I love vegetables and enjoy a wide variety of them throughout the week. Unfortunately, not everyone in my house shares that same affinity. Most nights at dinner, I watch someone shuffle food around to hide the veggies or combine a dramatic eye roll and long sigh in protest – “not Brussels sprouts!”. I know I am not alone when it comes to vegetable resistance. According to the Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern, I should consume 2.5 cup equivalents of vegetables which seems attainable for me. But when I think about feeding my family of five, it feels daunting and a bit pricey. Factor in three kids in different sports and a bunch of other commitments, and now convenience becomes a top priority. That’s one reason why I am proud to work with a company that provides simple, affordable ways to get in more veggies each day. So how do they do it?
At Campbell, we track the nutrition of our products and share our performance each year in the Corporate Responsibility Report. Tracking vegetable servings in our products is an important part of corporate reporting for us and requires careful calculations that start at the ingredient level. In FY 2018 alone, Campbell put over 10 billion servings of vegetables (1 serving is equal to ½ cup equivalent of vegetables) into the marketplace from soup, meal, and beverage products alone. This month, I sit down with Alexandria Hast, PhD, RDN, to learn what it takes to calculate and track the vegetables in our products.
Vegetable Ingredient Review Board
Nutrition labeling and reporting requires a lot of technical expertise. Campbell has an official Vegetable Review Board made up of an interdisciplinary team of professionals including nutrition, product development, and ingredient experts. They review every vegetable and fruit ingredient used in Campbell products and calculate the servings they provide. The team gathers information from ingredient suppliers, the USDA Food and Nutrient Database, USDA Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs, and use their expertise in vegetables and fruit to determine the actual contribution in the given form.
Some vegetable calculations are straightforward, but others are more complicated. Pastes, powders, and juice concentrate ingredients require careful calculations because they have water removed. Dr. Hast walked me through an example using tomato products. She explains that fresh tomatoes are 94% water, so it makes sense that when you remove water from the tomatoes to make a more concentrated tomato paste, you will get more vegetable from 2 tablespoons of paste compared to 2 tablespoons of fresh, chopped tomatoes. This is how products with tomato paste, like Prego® Traditional sauce, can have 2 servings of vegetables in just ½ cup of sauce. Dr. Hast explains, “We only need to calculate vegetable contributions at the ingredient level once, then we can use that value to figure out the ingredient’s contribution in any given soup, sauce or beverage recipe.”
A Voice for Veggies During Product Development
The wheels of product development are always in motion and when a brand wants to reach a target for vegetable contributions, nutrition experts, like Dr. Hast suggest guardrails to help guide them. For example, with Well Yes!® sipping soups, we wanted each soup to deliver a full serving of vegetables. Initially things start off as paper calculations and we work very closely with the product developers to ensure we meet the target. Then we make the recipe. Most times adjustments are needed for a variety of reasons like taste, quality or difficulty in actually making the recipe! The team continues to work together closely to ensure we still meet our targets after any recipe modifications. The end product is a line of great tasting, affordable, convenient sipping soups that all deliver a full serving of veggies.
Small Vegetable Contributions Have Large Impact on Food Supply
According to the 2018 State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables, 91% of adults fail to meet the recommended intakes for vegetables.1 Any time we can increase vegetables in our products, even if only by a little bit, it can have a big impact on the food supply. In FY18, Campbell put over 16 billion servings of vegetables into the marketplace and over 10 billion of that was from center store products. The expertise we have at Campbell makes it possible for us to measure and report on this work accurately. Dr. Hast shares, “Eating enough vegetables is hard for most Americans. There are millions of people eating our products, so we can have a big impact on vegetable consumption and make that task just a little bit easier.”
A little bit of veggies goes a long way!
Alex's BioAlex received her Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences from the Pennsylvania State University. Her research investigated the effects of protein, energy density, and portion size on satiety and energy intake, and her work has been published in several peer-reviewed journals. She also obtained her Bachelor’s degree from Penn State and completed a combined internship and Master’s degree program at University Hospitals and Case University in Cleveland, Ohio. Alex has several years of experience as a clinical dietitian and is a member of the American Society for Nutrition, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the Pennsylvania Dietetic Association. At Campbell, Alex is a Senior Nutrition Manager responsible for nutrition strategy for the Meals & Beverage businesses including development of nutrition science communications, identification of claim opportunities, and managing nutrition labeling.
Kate's BioKate received her bachelor's degree in dietetics from the University of Delaware and completed her dietetic internship at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. She has over ten years of experience in a variety of nutrition-related practice areas including clinical nutrition, weight management counseling, health and wellness and nutrition education. Kate has worked as a nutrition consultant to the Campbell Soup Company since 2005.