SOURCE: BuzzMetrics

September 06, 2005 11:30 ET

Online Consumer Buzz Suggests Mixed Reactions and Indifference to New USDA Food Pyramid

Childhood Obesity Top of Mind; Parents Highly Linked

NEW YORK, NY -- (MARKET WIRE) -- September 6, 2005 -- The USDA recently released its new MyPyramid food guide aimed to "ease the confusion that has come from so-called 'doctors' and 'scientists' claiming that their independent, repeatable experimentation has shown red meat, processed foods, agrichemicals and irradiation to be unhealthy for people and the planet." Despite intense launch publicity, online buzz among the most influential health and nutrition consumers increased only slightly, while mixed reaction and indifference pervaded.

According to BuzzMetrics, the leader in word-of-mouth research, the share of online conversation about MyPyramid among the 500 most influential nutrition enthusiasts increased from 6 percent to 10 percent between the first and second quarters of 2005. However, that is down from 12 percent in the second quarter of 2004, when the USDA was still actively soliciting public and expert input while developing the guide. BuzzMetrics continuously tracks the conversations, opinions and recommendations of these influentials across over 100 online nutrition forums, community message boards, health Web sites and blogs.

Similarly, buzz levels for MyPyramid among the 340,000 engaged consumers who regularly interact with the 500 nutrition influentials were barely higher in the second quarter of 2005 versus year-ago. Of that total buzz, sentiment was highly varied: 42 percent of all conversation about the new pyramid was negative; 21 percent was mixed (positive and negative); and 37 percent was positive.

"While there was much anticipation, the data suggest MyPyramid's impact as a trend-setting diet force is minimal and lacking in credibility," said Alison Kalis, senior analyst, BuzzMetrics. "Some food companies might benefit by positioning themselves around MyPyramid, but the reality is that the new food guide is barely a blip on the public conscience, and companies would benefit by directing their attention to other more influential and polarizing issues."

One frequently cited benefit of MyPyramid was the interactive tool which allows people to evaluate and create individual nutrition plans. Commonly mentioned shortcomings included accusations that guidelines were influenced by food companies' political contributions and lobbyists, and that serving-size instructions were too vague.

Growing Awareness: Childhood Obesity

Online discussion of childhood obesity among the 500 nutrition influentials and 340,000 other engaged consumers across the leading nutrition discussion forums nearly doubled between the fourth quarter of 2004 and the second quarter of 2005 (from 0.14 percent of all discussion to 0.24 percent), exceeding all prior levels.

While a range of topics were linked in conversations about the responsibility of childhood obesity, the role of parents was by far the greatest. Parents were discussed 43 percent of the time, followed by the government's role (16 percent) and specific food brands (13 percent).

Among various personal habits linked to childhood obesity, activity level was the greatest with mentions in 31 percent of conversations, followed by consumption of soda and sweetened drinks (both 18 percent) and junk food (15 percent).

About NutritionBuzz

The findings are from the latest NutritionBuzz TrendSpot Report (Q2 2005), based on BuzzMetrics' pioneering Influencer Panel research methodology, which tracks the hundreds of thousands of individuals who most effectively spread buzz and start trends among millions of other consumers.

About BuzzMetrics

BuzzMetrics, the leader in word-of-mouth research and planning, helps more than 70 Fortune 500 companies strategically leverage the buzz surrounding their businesses. BuzzMetrics' client list includes 14 of the top 15 pharmaceutical companies, as well as global leaders in virtually every industry -- companies like Comcast, Hewlett-Packard, General Motors and Mazda. For more information, visit www.buzzmetrics.com.

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