The EU population along with the world as whole is getting older. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in the next five years, the number of adults aged 65 will outnumber children under the age of 5 and by 2050 these older adults will outnumber all children under the age of 14. The EC Foresight study ‘Tomorrow’s Health Society’ acknowledges the significant challenges ahead and has placed food and diet as a major research priority. The report cites that ‘In the EU, life expectancy is currently increasing by 2.5 years each decade. However, only 75% (females) to 80 % (males) of total life expectancy are spent in good health and.. at the individual level obese people have been found to incur approx. 30% higher healthcare costs than their normal-weight peers’.
The key problem is that people are living longer but not necessarily healthy lives. Obesity which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain cancers is a significant healthcare challenge. In the EU more than half the adult population is overweight and one in six people are obese, the report also highlights that one in three 6-9 year olds are now overweight or obese.
The foresight report sets out 4 EU research priorities: Healthier eating and integrated policy; Food, Nutrients and Health: cross-interactions and emerging risks; Making individualised diets a reality and Shaping and coping with the 2050 food system. It foresees the solution as an integrated approach to food consumption from individuals, policy makers, healthcare providers and food producers, with society as whole tackling this problem together.
What role can food supplement and food manufacturers and distributors expect to play?
In depth food information: Food labels will become even more informative for the consumer, with technology, smart apps and digital information on food containers. Consumers will become fluent in understanding the food they are buying and its impact on their health.
Deepening relationship between the food industry, healthcare systems and experts: The food industry will play a major role in educating consumers, working with healthcare providers and the range of specially qualified people playing a role in dietary management will increase. There is scope for food producers to become service providers and educators in a preventative dietary healthcare system.
Individualised Diets: At present dietary advice is generalised to token statements like ‘eat your five a day’. In the future dietary knowledge and research will be focussed on individual health complaints and patients will follow a dietary regime specific to their condition. Companies that can create products and diet foods for specific health conditions will be at the forefront of the health food industry. The slimming market will of course continue to grow.
Sustainable and Community led food production: As the population increases so will the demand for food, but it will have to be sustainably produced, the supply chain will be strictly managed and community led initiatives to produce food will increase. Companies that kick start such initiatives will be well placed.