity found that consumers are not purchasing items within this category at the same rate. The report, All Indulgent Products are Not Created Equal, shows that when lawmakers attempt to advance policies that treat all foods equally, they are failing to make the greatest impact on public health outcomes as there are notable discrepancies between categories within this market segment.
“Simply put, one size does not fit all when it comes to impacting consumers’ intake of indulgent foods,” says Hank Cardello, executive director of the Leadership Solutions for Health + Prosperity Program at Georgetown University’s Business for Impact and author of the report. “Our research found that while some indulgent products were purchased more by those with obesity compared to those at a healthy weight, chocolate and candy were purchased at similar rates between consumers considered to be a healthy weight and those with obesity. Meaning—all indulgent foods are not created equal and policymakers and public health officials need to consider the contributions of individual product categories when developing policy.”
The report showed that chocolate and candy should not be grouped with other indulgent foods and beverages because they are not purchased and consumed the same as these other products in the category. Unlike other indulgent foods and beverages, the report found that individuals ranging from a healthy weight to those considered obese purchase chocolate and candy at a similar rate.
These findings are especially useful for lawmakers and public health officials, as efforts to curb obesity would be more effective if an emphasis was instead placed on indulgent product groups that were more closely linked to purchases by individuals with obesity. “In order to address the nation’s obesity crisis, public health officials, policymakers and food industry leaders need to work together,” says Cardello. “While producers of indulgent food and beverages need to continue their work on portion guidance and consumer education, public health officials and regulators should take lessons from this report and work to regulate caloric and sugar intake in a calculated way.”
The report further highlighted how the food and beverage industry has made significant strides in helping to reduce sugar, calories and portion sizes to help consumers make more informed choices. A particularly powerful example of this is the success of the confectionery industry’s Always A Treat Initiative. In 2017, America’s leading chocolate and candy companies joined forces in a landmark commitment to Partnership for a Healthier America. These companies set and achieved an ambitious goal to provide more transparency, create more portion guidance options in innovative packaging and educate consumers about how unique products like chocolate and candy can be an occasional treat in a balanced lifestyle.