Diet-related ill health is one of the most significant challenges facing our generation. Globally, over one billion people are obese, according to the World Health Organization. It’s a huge public health risk. Too many people are struggling to access healthy food.
It’s crucial that food businesses boost their commitment to consumer health. While the global food industry has played an essential role in ensuring that more people than ever have access to affordable, healthy food, it still has significant work to do in enabling consumers to make healthier choices more often. Industry must go further, faster to help healthier decisions become habitual for people everywhere.
However, for food producers, retailers and brands, there are some clear wins. First and foremost, they must wield their significant power responsibly by ensuring that healthier products are more widely available. After all, people can’t eat what they can’t access.
They must also endeavor to present healthier options as a rewarding choice. Simply telling people what they can and can’t eat doesn’t work. We must inspire healthier lives by making healthier products tasty, desirable, attractive and affordable. In this way, they should become a positive choice and, ultimately, the norm.
To be successful, communications campaigns must be audience- and location-specific. On-the-ground and personalized approaches are key. It’s essential to tailor messages to different audiences. Businesses already have the advantage of possessing customer demographic segmentation data, which is crucial for helping to understand the barriers, motivators and needs of diverse audience groups.
Next, it’s about cooperating with partners and competitors. As the global health challenge is vast and complicated, no single company, organization or government can tackle it alone. The changes we need are systemic. All parts of the industry have a role to play. Retailers, manufacturers, industry experts and politicians must join forces and share learnings.
This ethos of collaboration is key to how we operate at The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF). The CGF’s Collaboration for Healthier Lives Coalition of Action is all about building and sharing learnings on the factors that manufacturers and retailers must consider when designing programs to drive healthier lives. Over the past four years, the coalition has run over 70 local initiatives globally including in China, Colombia, Costa Rica, France, Japan, Mexico, Turkey, UK and the U.S. – helping us to gather a range of actionable insights.
As a case in point, the CGF’s Collaboration for Healthier Lives and Product Data Coalitions of Action have partnered on an initiative to make nutrition data more accessible, aiming to drive healthier food choices. Alongside a wide range of companies, the health and data teams worked together to enhance available nutritional data and make it more comprehensible.
Taking action isn’t just about the moral imperative – essential though that is. There is a huge and growing market for healthier options – and investors increasingly demand greater progress on health from their portfolios. If businesses fail to respond, they will get left behind.
Crucially, companies within the food industry also need to look at their internal culture around health and wellbeing. People spend about a third of their lives at work and poor health is estimated to cost 15% of global real GDP.
Healthier lifestyles aren’t just about empowering consumers to improve their food knowledge and make better choices. A holistic strategy around employee wellbeing, which includes physical and mental health, is crucial. At the Collaboration for Healthier Lives, we are running the #WellbeingAtWork campaign to inspire action around this issue.
Businesses across our industry need to help our own people, who’ll be the driving force behind all programs promoting healthy living. These teams need to be given the right support and information, so they can embody external brand messaging around enhanced nutrition.
Healthier and more sustainable diets are at the forefront of the public consciousness. They have become an urgent priority for communities across the globe. People want to be empowered to make better food choices so they can live healthier lives for longer.
To help make this happen, food producers, retailers and brands must continue to step up to serve their communities responsibly by prioritizing health.
Sharon Bligh is Healthier Lives Director for the Consumer Goods Forum (www.theconsumergoodsforum.com), a global, member-driven industry network that encourages the global adoption of practices and standards that serve the consumer goods industry worldwide. It brings together the CEOs and senior management of some 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers and other stakeholders across 70 countries. And it’s the parent of the Global Food Safety Initiative.