From our London offices, we are currently conducting research for a project that we are calling “The Truth about the Family Food Fight.” The title of the study is meant to highlight a naked truth: much like a food fight, an individual’s relationship with food today is as much about pleasure as it is about challenge. When this truth is housed in a family context, as it is the world over, the opportunities for improvement and innovation are extensive and within reach of pioneering brands and companies.
Recently, I met with one of our research consultants in Barcelona – an anthropologist who is observing and documenting the health habits of Catalan families. While discussing the impact of debilitating economic conditions on the Spanish quality of life, we shared a meal in an innovative restaurant in the trendy El Born neighborhood. Beginning with an unidentifiable condiment for our bread, everything we ate issued from the restaurant’s spirit of culinary experimentation.
Scores of Spanish families have been shut out of similar dining experiences, but this does not preclude a spirit of culinary experimentation. In fact, the crisis has prompted one of the families in our study to “experiment” exclusively with private label and promotional foodstuffs, often carpooling to a distant grocery story. For this family, when it comes to food choice, price trumps other criteria such as nutritional diversity or provenance.
This is certainly not news for nearly three-fifths of our global “Truth About Wellness”respondents who agreed that ‘price is a big factor in choosing what I eat.’ Whether the crisis is experienced in the price of milk, as is the case in Tunisia, or the price of olive oil, as is the case in Spain, consumers are no strangers to compromise when it comes to the grocery aisle.
Unfortunately, many such compromises are forged in a context where dietary knowledge is lacking, with potentially harmful effects. When it comes to making food choices for kids and family, a slightly narrower segment of our global population (64%) agreed that they know what is best. More harrowing: only 50% of our global respondents see “food as an ally that can help me achieve my goals.”
Simply put: the majority of our respondents claim that price is a more powerful determinant on food choice than is dietary knowledge, even when it comes to making food choices for other members of one’s family. Have contemporary market dynamics destroyed our innate ability to recognize the invaluable role of food in our lives? Or, have we yet to develop a clear understanding of food’s value altogether?
For three-fifths of our global respondents, the answer is: yes, “society has yet to unlock the real potential of food.” An innovation recently launched in the UK suggests that these respondents could be right. The UK National Health Service has partnered with local tech developer – The Nü Company - to build a tool that will provide mothers-to-be with personalized nutritional guidance.
The Nü Systemaims to authoritatively eliminate confusion around food choices for expecting mothers, while optimizing specific food choices when their ingestion would bring the greatest benefit to both mother and baby. As a conduit between healthcare professional, mother-to-be, and baby-to-be, the system monitors, alerts, and advises mothers-to-be in real time.
For all of us, food and eating are experimental terrains. However, when it comes to maternity, such experiments are undeniably less welcome. Whether in restaurants or in the aisle of a grocery store, most mothers spend their pregnancies avoiding foods that could bring known harm. Innovations like The Nü System, will allow mothers-to-be to meet newly unlocked nutritional goals, while also doing away with some of the challenge associated with food today.