SEATTLE—Publicis Dialog, long known as a leader in the food-marketing sector, has launched a new research institute to discover better ways for food marketers to communicate nutrition issues to consumers and nutrition influencers.

The new unit, called the Nutrition Marketing Research Institute, is based in the agency’s Seattle office and headed by Steve Bryant, who also serves as the network’s chief creative officer and president of the Seattle office. Its activities will be informed by an advisory board of nutrition experts and guided by a board of the firm’s own nutrition and health-marketing experts.
“Nearly every food marketer is trying to understand the best way to manage and benefit from nutrition issues for their food brand or agricultural product,” said Bryant. “Until now, we’ve defined the principles of nutrition marketing largely by experience. This initiative will allow us to better assess what’s working for the industry and what’s not, test our theories, and open up new avenues for nutrition message development.”
The NMRI plans to undertake a major research project each year and to share the results openly with food and health companies. Its first study will assess trends in the media coverage of obesity and weight loss issues.

“News coverage of weight loss and obesity issues was once largely confined to January and ‘swimsuit season,’” says Bryant.  “Increasingly, it’s commanding the attention of consumers and media all year long.” The study will involve statistical analysis of news databases as well as analytical reading of selected major media coverage for the last three years.

The agency’s food marketing experts include Hannah Coan, director of client services, who oversees branded food communications; John Bissell, group management director for food commodities; and Michelle Babb, senior account supervisor and a nutrition marketing specialist. The firm has won national awards for its work on behalf of the United Soybean Board and was recently cited in the New York Times for its work on behalf of the Cranberry Marketing Committee to broaden awareness of the health benefits of cranberries. Other clients include The Hazelnut Council and several Nestle brands.