Based on the grim results of a study conducted for Atkins Nutritionals that revealed most Americans cannot identify nutritious foods or understand how many foods impact their bodies, the lifestyle company created a multidimensional, integrated marketing initiative that aims to educate consumers about the amount and impact of “hidden sugars” in everyday foods that could be contributing to America’s obesity and diabetes epidemics.
The Sugar Gap Study, conducted for Atkins Nutritionals by Wakefield Research, found four out of five Americans couldn’t identify what caused a blood sugar spike and that most of the 1,000 research participants thought natural sugars were better than added sugar and would not cause a blood sugar spike, Scott Parker, Atkins’ chief marketing officer, told FoodNavigator-USA.
He added that he also was disheartened to learn that the majority of people do not know that many carbohydrates breakdown into sugar in their bodies and that the body stores much of the excess sugar as fat. Nor do they know that over time the body becomes resistant to removing sugar from the blood stream creating a risk for type 2 diabetes.
Worse yet, the study found millennials were the least informed group, Parker said.
“It just shows we have a long way to go from an education perspective,” to teach people about the prevalence and risk posed by “hidden sugars” that are converted from carbohydrates in the body, Parker said.
And that is exactly what the company aims to do in its new multifaceted marketing campaign, he added.
Strapping ‘sugar goggles’ on students
One way Atkins is educating consumers about the connection between carbs, sugar and metabolic diseases is by creating a virtual reality game, or Sugar Goggles, that tests people’s nutrition knowledge and shows how many hidden sugars are in everyday foods.
Beginning in February, the company will take the Sugar Goggles to high schools with the help of HealthCorps so that students who “are at a critical stage of developing lifelong habits” can learn about eating a balanced diet partly through gamification, Parker said
The Sugar Goggles create the sensation of flying and task players with going through as many gold hoops as possible. Throughout the game they are given a choice between foods and when they choose the healthy options, they get a speed burst to fly through more hoops. But when they choose incorrectly, they are pushed upwards making it more difficult to go through the next hoop and visually replicating the impact of a sugar spike, Parker explained.
“It’s a fun and very compelling way of teaching nutritional education, which can sometimes be a bit dry,” Parker said.
Thanks to a partnership with a nutrition company Eat This, Not That!, the Sugar Goggles also will make an appearance in the snack rooms of several large corporate companies that are trying to educate their workers on the health impact of the food choices they make, Parker noted.
Healthy consumers and healthy profits?
The number one goal of the campaign is to benefit society by educating consumers about the health impact of what they eat, according to Parker, but he acknowledges it also provides a platform for introducing more people to Atkins’ portfolio of low-carb and –sugar products that offer the right balance of protein, healthy fats and fiber.
This message is driven home in new television spots that directly compare everyday foods with Atkins’ branded options. For example, in one 15 second spot the company compares the impact on viewers’ blood glucose levels of bagel, which has the impact of about seven teaspoons of sugar, with one of the brand’s meal bars that offers 15 grams of protein and has the effect on blood sugar levels of one teaspoon of sugar.
“We show that we provide a better solution … and having these widely available low-carb, low-sugar options is an advantage to Americans who are actively trying to lose or manage their weight,” Parker said. In that way, notes, Aktins not only shines a light on a significant problem, but it also provides an easy solution.