It is our great pleasure to provide a place on the internet for other authors and bloggers to share their thoughts on food, diet and psychology.
In this second part of a two-part series, Martha Norris of Simply Martha continues to explore how food trends affect our health. As we said in the introduction to part one, trends become ‘trendy’ as the psychology of society and belonging is a massively powerful factor. Understanding these issues in the broader context of the psychology of weight loss gives us more power to our elbow.
Again, thank you, Martha.
Past food trends still affecting health today – Ready meals
Ready meals were a popular food trend providing convenient meals to individuals who didn’t have time to cook (Marketline, 2015). At the time when they were at the height of their popularity, a survey in 2003 found two thirds of households consumed at least one ready meal a week (Reed et al., 2003) Ready meals usually contain more saturated fat, calories and salt than a home cooked meal (Remnant and Adams, 2015) suggesting this food product has a negative impact on health. Since 2014 the market of ready meals for the UK has been decreasing (Marketline, 2015) due in part to current food trends, more choice for consumers and the direction of the market in moving towards healthier and fresher foods.
However, ready meals still make a sizeable profit of £4,644 million, although consumers are likely to choose a more healthier option as some supermarkets brand a lot of their ready meals as ‘luxury’ or ‘healthier’ to try and fit the current trend of ‘healthier’ eating. This is still a current issue for consumers, because of the convenience of ready meals our ‘time poor’ population cannot get rid of this trend. Despite our overall increase in the consumption of healthy foods as a nation, we still crave the fast foods and convenience without the fuss of cooking (Remnant and Adams, 2015). This has resulted in this once very popular food trend for the UK decreasing slightly and with greater choice of ready meals consumers are choosing a healthier option (following the current trend of healthy foods).
Although the UK and Europe has decreased their consumption of ready meals and prepared foods compared globally with America, Asia and the rest of the world, the UK and Europe still consume the most ready meals at almost 43% which is the most out of any continent in the world. This food habit is not a new food trend for the country, and it continues to be a popular way of eating through microwave meals, frozen foods and already prepared meals and when we compare it against other countries it is still an on-going trend which does not look as if it is going to decline rapidly in the immediate future.
The continued popularity of ready meals despite the slight decline, means that this trend could have been a partial cause of the increased number of obese UK citizens. Another suggestion that this food trend is currently an issue affecting health of consumers is the current practice of branding unhealthy ready meals as ‘healthy’ yet they still have the same lack of nutritional value as ready meals from 2010. The data presented above, along with these reports shows that what was once thought as an ‘old’ trend is still very much an issue for the health of UK consumers.
Future food trends
When customers buy food, three factors are considered; product (material), service and thought, therefore, especially where social media is involved, the way food looks and is branded is equally as important as the nutritional value and taste (Celi and Rudkin, 2016). This indicates that consumers, when faced with many choices in a supermarket, may select food products that look a particular way and have more presentable packaging than others. The presentation of the food will potentially influence customers more than the food itself Other presentational attributes of food which consumers are more concerned with are the quality and how healthy the food is. Fresh-like sensory and ‘additive free’ labels help persuade customers that it is ‘healthy’ (Huang et al., 2017). Current food trends such as organic foods, health foods and the clean label will continue to grow in this developing market with profits measured in the region of billions of pounds.
Overall, food trends play an important part in the health of the consumer as this is a way of introducing and maintaining certain foods and products in the public’s attention. But the picture is quite complex and contrary. Depending on the type of food trends can impact the health of consumers in a positive or negative way. Although the current health trends are promoting healthy foods, eating less meat, clean eating and overall healthy eating habits; consumers are still buying large quantities of ready meals. With the popularity of loyalty cards and the data these generate, it allows supermarkets to influence customers’ impulse buys which are often geared towards unhealthy foods.
The impact on our positive health as a nation will overall decrease if our diets and better food trends do not become part of our culture and norms. Although there are signs we are heading in the right direction with trends reflecting more people seeking healthier food and predictions for future trends towards even more organic and fresh foods, these conflict with the trend suggesting the UK consumes significant amounts of ready meals. Supermarkets also appear to take a cynical approach to customers’ health by using their data analytics to sell more unhealthy food to people who already have poor diets. The fact that obesity is at an all-time high would suggest that there is a long way to go on the journey towards healthier diets and better food trends.
- Food trends play a significant role in the health of consumers
- The appearance of food is often prioritized over its nutritional value
- Obesity is at an all time high