The end of the year offers the food industry, government and health professionals’ time to reflect on what has happened over the past 12months. The reports and insights that are made public on this matter are important in allowing us to understand what needs to be done better, what has gone well, what the key issues are and where the focus needs to be for the following year.
In this final nutritional mailer of 2014, we investigate this insight further.
Waitrose Food and Drink report 2014
Health is a key consideration for Waitrose shoppers. Managing Director of Waitrose, Mark Price, summed up findings of the 2014 report succinctly by saying, “Three things remain constant: Britons’ culinary curiosity, their love of good food and their desire to eat healthily”. Indeed number 5 on the reports trend list is titled, ‘Permanently Healthy’. The report recognised that customers no longer feel that eating healthily is a negative choice that involves tasteless food.
Reaffirming its popularity on the health scene, sales of free-from dairy and wheat-free products continue on an upwards trajectory. Regardless of whether this is because consumers are wanting to stay ‘on trend’ or because they have a clinical need to choose free-from, the growth in this sector is here to stay.
Encouragingly, Waitrose sales of salmon, kale, couscous and quinoa are also increasing, which is positive as these foods make excellent contributions to a healthy, balanced diet.
Waitrose is also aware of customer requirements and are working hard to reduce the amount of sugar and fat in their label products. Indeed, they are working towards removing 7.1 tonnes of sugar from their juices. Such actions fit in well with their obligations to fulfil their Responsibility Deal commitments, where they are currently signed up to 16 pledges.
Figures such as these highlight that healthy eating messages are getting through to the public and that in many cases, retailers are also working hard to make their food offer healthier and able to meet customer expectations and requirements.
Crucially this positive action must be supported by the media so that consumers receive the right messages and thy play their part in communicating factually correct healthy eating messages.
Eat Well Plate and 5-A-Day logo up for review
In light of the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) results and the draft report by SACN on Carbohydrates and Health, Public Health England (PHE) has been forced to revisit its stance on two well established educational tools, used for promoting and recognising healthy eating.
The 5-A-Day portion and logo indicator has been in use since 2003 and was established as part of the governments communications programme to help people recognise the 5-A-Day message and to introduce consistency in the messaging. Indeed, there is strict criteria about what products can display the logo. However, in light of the recent NDNS results showing that adult men and women eat on average 4.1 portions of fruit and vegetables per day (with under 18’s eating even less), thought has been given to see whether the criteria for using the logo could be made slightly more encompassing, in order to make it easier for individuals to eat more fruit and vegetables and meet their 5-A-Day target.
PHE have released a review paper where the below points are open for consideration:
- Whether composite meals should be allowed to carry the logo
- If they are, what would the principles be for calculating the number of portions of fruit and/or vegetables per serving of a composite meal carrying the logo, whilst not promoting overconsumption of calories, fat, salt and sugar?
- What would be the minimum, incremental and maximum portions per serving of a composite food carrying the logo?
- General principles and nutrient criteria to assess eligibility for composite foods to use the 5-A-Day logo and portion indicator. For example, should products carrying the 5-A-Day logo have an energy cap?
If a consensus can be agreed, then many companies, previously unable to market their product as contributing to your 5-A-Day, may be able to do so.
Similarly, the draft SACN review on Carbohydrates and Health has caused PHE to consider how SACNs recommendations will impact the current balance of the eatwell plate. If the recommendations are upheld and the dietary reference values for sugars and fibre change then the proportions and types of foods depicted in the plate will have to be altered.
The eatwell plate is less of a driving force in consumer buying habits than the 5-A-Day logo but it is still a recognised and widely used tool by food companies and health professionals alike. Any change to it therefore, is likely to require communication as to why the changes have happened and what this means for consumers.
Government delays its review of Responsibility Deal to 2016
In 2012, the Policy Innovation Research Unit at London School of Tropical Medicine, was instructed by government to conduct a sweeping review of the success of voluntary measures in tackling obesity and alcohol since the Responsibility Deal’s launch in 2011. The outcome of these reports was intended to be released this year but has now been pushed back to 2016.
This news was met with fear by many in favour of the Responsibility Deal who believe that without quantitative reassurance that the voluntary approach is working, any new government may decide to axe the Deal in favour of regulation.
There is no doubt that a voluntary approach to tackling public health issues requires an effective evaluation system but the credibility of this evaluation system is also key. If the report provides the public and businesses who have signed up to the Deal with scientifically robust outputs, then they are worth waiting for. However, for many it will be case of hoping that the results don’t come too late.