Speaker Series Spotlight: Translating the Health of our Nation

Sep 12, 2022

There’s no denying COVID-19 has fundamentally altered how we think and act when it comes to our health and wellbeing. But perhaps what isn’t as clear, is the extent to which these changes can be considered positives or negatives, and how they impact business for both manufacturers and retailers.

Two years on from the start of the pandemic, leading online retailer Healthylife took the nation’s pulse to produce its first Living Healthy Report. Led by Chief Health Officer Simone Austin, the Woolworths-owned business surveyed thousands of Australians on key health factors covering everything from what we eat to how we’re moving.

simone austin

Simone Austin, Chief Health Officer, Healthylife

Simone was one of 30 plus speakers at this year’s Naturally Good 2022 expo. Along with analysed shopping basket data from 2019-2021, she revealed the topics of key concern for consumers.

Here are some valuable insights from her Speaker Series presentation: Translating the Health of our Nation.

Woolworths goal – one million Australians using the Food Tracker

Our goal at Healthylife is to help all Australians live a healthier life. With the launch of our Healthylife Food Tracker we are providing customers a convenient way to compare their individual shopping purchases to the Australian Guide To Healthy Eating. This tool is a first globally as it compares shopping data against serves suggested in the dietary guidelines.

The Food Tracker, which Woolworths hopes 1 million Aussies will be using by the end of 2024, will help Australians gain insight into their shopping habits and provide inspiration to make healthier choices. This is very important considering we know a healthy diet helps reduce the risk of illness and increases wellbeing.

In support of a healthier lifestyle

There’s so much happening across Woolworths Group when it comes to health. It’s all part of our ongoing commitment to increasing healthier choices in customers’ baskets.

Woolworths Supermarket has been recognised as Australia’s Healthiest Own Brand for the third year in a row and has also rolled out Healthier Options online which makes it easier for customers to make decisions around healthier products when they’re shopping online.

Woolworths Supermarkets have also given away over a 100 million pieces of fruit in supermarkets to inspire the next generation.

Key health concerns

The ‘HealthyLife Living Healthy Report’, combines a 2,000 person national survey with analysis from 25 million weekly purchases made at Woolworths supermarkets between 2019 and 2021, to shed light on the impact of the pandemic on the nation’s health.

The report, which focuses on three key pillars; eating well, moving well and feeling well, found the pandemic has had a mixed impact on our health. It’s clear we’ve made many positive changes despite the challenges of the last two years, but we still have a way to go. Specifically:

  • One in three Australians are eating better now and cooking more meals at home, compared to two years ago and are feeling healthier as a result, which has been pleasing to see.
  • However, while 30% of Australians say they are eating less highly processed foods, our Woolworths basket data shows a slightly different picture. Australians purchase more discretionary (sometimes) servings as per the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
  • Unfortunately, 50% of Australians felt they had average or poor gut health and 23% said that knowing how to cook healthy foods is a challenge to eating healthy. We hope that our health programs on healthylife.com.au including our ‘Eat More Veggies Program’ and our ‘Manage Gut Symptoms’ will help Australians navigate these areas of concern.

An increase in exercise

When it comes to movement and exercise, Covid-19 has helped 33% of Australians integrate more movement, exercise at home and online classes into their day. However, 25% of Australians say it has had the opposite effort, with declining energy levels from the stress of COVID, impacting their physical activity.

Unsurprisingly though, Covid has had a negative impact on our nation’s mental health with one in four Australians saying their mental health has declined over the past two years, with anxiety, poor sleep and financial stress the largest stressors impacting mental health.

What this means for existing businesses

Does your product help Australians hit the targets of the Australian Dietary guidelines? If so, that is a bonus as we need it! Products lower in sugar and higher in whole foods such as more vegetables, legumes resonate. Educating consumers is also important. For instance, Australians often don’t know how to prepare legumes. So, a business that shows us how to do this is good. We generally should be producing products showing how they can help us.

We know from our Healthylife Living Healthy Report findings, Australians are increasingly interested in gut and immune health so products that talk to these issues will be of interest especially if they have evidence and Food Standards claims to substantiate improvements in these areas.

What this mans for start-ups

We still need to develop more products that help us achieve the Australian Dietary Guidelines. That means more vegetables, wholegrains, fruit and dairy/dairy alternatives and less high sugar low nutrient products. The market has room for businesses wanting to help people eat the core food groups which as also easy to prepare, save time and are tasty. If you can get a handful of vegetables into your products that will help Australians reach the target of five serves per day which we know can help with good health.

Simone is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, Advanced Sports Dietitian and well-known for her work with many of Australia’s elite men’s sporting teams and her book, Eat Like An Athlete. You can find her on Instagram here: @simone_austin

Thanks to our speakers for being part of the 2022 Naturally Good Speaker Series. If you would like to read more key take-aways from our Speaker Series sessions, subscribe here for regular updates.

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