business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

I like my gym. The place is loaded with great equipment, most everything is relatively clean and the trainers have helped me recover well from two different athletic injuries. Simply put, it delivers exactly on what I want from a fitness center.

However there’s a small problem: my gym clearly wants to be more. The company - Lifetime Fitness - wants to be part of my overall health. The on-site café promises only healthy foods and the monthly magazine is constantly touting solutions.

And that’s where my enjoyment tends to nose dive with regularity because it’s clear to me that the company has a very specific idea on what healthy is and is not. I may be skeptical, but many of my fellow gym goers wouldn’t agree. Sure the gym only adds to the information overload that shoppers face these days, but like it or not, a fitness center’s point of view can manage to carry a lot of weight.

It would be easy to argue that Lifetime is getting out of its lane - to use a modern colloquialism - but I’m not sure shoppers see it that way. Rather, they see information from a trusted source they believe and that should concern us.

Consider the most recent magazine from Lifetime and its take on the eternally controversial issue of GMOs.

The GMO article read, “As with the first GMOs, some experts are concerned about the lack of oversight, testing or label of these next-gen (GMO products.)” To support that line the article then quoted a single expert, from Friends of the Earth, described as an environmental watchdog group.

As a believer in balanced journalism, the article offended me for the complete lack of any counter argument. It impossible to believe that the author couldn’t find a second “expert” to both weigh in on GMOs and possibly provide a different opinion. Instead I was left with a clear sense that the author’s entire goal was to support his own point of view.

Believe me, I understand that GMOs are a controversial issue with a vast gulf between those who support and those who oppose the use of the genetic technology. The gap between general scientific consensus and public opinion is wider on GMOs than a host of other controversial topics including climate change, vaccinations and evolution.

The reality is that GMOs are both a hot issue and on shoppers’ minds as they wander the aisles of your stores or examine your products. And the information feeding those opinions comes from all kinds of sources, including the gym where they work out.

So this is where we need to consider the notion of staying in or leaving our own lane. The food industry needs to find a better way to convey credible information on a wide range of topics that impact how our shoppers buy, cook and eat for the simple reason that everyone else is already doing it. On all types of topics, including the controversial like GMOs, we need to be at least part of the conversation.

After all, this is our lane.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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