Eat Your Veg: Australia’s Health Report Card Has a Silver Lining For Business

Apr 27, 2023

Australians are only eating half the recommended five serves of vegetables a day, according to new research by Woolworths’ digital wellness site HealthyLife.

The Living Healthy Report 2023 shows Australians are putting less “sometimes food” in the shopping trolley, but we’re making up for it by eating out more than we did before the Covid-19 pandemic.

And we’re falling short of every healthy eating target in the nation’s official dietary guidelines.

“Everybody wants to be healthy, but our research shows that people need help to make it happen,” says the report’s author Simone Austin, one of Australia’s top dieticians and the Chief Health Officer at HealthyLife.

“This is a huge opportunity for food makers and retailers. If you’re in the business of making products that help people hit the healthy eating targets in the Australian Dietary Guidelines, there’s a huge market for it and people want to know about it.

“If your product is lower in sugar and higher in whole foods, it really resonates with consumers.

“The market has plenty of room for businesses wanting to help people eat more of the core food groups.”

Ms Austin is one of the industry leaders presenting at the Naturally Good Summit on June 5.

She says her summit presentation will delve into new consumer data and opportunities for business growth across all food sectors, including packaged goods manufacturing and retailing.

A board director at Dieticians Australia and past president of Sports Dietitians Australia, Ms Austin has played a key role in nutrition education for 25 years, including stints advising the Australian men’s cricket team (2001-2007) and the Hawthorn Football Club (2008-2020). The author of Eat Like an Athlete also chairs the HealthyLife Advisory Board, set up to ensure evidenced based health information is available to everyone.

Ms Austin’s latest research analyses the aggregated data of more than 900 million transactions at Woolworths, along with other retail outlets around Australia, for at-home eating purchases from 2020-2022. The report also includes a major survey of 2000 Australians.

It shows that shoppers are not just falling behind on veggie consumption. Australians are failing to meet any of the nation’s five core food group targets, with fewer serves of grains, dairy, and meat compared to the 2022 figures.

At the same time, Australians are eating out more than pre-pandemic levels, reducing how much we spend on eating at home.

In other research findings, two thirds of shoppers say it’s less affordable to eat healthy compared to the year prior.

When asked for a reason why they aren’t eating healthy, 33 per cent blame cost.

But on the flip side, when researchers ask customers why they make healthy choices, 43 per cent say “it’s cheaper to eat at home”.

Ms Austin says there are gaps between what shoppers say, feel and do in the healthy eating space.

“Australians are hungry for more information and support,” she says. “There’s a real gap there because people want to do better when it comes to healthy eating, and they want convenience. There’s an opportunity for business to give customers the information they want.

“For example, legumes are a really good story because they can have a big impact on a person’s health. We know that a diet low in legumes is the leading risk factor for disease. Legumes are almost too good to be true. They’re cheap and they’re high in protein and insoluble, soluble, and prebiotic fibre, but low in saturated fat.

Heirloom carrots. Picture by Wendy Hargreaves.

“But legumes have a bit of an image problem. Australians don’t know how important they are to our diet, and often don’t know how to prepare them, so a business that helps fill that gap will do really well.”

Ms Austin admits to feeling disappointed by Australia’s falling health markers, but she remains optimistic.

“I have a real opportunity to influence change,” she says. “As part of the Woolworths group, we have a huge national footprint to help support the health of Australians.

“I believe it’s the responsibility of all business and industry to look after the nation’s health. Individuals still have a responsibility to look after their own health, and people know to eat more veggies and get more sleep, but our lifestyles don’t always make it easy to do that.

“To make real change, it’s all about the environment, making it easier for customers to find healthy options.”

Ms Austin says there will be plenty of time for questions when she addresses the Naturally Good Summit on Monday, June 5 in Sydney. The summit will offer a snapshot into the future evolution of Australia’s marketplace for natural, healthy, and sustainable packaged goods.

Make the most of our Early Bird offer by purchasing your ticket before Friday 5 May at 11.59pm. Get your ticket here

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