Food Consumption and Health
As the cases of the coronavirus continue to increase, a parallel upward curve in global health awareness and food consumption is also trending.
Health organisations state that the coronavirus poses significant risks to those with underlying health conditions, like diabetes, heart disease, or even obesity. Consequently, more and more individuals around the globe are starting to research into ways they can avoid being at risk of being infected with Covid-19.
Governments, like the Italian one, are giving outlines on how to maintain a healthy diet while on lockdown. Nutritionists are ensuring there are enough resources online for people to be aware of the types of food they should consume or steer clear of – in light of the pandemic.
As this awareness increases, the globe is witnessing a rise in change of habit. Lifestyle choices are beginning to lean towards more organic food, less livestock consumption, and more of an effort to reduce waste.
Consumerism develops as there is more knowledge unveiled in the science behind food. As more and more people understand the value in nutritious food, demand goes up, and the supply chain shifts. “Farmers have already mobilized to produce foods to meet the growing importance of ‘sustainability’,” an article in Forbes reads.
Climate change was causing individuals across the planet to make a more conscious effort in consumption. “The coronavirus outbreak may act as a refreshed reminder,” Forbes continues, implying the pandemic is pushing people further.
Organic Food and Drink Sector
Prior to the outbreak, reports stated the organic food and drink sector was on target to hit £2.5bn by the end of 2020. Now this outcome could be even higher.
Plant-based food company fiid, which produces vegan, ready-made meals with a 12-month shelf life, saw retail sales grow by 100% in the month of March. Shane Ryan, founder of fiid, believes this is because of their extended shelf life, providing the products with a type of versatility attributed to many products bought through the panic-buying phase.
While the company were not prepared for such a large jump in demand, and are also finding challenges with their supply of packaging – which came from Wuhan – they have been working for a while now on finding “alternative routes to ensure consistent supply.”
Ryan thinks a spike in organic sales is not a trend, but that the “current situation will only serve to further cement people’s commitment to their health.”
The UK is not the only country to witness this. Recently, the BBC reported that French shoppers have also been acquiring more organic food since the pandemic began. Experts add that this could be because they want to “eat more healthy and local” during the lockdown.
Green Saffron, an Irish spice company that mainly provides dry products, ideal to stock up pantries, is another business to join this curve. Arun Kapil, chef and entrepreneur, states: “What we thought was six to eight months of stock has just depleted to six weeks over the last three weeks of sales.”
More Time to Experiment
Staying in lockdown is not only showing an upward trend in local food purchases, but it is also allowing people to experiment more at home. Arlene Santiago, health transformation coach and co-author of “She Did It”, says the extra time she has had at home has given her “a chance to try new recipes” and now her “family is eating more of a variety of dishes.”
In February alone, an estimated £200bm a month was being spent on organic food and drink. According to Statista, the global health and wellness food market is projected to increase to $811.82bn by 2021.
Santiago has always stood by the principals of health. “The best thing to do is eat a lot of vegetables, drink water and keep active to stay in the best health – not just during COVID,” she says. But she also adds: “Many people are being conscious and wanting to keep their immune system up since the virus is spreading.”
From Organic to Plant-Based?
With people turning to more organic, and more health-focused meals, are we going to see a rise in plant-based lifestyles too?
Laura Gaga, long-term vegan and food waste blogger, notes several of her friends and family members are consciously eating less fish and meat. She says: “I think the association between the outbreak and animal products has generated some anxiety.” Adding that people are increasingly considering their diets and “the impact of the global meat industry on our health and the environment.”
Climate change had already put people’s diets high on the agenda. But Gaga notes that the “coronavirus feels like a culmination, or extension, of that in some ways.”
Ryan predicts: “We’ll see a massive growth in plant based across all categories over the next 18 months as people are more considerate of their health and the general impact on the environment as a result of Covid-19.”
Most importantly, coronavirus has served as a conversation starter, especially about food consumption. While climate change is a massive scientific consensus, that is having both long-term and short-term effects on the human race – Covid-19 has killed hundreds of thousands in the span of a few months, generating an effect that is much closer to people’s hearts.
Gaga says this conversation revolves around “potential benefits for our planet as we slow consumerism down, not only in terms of the meat industry but food waste, fast fashion and transportation” too.
When stockpiling began wiping out supermarkets, an international fear of colossal food waste was formed. But recent research shows we should not have been afraid.
Gaga is an ambassador for eating well, for less money – as well as stopping essentials from going to the bin. She has been lucky to find all her plant-based items easily, and continues to shop for yellow stickers without any trouble – mainly because social distancing blocks herds of shoppers from forming around the reduced crates.
During the pandemic, she has continued to freeze her fresh produce, and while she shops less, she always ensures to buy what she knows will be consumed at home.
She now also cooks for her mother, who has had to go into long-term isolation. Gaga says she’s seen a “positive shift” in her mum’s mindset toward “free, reduced, surplus food.” But she still makes a point that while aisles were emptying at the start of the outbreak, food continues to be wasted. She believes it takes more than just fear to make people change their lifestyles completely.
“If I was to act solely on a sense of fear or panic, I might make an immediate change but it would just as equally be short lived,” she says. This is further applied to the movement towards plant-based and organic diets.
How to change human habits?
To see a real change in human habits, it doesn’t just take awareness, or conversation about food consumption. “Those who choose to move toward a plant-based diet will do so when they feel it aligns with their values in other areas of their life [and when] they see how easily they can incorporate that change into their daily lives on a practical basis,” she concludes.