New research from Birds Eye has revealed that although 58% of Brits have more interest in eating well than a decade ago -- with nearly a quarter (22%) of consumers saying they are much more likely to make an effort to minimise their intake of saturated fat, sugar, and salt compared to a decade ago -- one in five still rate their diet as unhealthy.
At a time where an estimated 35 million people in the UK are suffering from obesity, Birds Eye’s ‘Better Health Impact’ report has found that consumers aren’t confident about making healthier choices, due to factors like cost and time pressures. The report therefore concludes there is a golden opportunity for the food industry to help the nation better their health by supporting and empowering consumers and providing access to accessible and nutritious food.
The report further revealed nearly 70% of people don’t eat five portions of fruit and veg a day, even though 52% say they try to, suggesting that good intentions are not always translating into action. Almost a third never check labels for fat and sugar, despite 40% selecting sugar as their main ingredient of concern.
Steve Challouma, General Manager at Birds Eye, said: “It is clear that consumers want to make healthier choices but many find it hard to do so, and this is down to a number of factors including time pressures, cost concerns, and a lack of confidence about how to make healthier choices. At Birds Eye, our focus is on helping the nation eat a little more goodness every day and we are committed to helping consumers turn their good intentions into a healthier reality.
“We know that the food industry needs to work together to support consumers, and through continued innovation and renovation, we have a golden opportunity to improve the health of the nation in the coming decade. This can be achieved by expanding healthy product ranges, innovating new healthier products, making nutritional improvements to the products we are currently offering and by gently nudging consumers towards more healthy and sustainable diets.”
Retailers and brands can support consumers in making healthier choices through improving the understanding and signposting of healthier options, stressed Birds Eye. For example, 39% of consumers are not confident they know the difference between the different types of fat and almost a third never check traffic light labels, the company estimates. Ahead of the HFSS restrictions coming into place next year, these findings therefore are particularly relevant for those considering how they can nutritionally optimise products and refocus their advertising efforts on healthier options.
Health by stealth
Across the decade, Birds Eye revealed it has moved to using mainly rapeseed and sunflower oils because of their healthy fatty acid profile. This company-wide approach to use lower saturated fat oils has improved Birds Eye products’ overall nutritional profile, including Fish Fingers, Chicken Nuggets and Potato Waffles, it said. It has also delivered significant salt reductions across its portfolio, with key successes including Birds Eye’s Cod Fish Fingers seeing a 21% reduction from 0.7g - 0.55g of salt/100g and Potato Waffles seeing a 28% reduction from 0.9 - 0.65g/100g throughout the decade.
Furthermore, Birds Eye is expanding its Captain Birds Eye portfolio to attract health-conscious shoppers to the Coated Fish category with two new fish fillet variants coated in a seeded crust of either linseeds and sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds and buckwheat.
Birds Eye’s new Seeded Crust fish fillets are rich in protein and vitamin B12. The combination of fish, seeds and grains provides an important source of selenium and copper, it said, both of which are essential nutrients that contribute to the normal functioning of the immune system.
It has also been adding to its Steamfresh range in an attempt to encourage consumers to add more essential nutrients and vibrant colour to their plates with a mix of frozen vegetables.
Birds Eye’s Steamfresh range helps consumers to eat a wider variety of vegetables in an accessible and convenient way, in addition to encouraging more overall vegetable consumption, it claimed. Steaming can make vegetables taste better, it said. In 2021, more than 71 million individual portions of Steamfresh were purchased, 23 million more portions than in 2017.
Birds Eye is supporting the new UK Food and Drink Federation Action on Fibre commitment to ‘close the gap’ between fibre recommendations and intakes in the UK.
This food-industry-wide focus on fibre increase, awareness and education aims to benefit population level fibre intakes and create a more fibre-rich food supply for the UK.
Birds Eye has created a Fibre Working Group that champions fibre increases across the business, creating a Fibre Toolkit for R&D product developers to use to help create higher fibre products and increase the amount of fibre in current products. Birds Eye has also voluntarily included fibre in its products’ back of pack nutrition tables for decades, helping consumers to make more informed choices. That led to it its Green Cuisine meat-free range, which features products that deliver at least a source of fibre.
Over the last decade the proportion of our lives spent in poor health, due to varying factors, has gradually increased to approximately one fifth in England alone. In 2018/19, 63% of UK adults - equivalent to an estimated 35 million people were overweight or obese.
However, “there is a reason to be optimistic for better future national health”, wrote Lauren Woodley, Group Nutrition Leader at Nomad Foods, parent company of Birds Eye, in the report.
It revealed that 57% of people have a desire to eat more healthily versus 10 years ago and nearly a quarter (22%) are now much more likely to try to minimise their intake of saturated fat, sugar and salt.
The Covid-19 pandemic has therefore she said: “highlighted the importance of a healthy diet and body weight, as, for the first time, the UK nation have actually seen the short-term impact of poor nutritional status. This has created increased motivation, and a renewed focus from government, to truly tackle the nutritional quality of the UK diet.”