The introduction of free school meals for children aged seven and under may have been seen as a big challenge for lunchbox brand manufacturers, as suddenly a whole chunk of revenue disappeared, but it was a great move in the quest to get children eating better and saving less well-off families money.
“Children are not getting the right nutrients in the right quantities”
Whether it has been a success in driving better behaviour and attainment levels in class has yet to be seen. It will be interesting to see what the real effects have been at The Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum keynote seminar on 3 March, where the great and the good of the kids’ food industry and peers will discuss the next steps for school food and children’s nutrition.
The fact remains malnutrition in children is a common health problem. All the focus goes on to obesity, which is clearly a crisis, but let’s not forget it is estimated there are about three million people who are malnourished in the UK at any time, and many more at risk of becoming malnourished. Many children are just not getting the right nutrients in the right quantities at the right times of day. In this day and age, it’s unforgivable.
Figures from the UK Faculty of Public Health show there has been a 19% increase in people hospitalised in England and Wales for malnutrition over the past 12 months, caused by poor diet and an inability to afford quality food. We are even seeing the return of Victorian nutritional diseases such as gout, scurvy and rickets. It’s bonkers.
The UK snack and soft drink market has a lot to account for. Cheap, overprocessed snacks, treats and drinks need to be culled. We need a new wave of nutritionally rich, good-quality, affordable alternatives. I am talking about products that are packed with good, honest nutrients and nutrition at their core, which have been less processed and messed about with.
Primal Pantry and Get Fruity are great examples of great tasting yet clean-label snack bars, while Beanitos and Beanfields in the US are snacks that are higher in protein, naturally, which is helpful when protein is often the most expensive aspect of a family shopping basket.
There’s still a role for ‘better for you’ categories, but there’s a much bigger and more impactful role for a new breed of ‘nutritional naturals’.
The snack, treat and drinks categories are currently lacking transformative new innovations and brands that offer intrinsically good for you, nutrient-rich alternatives at affordable, everyday prices. Good, nutritious food and drink should not be the reserve of the affluent, middle-class yummy mummy, but available and enjoyed by the masses. There’s no excuse.
Claire Nuttall is founder of The Brand Incubator