The Hospitality Trade is Heading the Obesity Message
Caterers within the hospitality trade are responding positively to calls for the food industry to help tackle the issue of obesity in the UK.
Beacon suppliers - representing all the major brands for the hospitality trade - have posted significant rises in demand from members for healthier products in the first half of 2004 compared with the same period last year.
Demand from Beacon members for fresh fruit and vegetables has risen by nearly 25% in contrast to sales of crisps and snacks which are down by a third. Whilst meat sales overall have dropped slightly by just over 3%, sales of fish are showing a strong 13% increase, suggesting a diversification away from red meat products. Mineral water sales are also reflecting an increase in consumer demand of around 20%, outstripping growth of other carbonated soft drinks which it will soon overtake in terms of overall sales.
The statistics offer a counter-balance to media reports this week (Tuesday 27 July) suggesting that the hospitality sector are still failing to provide healthier alternatives, particularly for children.
More than half the adult population in the UK is currently overweight or obese and, even more worrying, one in six ten year-olds is already obese. If this trend continues, it is estimated that at least one third of adults, one fifth of boys and one third of girls will be obese by 2020, leading the Chief Medical Officer for England to describe the situation as a “health time-bomb”.
The government has made tackling obesity a high priority but has also made it clear that the issue needs to be addressed by the food industry as a whole in order to make a real impact. The Food Standards Agency has similarly highlighted the key role of the catering sector in helping to effect dietary change, particularly given the growth of eating out.
Karen Packham, director of Beacon, said: “The food industry, including the hospitality sector, has a very important part to play in helping to improve the nation’s diet – particularly as 25% of meals are now eaten outside the home. We have a social responsibility to place more importance on offering healthy choices and the indications are that operators within the foodservice industry are already taking up this challenge and are proactively engaging with the issue.”
Brakes Foodservice, one of Beacon’s key suppliers has developed a range of healthier products, featuring many of the items that traditionally appear on children’s menus, including reduced fat sausages and beef burgers: low fat and reduced salt pizzas and reduced salt, reduced sugar spaghetti hoops. They are also the only major food-service provider to invest in an in-house nutritional department, employing both a dietician and nutritionist, and offer a free nutrition advice service to their customers.
Kay Bradshaw company nutritionist for Brakes commented: “There is a need for education about food which the government is leading, but foodservice operators can also help by offering healthy choices, along with plenty of vegetables and fruit-based desserts. In addition, they can ensure that they provide clear labelling and signposting on products and menus to help their customers make informed choices.
“We have been working with many of Beacon’s members on healthier menu development, offering all members a dedicated nutrition service which involves current menu analysis and help with integrating healthy choices.”
Phil Marshall of Woodward Foodservice, another Beacon supplier leading the way on nutritional advice, adds: “Many customers are becoming more food-aware and are looking for low fat, low calorie options when the focus at one time may have just been on tasty meals regardless of their healthy-eating value.
“It is therefore vital that we in the hospitality industry respond to the needs of our customers and give them the options they are looking for – not only to help improve the health of the nation but also because it makes sound commercial sense to keep our customers happy."