Rachel Clarke gives us an insight into the current nutrition market and the problems we are still facing when addressing the overall education, health and nutrition of the UK market

In the current market, consumers have been showing more of an interest in nutrition and the food industry has seen an increase in the production of specialised food. This includes ranges that cater for particular dietary requirements such as vegetarians and consumers who choose not to eat wheat, dairy or gluten products. We have also seen an explosion of social media accounts, which now focus on nutrition, gaining more popularity every day. Nutrition is a consistent topic across a variety of channels and is at the forefront of many minds in the UK especially for the health conscious or diet-focused individuals. However, there is still a long way to go to improve the overall health and knowledge of the entire nation.

The move towards healthy
On a positive note, we have seen an active effort to improve nutrition in recent years. To begin with there has been a raft of government initiatives and policies to help nurture a healthier society. Also, in our digital age, technology has been used to create supportive communities and tools to help people stay healthy. Of course, there is an app to help with your nutrition. Well actually, there are hundreds to choose from but one of the most popular has been My Fitness Pal. It allows you to track your food intake, check nutritional values and measure your calories consumed more efficiently straight from your pocket. Development of apps such as this has gone a long way towards helping consumers understanding what they are actually eating on a daily basis.

There has been an increase of awareness of healthy eating with magazines and a variety of social media accounts focusing on the overall healthy lifestyle. Celebrities such as Millie Mackintosh have made careers out of this trend. These accounts and outlets have millions of followers and subscribers, clearly displaying the keen market interest.

Supermarket shelves are now accommodating this change of attitude and are stocking more products to cater for those opting for wheat, gluten or dairy free options that are typically seen as being healthier, even if you do not suffer from any of these allergies or intolerances.

This ideology of cutting out certain foods has also seen a rise in ‘flexitarians’, the people who have become part time vegetarians due to wanting to decrease their overall meat consumption. Red meat in particular, is high in saturated fat content, making it unhealthy for your body in large volumes and this can cause other health problems later in life. So, cutting down on the amount of meat we consume can be a positive lifestyle change and is one that many are looking to make.

There has also been a growth of revenue in the sports supplement industry. In 2014, it had a recorded worth of £301 million in the UK alone. Sports supplement products tend to be bought alongside a healthy exercise routine. This displays a move towards a more nutrition focused attitude and an army of consumers who are choosing to work on their health and nutrition.

Not as healthy as we could be
However, despite these positive advances, we are not a nation that is completely under the spell of the healthy living attitude. According to a recent WHO report, by 2030 74 per cent of men and 64 per cent of women in the UK will be overweight. It also suggests that 36 per cent of men and 33 per cent of women to be obese in 2030, which is a significant figure. Of course, being obese is defined by a BMI of 30 or above and this is extremely unhealthy. These obesity levels are already being seen as problematic, with many children now categorised as obese. The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, claims it to be a ‘national emergency’ and a problem that urgently needs to be addressed. Poor nutrition has been estimated to cost the NHS £5.8 billion annually and this is an expense that could be completely avoided.

This trend of unhealthy eating can be down to a lack of nutritional education. Many have criticised food stores for this due to focus being put on advertising unhealthy food. These snacks, which are linked to obesity, are given more preference at point of sale. When you walk into a supermarket or reach the payment point, there are usually sugary foods or foods which are high in fat on offer, making it more tempting to buy something easy and cheap rather than something which is actually good for you.

It is not only the prominence of these products on display that is the problem but also the overall prices throughout stores. According to studies, healthy food costs now three times as much as junk food when prices were measured per 1000 calories. The cost of fruit and vegetables has also risen in the last few years, making it ever more expensive for consumers who want to have a healthy lifestyle but struggle to do so on a budget.

Nurturing the right attitude
Also, attitude towards nutrition is a problem. Many of us are now aware that consuming healthier food is linked to better health outcomes, however many people in the UK don’t meet the daily healthy eating recommendations. Only nine per cent of people in a recent WHO report considered food healthiness to be the most important factor when purchasing food products. However, 39 per cent of people rated price at the most important factor when making their buying decisions. Although budgets will affect this decision for some households, we also need more education around nutrition to inform consumers how to make better choices, as there currently seems to be a severe lack of understanding.

Although we have seen improvements in nutrition and more media focus on overall wellbeing, there is still a long way to go to improve the overall nation’s nutrition levels. Obesity statistics are becoming alarmingly high and this is extremely unhealthy for us and is costing the NHS billions. The rise in the supplement industry is a promising indicator that people are becoming more aware of their health and nutrition, but it is clearly not the majority who are choosing to buy these products. It would be great to see a better education in nutrition from a younger age so that we can build a nation of healthy eaters.

Rachel ClarkeRachel Clarke is CEO of JBC Nutrition. JBC provides nutrition consultancy and product development services to a number of clients from elite, world-class professional athletes to private clients including Olympians, British and world record holders in power lifting and strongman as well as a range of sports clubs including, premiership football club Swansea City AFC, Wales Rugby League, Oxford United FC, Newport County FC and Royal Navy Rugby.