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New Year's resolutions for the food industry

“Today” contributor Phil Lempert shares 8 things that should change in 2006.

I know what you're thinking — here’s just another list of New Year’s resolutions about eating better and getting in shape. Wrong! This year my resolutions are written for the food industry.

Do what you say you are going to do
We constantly read food companies’ or fast food chains’ press releases saying all the terrific things they are going to do to improve the taste or nutritional profile of their products … in three months, or six months. By then they’ve received the press clips and the idea is on the backburner until they use up the existing packaging and just sometimes that new and improved version never seems to get to us the consumer.

Watch, listen and read your own ads
What ever happened to food advertising being about food? Enough pseudo-celeb ads implying and endorsement that just smacks of too much money being paid to someone who is out of work and we know never even tried your products. Refocus in 2006. Tell us about your food! How it tastes, the nutritional benefits and why we should buy it!

Pay attention to ME — the shopper
With all the resources at your finger tips there is no reason to introduce food products that no one wants or buys. Understand how customers — young and old, loyal or brand switcher, Black, White or Latin, educated or not, acculturated or not, online or not — are different. Ask yourself, what are the products for each of group?  How you can best communicate your message. We are not a nation of middle aged white men anymore and you had better understand that if you want to survive!

Test EVERY cow
The potential of mad cow disease keeps me up at night. Please, do what Japan and other countries do … test every cow for mad cow BEFORE they enter our food supply.

For every new product you introduce — eliminate one
Have you been into a supermarket lately?Too many me-too products. Same price, same taste, same, same, same … ’nough said.

Make ‘dollar menus’ illegal
It’s not that I don’t want people to save money, it’s just that having these low prices falsely inflates the success of fast food chains that are headed for failure. Change the menu, unbolt the seats from the floor, move your restaurants into the areas where people actually are. I'm not saying you should go “100 percent health food” — but hey, isn’t it time to realize that not everyone who is time pressed, hungry and wants value has to have a fat-loaded, white-bread-encased handheld delicacy that was designed to taste like it's full of artificial flavors?

Be nutritionally correct
We have enough research that supports the fact that Americans are too fat, too out of shape and on the verge of a serious health dilemma with increases of heart disease, cancers, diabetes and osteoporosis. Time to look at those recipes and get out the added sugars, high fructose corn syrup, artery clogging fats, sodium and all those other ingredients that are responsible for setting us in this downward spiral. And by the way…one additional benefit might well be the cleansing of the American Palate and we can once again discover that all foods are not sweet and loaded with fat.

Understand technology
We do, and that means that soon we will be scanning every item BEFORE we buy it with a handheld device and can read in a nano-second everything we want (and need) to know about your product. When it was made, where it was made, where it came from. We will even be able to tell YOU what those secret codes on bottles and cans actually mean. And by the way, what’s up with the check-out? Have you ever used a Mobil Speed Pass or EZ Pass toll device? It’s time.

That's it ... things that are easy to do, inexpensive and will make a huge difference in the health and wellness for all Americans! It’s time for the supermarkets and food companies to unite and make us proud!

Phil Lempert is food editor of the “Today” show. He welcomes questions and comments, which can be sent to phil.lempert@nbc.com or by using the mail box below. For more about the latest trends on the supermarket shelves, visit Phil’s Web site at http://www.supermarketguru.com/.