Rats are not Little People

Posted on:July 1, 2011
Mouse dressed like a person

Studies using rodents as "stand ins" for people are useful, but in the end, rodents and people are different.

Rats have tails about the same length as their bodies. People don’t. Rats become sexually mature at six weeks. Babies don’t. Men and rats are different internally as well. Humans have gall bladders, rats do not; and, some metabolic pathways are different.
People forget this. Reporters forget this. Consumer advocacy groups forget this. Even some scientists forget this.
It’s cheaper, faster, and more ethically acceptable to experiment on rats than on people. Sometimes a compound or treatment seems safe for rats, but with more studies we find it is harmful for people. Sometimes a compound or ingredient is harmful for rats, but with more studies we find it to be safe for people.
Such appears to be the case with the sweetener saccharin. In the early 1970s, studies linked saccharin with the development of bladder cancer in lab rats. As a result, foods with saccharine were required to carry a warning.
But, rats are not little people. Wikipedia explains on its website that “unlike humans, [rats] have a unique combination of high pH, high calcium phosphate, and high protein levels in their urine. One or more of the proteins that is more prevalent in male rats combines with calcium phosphate and saccharin to produce microcrystals that damage the lining of the bladder.” This over time can lead to tumor formation in rats, but not people. In the U.S., the National Cancer Institute confirms this as it reports on its website “…studies in rats showed an increased incidence of urinary bladder cancer at high doses of saccharin, especially in male rats. However, mechanistic studies (studies that examine how a substance works in the body) have shown that these results apply only to rats.” The warning labels on foods came off in 2000.
When foods have saccharin in them, they must say that on their labels in the ingredient statement. This gives consumers a choice. They can choose to eat foods and drink beverages sweetened with sugar, sucralose, stevia, agave syrup, honey, or many other sweeteners including saccharin. This gives people with diabetes or weight concerns an option. Is that bad?

— Claudia O’Donnell, Global Food Forums, a conference and seminar organizer

Consumers 1, Big Business and the Environment 0

Posted on:
With sustainability, the enemy is us

Walt Kelly’s poster for the first Earth Day in 1970 reminds us of one consumer group that often does not want to be held accountable, ourselves.

An environment under stress, obesity, unsafe foods and many other ills of today’s society often are easily and conveniently blamed on corporations, the government, big agriculture and other institutions. While organizations have a huge role to play in bettering our world, we, the consumer, must also be accountable.
On page B6 of today’s Wall Street Journal (July 1, 2011), an article entitled “Little Packages, Small Problems” notes that:
– despite newly launched Windex refillable pouches using 90% less plastic than the 26-oz. Windex bottle (containing the premixed cleaning fluid)
– despite the pouches costing consumers only some $2.50 vs. up to $3.50 for the bottle
– despite the bottle containing about 1.5 pounds more water than the pouch (think higher shipping costs, more gas consumption, etc.)…
WSJ reports that Fisk Johnson, chief executive of S.C. Johnson & Sons, maker of Windex, does not have high hopes for a hugely successful product.
Why? According to the article “…the home chemistry project of pouring cleaners like Windex into narrow spray bottles and then adding water can be taxing.”

To quote a generation younger than myself… “OMG!” Are we truly that lazy?

It apparently is easier to whine about gas prices, landfills, cost of living and so on rather than having to pick up a funnel, pour a concentrate into a bottle, then fill with water. (You don’t even have to measure. Stop when the water starts to oveflow!) WSJ reports that Europeans widely use refills. They don’t have as much space to dump garbage nor as large areas to store goods at home.

“We have met the enemy, and he is us.” – Pogo cartoonist, Walt Kelly (1913–1973)

— Claudia O’Donnell, Global Food Forums, a conference and seminar organizer

Fat Kids, Fast Foods and Advertising: Who’s to Blame?

Posted on:
Overweight child with fast food

Will banning fast food ads help children eat better?

Children are increasingly overweight in many countries around the world. Overweight kids can lead to health problems in childhood, and even more as they age. Fast food is one of the most heavily advertised product categories that targets children. Studies show that advertising impacts behavior and several countries are considering banning fast food advertising to kids due to concerns over a link between fast foods and obesity.
A 2009 study published online on April, 2011 by the Journal of Market Research investigated fast food purchases in Quebec, Canada, which had instituted a ban against advertising fast foods to children a number of years ago. In particular, the researchers, Tirtha Dhar and Kathy Baylis, looked at whether fast food purchases were lower in households affected by the advertising ban. Indeed they found it had decreased the “propensity” to consume fast food by 13%, and they also believed that this tendency to eat less fast food lasted into adulthood. Overall, the authors estimate that the ban reduced fast food consumption by US$88 million per year.
So, advertisements were banned, less fast foods were consumed, but did this mean less children were overweight? The researchers said they were not sure, although they noted that Québec has one of the lowest childhood obesity rates in Canada even though the kids also have one of the most sedentary lifestyles.
Is banning advertising the answer to less overweight kids? Are there others as well? Should healthier fast foods be offered in restaurants? Fruits, vegetables and whole grain products can be really fast. Should children be taught how to eat better?

Dhar, T and Baylis, K. 2009. Fast Food Consumption and the Ban on Advertising Targeting Children: The Québec Experience. J Market Res. Posted online April 2011.

— Claudia O’Donnell, Global Food Forums, a conference and seminar organizer

Does Money Undercut Creativity in Product Development?

Posted on:June 30, 2011

Creativity is often a crucial element in successful new product developments. A study published in the July 2011 issue of the Journal of Marketing found that of 20 firms investigated, 15 offered some type of incentive program for creativity. Seven firms provided creativity training with several of those also offering incentives. The authors noted that other studies have consistently found that extrinsic rewards (external to a person) offered alone actually undermine the creative process (by reducing internal motivation). However, two experiments found that product creativity was greatest when monetary rewards and creativity training were offered together.  The training reinforces, rather than undermines, intrinsic motivation.
Burroughs, JE, et al. 2011. Facilitating and Rewarding Creativity During New Product Development. J Marketing.75:53-67.

— Claudia O’Donnell, Global Food Forums, Inc., a conference and seminar organizer

12 Steps to Improve New Product Success

Posted on:June 29, 2011
new products on grocery shelves

A Nielsen press release says companies spend $15 million on average to market a new product with some companies spending over $60 million.

A  June  22, 2011 press release from Nielsen, a global information company,  notes that a new approach developed by the company  can improve the likelihood of new product success from some 10% to 75%. Nielsen offered these twelve criteria that every new product must meet in order to succeed.
1. Distinct Proposition – Does the product offer a true innovation?
2. Attention-catching – Will the product be noticed?
3. Message Connection – Is your message conveyed in a simple, persuasive way?
4. Do you have a Clear and Concise Message? Is it conveyed without clutter?
5. Does your product have a substantial Need/Desire? Is it solving a problem or meeting consumers’ needs?
6. What is your product’s advantage? Is it better than others currently in the marketplace?
7. Credibility – Are your product claims believable?
8. Acceptable Downsides – (Typically related to side effects for over-the-counter (OTC) products)
9. Findability – Is the product where consumers expect it to be? Can shoppers find it easily among the competition?
10. Acceptable Costs – What are the cost/benefit trade-offs at the shelf? This could be price, calorie content, usage instructions, among other factors.
11. Product Delivery – Did you meet or exceed consumers’ expectations? Are you delivering on your product’s promise?
12. Product Loyalty – Will consumers continue to purchase your product in the future?
Source: Nielsen

— Claudia O’Donnell, Global Food Forums, a conference and seminar organizer

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