We caught up with Nicky Martin, Director of Nutrition and Wellbeing, who shares a roundup of the past year from a health and wellbeing perspective highlighting key topics and looking forward to what will be areas of focus in the year ahead.
What have been the main health and wellbeing trends this year?
An area that featured highly was the cost-of-living crisis that has placed increasing pressures on families and individuals to consume a healthy and balanced diet on a budget. This has seen a growing importance on the food we provide through workplaces, schools etc. We are seeing many more people looking at value.
Some of the main topics that have dominated the media include Ultra Processed Foods. The rise of awareness around UPFs and their impact on health, how they are defined and how consumption can be reduced. From my perspective, this has been good to see as education and awareness is really important in having a balanced diet.
Of course, sustainability continues to be a driver for industry, and we have looked to increase our plant forward options. This year our Climate Impact report stated that we created 36.11% reduction in emissions from animal protein across our business. Our chefs have done some amazing work in reformulating recipes, with a focus on local, seasonal and plant forward options. Sustainability and health often go hand in hand and this is a great example of how we’re able to get results and nudge our customers in the right direction. We have also seen a 17% increase in our vegetable procurement volumes since 2019.
The other focus, that had been positive is the growing awareness of mental wellbeing – especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations are increasingly recognising the importance of providing resources and support for their people inside and outside of the workplace. We know that food also contributes to better mental health and it’s really positive to see this awareness growing.
Other areas that have been trends for 2023 are sleep hygiene and hormone health. The importance of not only having enough sleep, but also quality sleep. Ensuring that sleeping patterns are healthy, sleep quality is optimal and circadian rhythms are in sync. Women’s health and hormone regulation has gained more attention across media this year. The link between blood glucose levels, exercise, hormones and mood, is an opportunity for us to ensure we offer food and workspaces that support this. Glucose tracking devises are allowing people, not only females, to become aware of how foods influence their blood sugar levels and overall health.
What are keys areas of focus for us?
We have spent time communicating about ultra processed foods and the NOVA classification system. We can support people by providing scientific based information on how to eat a healthy balanced diet, with the consumption of processed foods, and how they can be included in a healthy balanced diet.
Sleep habits can be improved through food. We can support consumers in reducing caffeine consumption by offering alternatives and eating a healthy balanced diet to compliment sleep quality through the food choices we produce.
Increasing awareness around female hormone health, at all stages of the lifespan has been a big focus. Creating communications and food choices on how a healthy balanced diet can support healthy periods, fertility, periods, and menopause.
We have ensured compliance for numerous regulations such as calorie labelling, food information regulations and Government Buying Standards to provide customers with accurate info to help them make informed choices. This is in line with our internal wellbeing goals to reduce saturated fat, sugar and salt in recipes and limit the number of promotions on ‘less healthy’ retail items.
We have the ability to be able to create meaningful reports to show progress and create a baseline for future reporting – e.g., vegetable procurement for peas please and baseline data for internal goals.
What do you think will be the key areas of focus for 2024?
Looking ahead to 2024, I believe there will be a greater focus on plant forward eating with an education piece around UPF’s, which in turn will place greater emphasis on ‘wholefoods’. This is a really positive step in informing people how to have a more balanced diet.
‘Gut health’ will see chefs and catering businesses increase fibre in meals and promote the benefits this can have. This may increase the demand for making claims such as a source or high in fibre on our dishes to help consumers make informed choices.
Holistic health including eating for hormone health will continue to feature in consumers lives and we cannot underestimate the importance of sleep and the impact it has on your overall health.
There will be a continued drive from the government for businesses to reduce health sensitive nutrients and will encourage organisations to be able to report data on these. A particular focus will be reformulating of key buying categories to meet the governments sugar and salt targets.
A rise in technology will see AI being introduced into the nutrition industry and the ability to be able to provide personalised nutrition to all. In terms of sustainable nutrition there will be a focus on alternative protein production e.g., cultivated meat and 3D printing and carbon footprint of meals, so I am sure the year ahead will see some interesting innovations come to light in this area.
All in all this will be an exciting year ahead and we look forward to supporting all our consumers with their health and wellbeing journeys.
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