Canada's Food Guide as marketing tool: From the Editor's Desk

Colleen Cross
February 14, 2019
Canada’s Food Guide is an important tool but maybe not for the reasons you think.

Health Canada just released a new guide, the first update in more than 10 years.

You will notice two things right off the hop. First, the guide encourages people to eat more plant-based foods. Second, it has dropped “milk and alternatives” as a standalone food group and now includes these under protein-rich foods.

It’s tempting to react to the new guide as you would to a strict teacher who wants to spoil your fun, and no doubt some Canadians will. But with so many people wanting to live healthier lives – and young families concerned about what they are feeding their kids – the restaurant industry shouldn’t ignore it.

For one thing, it can help us understand our customers and anticipate trends in ingredients and eating habits. It is not just a guide to help us eat better but also a reflection of changing knowledge about health and diet and changing attitudes toward food. You’ll have noticed a couple of clues already: that demand for plant-based foods is growing, and that our beloved cheese will be loved not only for its taste but also for its protein (a message to remember in your marketing).

You’ll find the guide online at food-guide.canada.ca in mobile-friendly format. It doesn’t get into numbers but is clearly worded and organized. Look through the guide, pay attention to what it is saying and think about how your menu and your business can come closer to meeting the spirit of its recommendations. Is your menu balanced? Are there small changes you can make to your menu that help customers eat sensibly?

The guide lists five healthy food choices:
  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods. Choose protein foods that come from plants more often.
  • Limit highly processed foods. If you choose these foods, eat them less often and in small amounts (including when eating out).
  • Make water your drink of choice.
  • Use food labels.
  • Be aware that food marketing can influence your choices.
It outlines four healthy eating habits: Be mindful of your eating habits. Cook more often. Enjoy your food. Eat meals with others.

Canada’s Food Guide is a useful tool that can help direct your long-term planning. Whether or not people follow the guide consciously, its message will trickle down and influence attitudes and habits. And it should influence your attitudes and habits as an operator.

The guide encourages Canadians to “be mindful about the decision to eat out.” It emphasizes the importance of socializing with others and presents alternatives to eating out, such as being active with family and friends or organizing a games night.

Why not focus on ways to make your shop a social hub: highlighting group deals or packages that you already offer, adding extra seating, running cooking demonstrations or classes, having board games handy and marketing your pizza as a treat to be shared.

Zeroing in on messages like the importance of spending time with others can help direct your marketing messages and remind Canadians about the communal nature of pizza. After all, the new guide illustrates its advice with a round plate divided into sections for food groups. Maybe a food-guide-inspired pizza is in order?

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