Strategic advice for the food and beverage industry

Hospital strikes off sugar for staff health

Posted on:
January 19, 2018
Julian Mellentin

A good friend was in hospital recently, for an operation followed by two weeks of recovery. Next to the boredom, and the constant interruptions for tests of various sorts, the worst thing about hospital, she said, was the food. Beige, unappealing and unhealthy, it did nothing for her already waning appetite and she ended up eating only bananas for two weeks.

And it seems it’s not just patients’ meals that are less-than-healthy; a recent report revealed that one in four nurses in the UK’s national health service (NHS) is obese and there are high staff sickness levels. It’s a problem that’s driven one hospital, Tameside in Manchester, to smarten up its food act, with staff vending machines now selling only healthier options and sugar-free drinks.

Tameside has become the first hospital in the UK to cut sugary snacks and sweetened drinks from its restaurant; from this month (January), the only drinks on the menu for staff and visitors will be tea, milk, sugar-free drinks and water. And the Costa coffee shop on site will cut down on promoting sugary food and drink.

Amanda Bromley is the hospital director responsible for staff wellbeing at Tameside. She said: “Obesity related illness is taking an increasing toll on the NHS, as almost half of nurses are over the age of 45. The figures are deeply worrying and long, stressful shifts often made it hard for staff to make healthy choices. I believe by listening to colleagues and being guided by the results of the staff weight loss experiment we are showing that things can change.”

The changes follow the success of a slimming programme laid on by the hospital for 100 or so staff members. The Slimpod programme was commissioned by hospital Trust chief executive Karen James because of her concerns about the health and wellbeing of her team.

“My staff work very hard,” said James. “Long hours and shift patterns often make it very difficult for people to make healthy choices, so they opt for the instant sweet fixes, which until today have been readily available. These are dedicated healthcare professionals who believe they should be role models for their patients but the food environment has been working against them.”

Staff members who followed the Slimpod programme reduced their portion sizes, ate healthier foods and lost weight. The most successful person on the study lost 13.1kg over the 12 weeks, and one who had been chronically diabetic now has the condition under control.

Urgent care nurse Luan Walton, 38, lost 20 pounds in 12 weeks. “I’ve already dropped a dress size and a half,” she said. “I’m wearing a smaller uniform and soon will have to replace it with an even smaller one.”

Cancer nurse Stephanie Ridgeway, 50, said: “My problem was I could be giving advice to my patients about healthy eating with my pockets stuffed with chocolate bars. Now I feel that I’m practising what I preach. I’ve lost 21lbs and I’m a size 10.”

The changes haven’t been met with universal approval – complaints about freedom of choice being taken away have been reported in UK media. Some might also argue that the moves are a distraction from dealing with the real problem of an overstretched health system and highly demanding working conditions. And so far, the moves affect only the restaurant, the coffee shop and the staff vending machines.

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New app hopes to help consumers – and influence industry

Posted on:
January 16, 2018
Ann Eshaw

Image courtesy of Voedingscentrum

Just in time for New Year’s resolutions, Dutch government organization Nutrition Centre has launched a new app that allows consumers to scan food products to find the healthiest option.

The app, called “Am I choosing healthy?” (“Kies Ik Gezond?”), shows a product’s ingredients and nutrition values. It aims to cut out the hassle of reading the small print on the label, and allows shoppers to prioritise nutritional values – calories, carbs or fat for example – so they show up first in the list. Consumers can also compare up to three products to choose the healthiest one.

“We’ve come to learn that not many people take the time to read the label. The Dutch Minister of Health, Welfare and Sports asked the Nutrition Centre to develop an app with the goal to help people choose the healthier option,” Wieke van der Vossen, Food Safety and Labelling at Nutrition Centre and project leader told New Nutrition Business.

The Nutrition Centre says its goal is to increase consumers’ awareness of what they’re choosing to eat. Although the app can be used by anyone, they expect it to be used mainly by people who already have an interest in nutrition and want to improve their knowledge.

“Even I had an eye-opener,” Van der Vossen said. “I was scanning this can of beans and the app said it’s not in the [Dutch dietary guidelines] Wheel of Five. I was surprised why it wasn’t because it’s just beans and there’s nothing else there, so why shouldn’t it be in the Wheel of Five? The app showed me that it had so many hidden added sugars that you wouldn’t know about unless you read the small print on the label.” If the product is not in the Wheel of Five, the app can suggest a healthier alternative.

The question is whether people will take the time to scan each product they’re considering buying in the supermarket. “Of course you can scan products in the supermarket while you’re shopping,” said Van der Vossen. “But I think there will be more people who’ll be either scanning at home the products they have been buying for years or will start searching for products before going to do grocery shopping. I think some people will be surprised about some food choices they’ve been making and maybe even start replacing some with different brands.”

The goal of the app is not only to increase consumers’ awareness, but also hopefully to have an effect on food companies. The app’s ability to compare products’ nutritionally with each other has started an online discussion, giving some companies heat.

“We’re planning to do consumer research later on this year to assess consumer awareness, use of the app, and whether the app has been influencing their choices at all,” said Van der Vossen. “In later stages, we’d like to research whether the app has had an effect on food products being launched in the Netherlands. It would be interesting to see if food companies will start taking a different approach as well,” she added.

By: Ann Eshaw

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Cricket granola – a leap too far?

Posted on:
January 9, 2018
Julian Mellentin

Late last year Fazer launched a cricket-based bread in Finland, in the hope that the market was ready for insect-based foods. It was. The breads were well received by Finnish consumers and sold out on the first day.

Now, another company is pushing the boundaries yet further. EntoCube has launched cricket granola, under its consumer brand Samu. The granola is available in health food chain Ruohonjuuri, and also in mainstream supermarket chain K-Food.

There is a key difference between these two products, and it’s to do with subtlety. While Fazer’s bread contains crickets that have been ground into flour – making them less evident to the consumer – Samu’s granola has roasted, whole crickets clearly visible in the mix. Consumers will be in no doubt that they are eating insects with every spoonful.

It’s a bold move. Consumers in the Western world may need more time to get used to the thought of eating insects, particularly in their whole form. But the fact that Finland seems to have a more positive attitude towards insect foods than other Nordic countries might help. Perhaps consumers that already can imagine eating insects – they may have dipped their toe in the water with Fazer’s bread – are prepared to consume them in a range of shapes and forms.

At least Samu has got one crucial thing right: a focus on taste. “Taste first” should be the number one motto for all food and beverage companies, and Samu has grasped this. The product is promoted as “mouth-watering”, “delicate” and “salty-sweet”; the content of apple and Nordic lingonberry helps achieve this.

But with the granola retailing at €9.49 ($11.43) per 200-gram box, consumers need to be prepared to pay for the privilege of eating insects. Will Samu be able to convince them to try such a challenging product – and to keep on purchasing it once the thrill of such a novel food has worn off?

By Mikaela Lindén

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