3/3/2021

For Brands: What RDs look for in a brand when making buying decisions…

When we first launched Link, we surveyed our audience to get a better idea of the types of brands they want to see on Link and brands that they are interested in working with or sharing with their clients. Dietitians work with different populations, so what one may look for themselves, they may recommend something else to their patient population.

Brand after brand tells us that working with RDs makes a difference to them because RDs understand how to talk about products and their benefits far better than the average influencer. They understand who the product is meant for, who would be interested in it, and who could benefit from it for their special diet. Consumers want to know that the products they choose have a proven benefit and are supported by science, but they don’t necessarily need to see or hear the nitty-gritty details. RDs have a way of interpreting the science and relaying it to consumers in easy to consume and understand ways. And, in our brands’ words, “They just get it.”

So… when we surveyed our RDs – we weren’t surprised that the majority reported looking at the ingredients list before the NFPs (nutrition facts panel). In fact, 74% of dietitians we surveyed said that the ingredients list influences their buying decision more than the NFP. Dietitians inherently know the benefits and drawbacks of each ingredient and how they work together within the body. 

But what did slightly surprise us was how many RDs responded, unprompted, with comments about how much the company’s messaging impacts their buying or recommending decisions. RDs are evidence-based practitioners so they’re not quick to jump on fads and trends and would prefer that companies didn’t push misleading information, false claims, or fad diets and lifestyle trends on consumers. 


So, here’s a quick breakdown of what RDs look for when seeking out and discovering new products to try or recommend. You may use this to help determine if RDs, or what type of RDs are right for your brand, or even what you choose to prioritize in product development or brand messaging!

What RDs look for in a brand:

  • Ingredients come first (but don’t get us wrong, taste is still king).
    • According to a small survey we conducted, 74% of dietitians say that the ingredients list influences their buying decision more than the nutrition facts panel
    • Dietitians report that most of their clients are asking about simple, easy to recognize ingredients– more and more people want to know what they are putting into their bodies
    • Simple, nutritious, ingredients that they (or whomever they are recommending the product to) would recognize
    • The fewer ingredients the better!
    • Ingredients are listed in order of highest to lowest amount in the product. RDs may look at the placement of ingredients to help inform their buying or recommending decisions (ie if sugar is listed first)
    • RDs report that most of their clients are seeking low added sugar* rather than macronutrient (carb, protein, fat) profile
      * Low added sugar doesn’t necessarily mean consumers want artificial or high intensity, nonnutritive sweeteners instead, in fact, many prefer real sugars just less of them! It depends on the product category, but we’d say less than 5-10g per serving is a good number to shoot to be under. The less the better!
  • Nutrition facts come second
    • RDs work with a variety of populations so may prioritize different nutrients on the NFP. But overall, RDs look at a product’s serving size, as well as the sodium, sugar, trans and saturated fat, fiber, and protein content. And depending on if their clients have a special diet, they may look at % daily value of different vitamins and minerals.
    • Reasonable amounts depend on the type of product and the individual
      • For example, athletes may need more sodium or more carbs; whereas consumers with diabetes will likely be looking for lower carb options, and patients following a heart-healthy or renal diet will be looking for low sodium options – among many others
      • In general, for the average health-conscious consumer, you may choose to aim for the following guidelines:
        • Simple, real, whole food ingredients, as much as possible
        • 2+ grams/serving of fiber 
        • 4+ grams/serving of protein
        • Less than 5-10 grams of sugar per serving, lower the better, with a preference towards real sugars versus non-nutritive high-intensity sweeteners
        • Less than about 200mg or so of sodium per serving
        • No artificial sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame), high intensity, nonnutritive sweeteners (erythritol, allulose, stevia, etc.) depend on personal preference and reaction. Some artificial sweeteners can cause an upset stomach, while others can have a strong taste and intense sweetneess. Dietitians have mixed opinions on these sweeteners but know which types of consumers and special circumstances these sweeteners fit into. 
  • Lastly, but more important than you may think, is your messaging.
    • Dietitians can read through your marketing message to help determine who your product is best suited for and determine the healthfulness of the product – they may even think of new populations you hadn’t considered
    • Not pushing fads or trends – Just because it’s trending on social media, doesn’t mean that the specific diet or ingredient is good for everyone– or sometimes anyone!
    • No false claims – RDs care about educating the general public and helping to make healthy eating easier for them, and won’t support brands who share midleading information to the consumer
    • Fits with their personal diet or lifestyle as well as their familys’ or clients’ dietary needs (ie plant-based, food allergies, taste preferences, kid friendly, etc.)

What have you prioritized within your brand’s mission and values? How does this come through and show up on your different brand’s touchpoints? How does your brand message stack up with what the RD community is prioritizing? 

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