Staying healthy in the food industry

Philippa Cresswell of EP Evolution discusses the challenge of staying healthy in the food industry and how promotion in the industry needs to change to embrace a healthier concept

As a consultant I am constantly asked to promote a holistic approach to Healthy as part of any concept (either in food content, design or staff knowledge) and I am continually trying to ensure that as a family we stay healthy.

BUT I have begun to ponder what we really mean by healthy? Do we mean:

– Fit and healthy
– Injury, aches and pain free
– No unfortunate medical conditions

Or are we really talking about a great diet?

For me healthy means having some control over my weight, eating plenty of the right things – luckily I do love fish, fruit and vegetables, but also about eating and drinking, some of the things that I love.

It was, therefore, a relief to see that the dictionary definition of a Healthy diet says ‘A diet which is heavily weighted towards ‘good foods’ while minimising ‘bad foods’ rather than total elimination of all things yummy.

BUT what do we mean by good and bad? What or who defines which is which? Is a food that makes us feel better and happier – if only for a short time, a bad food? I’m definitely thinking chocolate here! Conversely is a food that we perceive as boring and doesn’t satisfy us a good food ? – mmm celery ?!

In addition there is a constant battle between what the consumer tells us they want and the reality. Whilst responsible for the Catering outlets in a successful Fashion Retailer, where the look was everything, it always amused me that our best selling lines were hot chocolate and chocolate fudge cake – and both with whipped cream. I was never sure if this was a celebration having just purchased a slinky dress or commiserations having failed !

The problem being, and this is a line that has stuck with me from my Weight Watchers experience, is that unlike any other ‘addiction’ we can’t give up food. We just need to understand and manage it sensibly. Bearing in mind that Restaurants and Hotels have been credited with helping to keep the economy afloat during the recession, we clearly have an enormous part to play here.

So as an Industry that means 3 things

  1. We should be delighted as clearly there is a constant need for us to fulfil !
  2. There is a huge responsibility for providing a good balance across our offerings – McDonalds have clearly focused on addressing this view
  3. We need to continually strive to support – keeping the focus on educating but NOT dictating

The problem is though that in our bid to capture market share and offer a menu to meet these criteria we continue to confuse the consumer, either with descriptions which are open to interpretation at best ( Light, lighter, Healthier, Better for you ) , or with our product positioning. We all know for example that in supermarkets its cheaper to buy crisps, biscuits, cakes and fizzy drinks than fruit and vegetables and in one large Pizza Pasta chain they charge you more for half a portion of Pasta and a salad ! Talk about mixed messages.

[Offering a choice of portion sizes doesn’t just encourage healthy eating but can also reduce food waste. Recent research shows that more than half of us leave food uneaten because portion sizes are too big or we’ve ordered too much when eating out whilst while 44 per cent admitted that large portions were actually off-putting.]

Isn’t it time we truly embraced the concept of Healthy as part of our offering. Label it clearly, make it attractive in terms of price and delivery, and balance it with some more indulgent treats which we all love.

Is it really too difficult or is it just that we need to think differently?

Source for research:

For more information about EP Evolution please contact Chris Sheppardson,

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