Hey Tom Brady – Fun Foods are Here to Stay, But …

So the great Tom Brady has declared that Coca-Cola is “poison.”

With his football deflation controversy adjudicated but not forgotten, he decided to wade into the food nutrition debate and attack major American corporations. They really love him at NFL headquarters now!

From Brady’s October 12th radio interview:

“I would love to encourage all my teammates to eat the best way they possibly can, to have high school athletes [do the same]. That’s not the way our food system in America is set up. It’s very different.

They have a food pyramid. I disagree with that. I disagree with a lot of things that people tell you to do. You’ll probably go out and drink Coca-Cola and think, €˜Oh yeah, that’s no problem. Why? Because they pay lots of money for advertisements to think that you should drink Coca-Cola for a living? No, I totally disagree with that. And when people do that, I think that’s quackery. And the fact that they can sell that to kids? I mean, that’s poison for kids. But they keep doing it.”

And:  “I think we’ve been lied to by a lot of food companies over the years, by a lot of beverage companies over the years. But we still do it. That’s just America, and that’s what we’ve been conditioned to. We believe that Frosted Flakes is a food. … You just keep eating those things, and you keep wondering why we have just incredible rates of disease in our country. No one thinks it has anything to do with what we put in our body.”

(Thanks to Steven Perlberg for initially bringing Brady’s comments to my attention in his Wall Street Journal article.)

Why did Brady go public with such a strong position on this difficult societal and public policy issue?

His comments were a reaction (deflection?) to a magazine article about a friend who is a business partner and nutritional/fitness adviser (Tom Brady’s Personal Guru Is a Glorified Snake-Oil Salesman – but hey, that’s his business.)

We are so fortunate to be able to walk into just about any grocery market and find an incredible array of choices, from the super healthy to the wonderfully indulgent.

I’m no fan of Brady, but he’s on the mark when he notes that people could be making healthier eating choices.  However, he goes off the deep-end when he assigns blame but does not include those who actually can make a difference – the consumers who are purchasing the food!  I say this as someone who is a big proponent of making good eating choices, and as a marketer of healthy products and ingredients.

Consider these four points when thinking about the food nutrition challenge:

First, we need to get off the morality soapbox if we truly want to address the challenges of healthier eating.  And, by the way, we need to stop the “legislation is the answer” mantra, too.  No and No.

Second, we need to emphasize and stress what can really make a difference when it comes to nutrition:  personal free choice (we each make our own eating choices, at least for the most part); personal responsibility and accountability; and parental oversight and guidance.

Third, last time I was in the supermarket, I didn’t see any person, at risk of their life, being forced to buy sugary cola versus apple juice or some chocolate flavored cereal versus oatmeal.  It just doesn’t happen that way.

Fourth, food and beverage companies respond to the market.  Sometimes they lead the market, but it’s hard to drive, let alone change, consumer behavior. They will respond, however, and if the public demands something, there’s a good chance they’ll get it.

Look, I get the concerns about the influence of marketing and advertising.  But unless we as a society are going to outlaw certain types of food and beverage products (as I said, that’s not the answer), the companies that sell them have the right to market them.  In turn, we, the buying public, must think, reason and purchase accordingly.  Can’t we do that?  At the same time, though, our food suppliers can’t lie and make stuff up about the benefits of products.  If they do, they should get hammered.

PepsiCo smartly categorizes its food and beverage offerings into three broad types:  “fun for you,” “better for you” and “good for you.”  There’s a place for all in our lives.

If you just drink carbonated beverages all week, you’ve got a problem.  If you eat cookies every day, that’s not good either.  If you’re able to eat fish and broccoli every day, fantastic.

The point is, it’s not all or nothing.  We don’t live that way.

When it comes to the challenges, and opportunities, of food nutrition, let’s put moderation, and personal choice/responsibility/accountability back into the equation.

As for Mr. Brady, can’t he just retire already?

Harvey Chimoff is a versatile marketing and business team leader who believes good marketing sells. Contact him at harveychimoff dot com.

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