Food for thought: The age of health and wellness

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As we anxiously pace through these difficult times, a large focus of our attention has now shifted to personal health. This time, with much more gravity than just a sudden urge to devour a leafy salad.

If it wasn’t already a driver, health and wellness are now major priorities when it comes to our food choices.

The world has changed and the food industry must adapt and deliver.

Impacts of COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has reaffirmed the need to establish proper eating habits, especially when our immune system requires a boost, but as we delve into an era of ‘new norms’, reworking our diet has proven somewhat challenging.

Disruptions to food supply chains along with extreme panic buying have resulted in limited access to food. Now more than ever, local food sources are critical in ensuring  a consistent and stable food supply.

Local supply chains will need to increase traceability in response to consumers' longstanding curiosity over the source of their food. ‘Farm to table’ will ultimately transition to ‘seed to table’ as demand for greater traceability ensues.  

Whilst establishing local food sources to improve the resilience of our food system is vital, covid19 has also urged us to rethink our eating habits. Consumers are exploring new foods and protein sources to improve overall health and reduce the chance of illness. Ingredients that optimize nutrition and functionality to support a strong immune system are imperative.

Health and wellness rewritten

Aside from the recent pandemic, modern-day shoppers worldwide have become more mindful of the need to establish a healthy and varied diet. They are increasingly aware of the correlation between good nutrition and good health and as such, demand more from their food.

The phrase ‘you are what you eat’ resonates more than ever. Natural, nutrient-dense foods are now top of mind.

Clean labels will be a big deciding factor when it comes to food choices – identifying the raw components that make up our food is now a must. Food companies will need to provide total transparency to ensure food safety and maintain consumer trust.

Avoidance of GMO foods also remains a leading priority, consumers want natural, authentic foods – minus genetic intervention. The ability to successfully enhance foods at the source (the seed) through natural breeding methods will not only provide consumers with improved, non-GMO source ingredients, but will also have notable advantages for parties across the supply chain.

Seemingly, players in the food industry have been promisingly receptive to global shifts. Food companies are rapidly innovating, particularly in the plant-based sector where demand has skyrocketed. Plant-based substitutes are no longer exclusive to vegans and vegetarians. A growing number of consumers are now adopting a flexitarian diet, striving to reduce their environmental impact and improve general health, and this will continue to surge as the transition to nutrition prevails.

Restoring dietary diversity

Eagerness to diversify diet and boost essential nutrient intake has amplified. As the old age saying goes ‘variety is the spice of life’. Consumers choosing to ‘food swap’ for high-impact alternatives will be enhanced and a steer towards whole foods will also further accelerate.

Whole foods, such as soybean, mung bean, quinoa and sesame, particularly pack a punch when it comes to nutrition. For this reason, consumers are drawing closer to traditional and indigenous foods consisting of hearty legumes and health-centric grains.

'Seed-to table' returns to mind.

As well as improving general health, dietary diversity will increase agrobiodiversity and encourage a more sustainable food system.

Additionally, certain diet trends focused on health and wellness will continue to gain interest. The Mediterranean diet, consisting of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and lean proteins, has been universally praised for its health benefits. Certain components associated with the diet, such as whole grains and legumes, will rise in popularity as consumers seek out robust raw sources.

A change for the better

The evolution of ‘health and wellness’ is one that the food industry is (rightfully) beginning to embrace. A change for the better is both inevitable and imminent.

Building a system that delivers clean, nutrient-rich foods and implements sustainable approaches will be key in addressing global concerns and fulfilling consumers' greatest needs. Revitalizing our food system will play an integral part in ensuring a resilient and prosperous food future.

If we return to our organic sources and utilize the best of what nature has to offer, we can provide a valuable and meaningful solution to truly nourish the world for generations to come.

Written by Shani Collins, Marketing Communications Manager at Equinom.

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