My Plate/Mi Plato
Consumer Choices and Healthy Eating
Informing communications on healthy eating for Americans is challenging. These communications depend on perceptions, decision-making patterns, and wide variability in US subcultures. To promote healthy eating, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), through its Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), teamed with the Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration to develop and disseminate the Dietary Guidelines. In 2015, these guidelines known as My Plate / Mi Plato were published.
EurekaFacts teamed with Edge Research by supporting efforts to develop consumer-facing messaging to encourage healthier eating based on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines. Here’s how our research teams went about it.
The first phase of the project involved formative research exploring the audience’s motivations and decision-making processes pertinent to healthy eating. This research also looked at emotional and contextual triggers that may drive “unhealthy choices.”
- The first task of the formative research was a comprehensive literature review focusing on 1) the factors influencing nutrition-related decisions and 2) the application of behavioral economics to food and physical activity choices.
- The second task of the formative research employed qualitative methods including journaling and virtual and in-person focus groups to explore Americans’ priorities regarding food choices. These methodologies helped researchers understand cognitive, affective, and contextual factors involved in food decisions and grocery shopping.
- This research was conducted with Generation X and Generation Y cohorts.
- To capture a wider understanding of food choices, the groups were segmented by individuals with healthy weight and those who were overweight and obese.
- Furthermore, since the socio-economic class is a potential factor in food choices, the groups included individuals with low incomes.
- This research was conducted with both English speakers and Spanish-speaking monolinguals. The inclusion of Hispanic segments was essential to the development of Spanish language material.
- The third task triangulated qualitative findings using a population-based survey. The findings of the quantitative study were also used to develop a segmentation of the audience based on motivational, decision style, and behavioral profiles.
The second phase of the study included message testing. The message testing focused on the content of the messages that could be adapted to various media channels. Messages to encourage healthier eating, developed based on the findings of the formative research, were tested using both qualitative and quantitative approaches. The qualitative message testing in the second phase of the study centered on what audiences thought and felt when presented with the messages. The quantitative message testing in the second phase allowed researchers to ascertain the extent to which messages resonated with the audience segments identified during the formative research.
Understanding consumer choice has many applications in public health communications as well as in the private sector. The study structure that addressed the framework within which decisions are made, followed by the specific message testing yielded high-quality information that can be applied broadly across individual campaigns as well as specifically to each type of message.
The product of the research was used by CNPP and HHS as input provided to the communications agencies that developed campaigns and promoted the My Plate / Mi Plato Dietary Guidelines.
Methods: Qualitative research, Formative research, Diary journaling, Literature review, Quantitative online surveys, Focus groups, Population-based surveys, Data weighting
Frameworks/analytics: Consumer choice, Behavioral economics, Journey mapping, Cultural and generational cohorts, Segmentation analysis
Audiences: Spanish monolinguals, General population in Generation X and Generation Y Cohorts
Languages: English, Spanish
Content Domains: Consumer decision-making process, Nutrition, Healthy eating habits and perceptions, Mi Plato/My Plate, US Dietary Guidelines