New ‘normal’ brings chance for new healthy habits

Press/Media: Expert Comment


HAVE you experienced the “Covid 15”? It’s a phrase coined to describe the 15 pounds of extra weight we believe we have gained during the pandemic. A recent study published in Appetite of more than 2,000 UK adults suggested that we’ve developed bad habits, both in terms of eating and exercise, since lockdown.For example, 56 per cent of participants said they had snacked more frequently and seen a drop in motivation when it came to eating healthily and controlling their portions (Robinson et al., 2021).Furthermore, results found that those with a higher BMI were more likely to overeat, had lower quality diets and were less likely to engage in physical activity.While the pandemic might have negatively influenced our weight-related behaviour it’s not entirely to blame!The most recent National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2017) revealed that since 2008 we have been not consuming enough fruit and vegetables, with our intake below the recommended Five-A-Day, as promoted by the NHS.While Mintel (2021) noted in their Attitudes Towards Healthy Eating Report that the ‘Five-A-Day’ message was a tangible and easy to understand concept, fewer than half of those surveyed (46 per cent) said that they had followed this advice in the past six months. Whether it’s in fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced form, the NHS recommends that we should aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.The fact that so many people in the UK are still not achieving this target of ‘Five-A-Day’ highlights a key opportunity for producers to help consumers through the development or refinement of new and/or existing products that encourage an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption.For example, Mintel (2021) encourage producers to make the ‘Five-A-Day’ claim more prominent on the front of pack.Local artisan producer Finnebrogue ‘Naked Veg and Proud’ range does exactly this.Another strategy for those targeting the children’s market would be to attempt to increase their consumption using a ‘hidden veg’ proposition.For example, locally owned business ‘Heavenly Tasty’ has developed a range of vegetable-based snacks for kids, like their award-winning sweet beet and shallot veggie waffles or sweet potato and carrot corn puffs.US brand Caulipower, invented by a mum of two boys with celiac, has created a range of frozen vegetable-based products, including cauliflower pizza, cauliflower pasta and cauliflower tortillas.While it is exciting to see lots of new product development in relation to vegetable products, fruit-based products like snack bars, yogurts and breakfast cereal remain under scrutiny due to their often-high sugar content.With the Government heavily focusing on sugar reduction, Mintel (2021) reported that products with a low sugar content remain one of consumers key priorities (34 per cent) when purchasing healthy foods.It is anticipated that innovation within these categories will be primarily driven by low, reduced or no sugar claims and will look to incorporate other ingredients such as chickpeas and broad beans to help lower sugar content (Mintel, 2021).A final strategy to encourage producers to help promote fruit and vegetable consumption among consumers may include supporting key initiatives, for example, the Pea Please campaign.Peas Please aims to bring together farmers, retailers, and restaurant chains, caterers, processors and Government departments with a common goal of making it easier for everyone to eat veg.Recently, the Food and Drink Business Development Centre and the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Ulster University Business School became the 100th UK pledger to make a commitment to promote vegetable consumption in their teaching and research.To date, five Northern Ireland organisations have pledged their commitment to the UK-wide Peas Please initiative, including Mash Direct in Comber, a specialist in vegetable sides and convenience meals, Henderson Group in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland’s biggest food wholesaler, the Ulster Farmers’ Union, the Horticulture Forum, and University of Ulster Business School.Since Peas Please was launched three years ago it has delivered 162 million additional portions of vegetables into the food system, working across all UK regions (Food Foundation, 2021).Michele Shirlow, Food NI Chief Executive, says: “The project is hoping to support efforts to counter dietary problems and conditions such as obesity, diabetes and cardiac conditions and to ensure people here and in the future have easy access to a healthier, affordable and sustainable diet.“We hope that the leadership being provided by Northern Ireland pledgers, including Mash Direct, Henderson Group and Ulster University will inspire many more companies and organisations to back the project designed to improve health across Northern Ireland, and the UK.”Taking a supply chain approach from production and manufacturing to the retailing and placement of products, alongside the promotion and education on the benefits of vegetables in our diet, it is believed making a commitment for more veg can help to benefit consumers and instil good dietary habits. 

Period27 May 2021

Media contributions


Media contributions

  • TitleFarm Week
    Degree of recognitionRegional
    Media name/outletIrish New Ltd
    Media typePrint
    Duration/Length/Size800 words
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    PersonsLynsey Elizabeth Hollywood