Is the “good for you” message finally sinking through?

That Americans can only ignore the drumbeat of good dietary advice for so long is almost a strange notion. Is it really possible to change?

Part of me is resigned to the fact that consumers, me included, will never really embrace the dietary guidelines with any sort of passionate belief.

“We are supposed to eat 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day? I’m in – and I’ll take a Quarter pounder value meal, please.”

Slowly and surely, perhaps the message is taking hold.

I talked with Bill Bishop, chairman of Willard Bishop LLC, Barrington, Ill., the other day about retail produce department performance in 2010 and into 2011.

He noted that the produce department was among the stronger departments at retail in 2010 and the first part of 2011.

Bishop volunteered that he believes the public indeed is starting to “buy in” to the value of fruits and vegetables.

“Over the last year, I think there has definitely been an uptick in the appreciation that fresh fruits and vegetables are an increasingly part of a healthy diet,” Bishop said. He noted Whole Foods has made a conscious effort to communicate that message.

“Importantly, I think consumers more importantly, are ready to accept that story,” Bishop said. “You can tell a story all you want, but I think more people are ready for it.”

Why now?

Bishop said, of course, that rising health care costs are reminding individuals that they can curb their own future expenses by taking better care of their bodies.

Bishop said that supermarket may also be doing a better job of highlighting interesting varieties of fresh produce.
For example, one store that Bishop shopped promoted pomegranates over the holiday period.

“I’m not saying that is spring, but it is a sparrow.”

Retailers are promoting well beyond tomatoes, potatoes and bananas.

What’s more, greater numbers of retailers like Target and even drug stores and dollar stores are valuing fresh produce in their mix of offerings.

One of those factors may not count for much, but Bishop believes two or three trends could mean a tipping point for consumer appreciation of ‘the message.”

More from my interview with Bishop later on what could be the top threats to retailers on the horizon.