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  • Writer's pictureMeyrick Consulting

Big brother is watching your trolley

We live in a world where data is easy to access

It’s no wonder , then, that politics is changing as a consequence. Transparency has prompted us to question everything, and I can only imagine that as everyone accepts more monitoring and data capture our lives will be very different moving forward.

Professor Larry Marr, an influential U.S computer scientist, said back in 2013: ‘In a world in which you can see what you are doing to yourself as you go along the hope is that people will take more personal responsibility for themselves, in keeping themselves healthy.’

Data might help us all prevent some illnesses

We aren’t quite there just yet, but data is demonstrating how preventative medicine might be one way of tackling the increased UK obesity figures. We all understand that prevention is usually better than cure, but the collaboration between tech and health will make practice a reality. Supermarkets are watching with interest and the national Food Strategy updates are trying to effect change..

Is the tide turning?

My point is that those criticising Henry Dimbleby’s second part of the National Food Strategy are likely to be in the minority. Dimbleby is calling for more transparent reporting when it comes to the sales of healthier foods. Interestingly, until now supermarkets have been brilliant when it comes to data in other sectors, but when it comes to sales-based targets for healthy foods they are strangely more circumspect. Photo: Engin Akyurt

Of course, the headlines are predictably dramatic

hard working families to be taxed higher’ and so on; you can fill in the rest. The PM was definitely keen to avoid that type of publicity with his eyes on the next election. However, Dimbelby has almost bypassed the political heavyweights (sic) and gone straight to the biggest sector players. This means that supermarkets are actually supporting the second part of the National Food Strategy. They are subscribing to his calls for certain metrics to be mandatory when it comes to HFSS produce (HFSS refers to food and drink high in (saturated) fat, salt or sugar according to the Department of Health's Nutrient Profiling Model (NPM). Foods scoring four+, and drinks one+, are classed as HFSS.) He also wants protein proportions recorded, fruit and veg sales and the amount of food waste generated. Most people would see this as good sense and the least we expect from our biggest food retailers. They sell a lot of junk food and without their active collaboration breaking the junk food cycle will be impossible. Photo: Louis Hansel

Will there be a future pitched battle between suppliers and retailers?

All this is very positive, but retailers might be behind all this, but suppliers seem to view the report in a different vein. With a moratorium on HFSS food advertising suppliers are of the view that any cost implications will come their way. Fears are also growing regarding data transparency that may well give competitors too much information. But perhaps that demonstrates the disconnect between real world problems and the focus on profitability. Supermarkets cannot and I believe, should not keep pushing for growth. The aim of the exercise is not to sell more food at whatever cost but to help consumers think hard about how to spend their money that benefits them and also the planet. Photo: Nadine Primeau

We are on the cusp of massive change

Gen Z certainly have much more of a handle on what they want the future of the planet to look like. Supermarkets realise that it’s time for change and everyone else in the food and ingredients sector are going to have to follow suit. It’s almost a given, isn’t it?

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