The Healthy Food Gift Card: Giving Everyone the Opportunity to eat well
By Maurizio Tessarotto of Generali Vitality
Which diet is best? Should you go Keto? Paleo? South Beach? All your late-night googling has probably turned up more questions than answers.
The reality is: you drag yourself into a new diet, put in a lot of effort and sacrifices to stick to it and you achieve your goal to lose weight. You then go back to your old eating habits and gain weight, again. It’s like a Roller-coaster and hardly delivers the healthy rewards you are looking for
A healthy diet is not complicated and contains mostly fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and includes little to no processed food – WHO says.
So why don’t we manage it?
Sometimes it happens to me, that while watching the last series on Netflix at night, my stomach growls a bit and I reach for the pantry door, looking for chocolate or sweets. I grab something and eat it, because it is there at hand, convenient and tasty. On top of that, I tell myself: “ok, let’s do the healthy thing tomorrow, not today”.
I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I really followed that up.
One day, to my surprise, I found the pantry empty of sweets (my children ate all of the sweets). At first, I got resentful (and angry with my kids). But then I turned to the table in the kitchen, where we keep a beautiful fruit basket in white-ceramic, always filled with seasonal fruits. A juicy red Honeycrisp apple was winking at me. So I decided to eat it.
That triggered something in me. I realised I didn’t really need sweets.
(the reader here would say: fantastic discovery, but who really does?)
The point is that this experience became the first building block towards a small, imperceptible new habit. I indeed decided to never have sweets anymore in that place. And, wife and children permitting, no longer buying them.
I made the healthy and convenient choice. I surrounded myself with healthy food.
By bringing home more of that, I am now naturally forced to eat healthier, because my only alternative is to walk out of the door and go somewhere to satisfy that junk-food desire. And I know I’m too lazy to do it, even though the incentive to do it once tasted good.
(the reader again here would go: fantastic story Mauri, are you telling us that we should just change our shopping habits overnight and spend more of our dollars on healthy food?)
Well, there is more than this, in our times, when it comes to healthy food, there is:
- a lack of equitable access to healthy, nutritious food that low income, minority communities often face. More here.
- a scarce awareness of diet-related diseases – The Joint Programming Initiative “A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life” is tackling this seriously in Europe.
- a well-known set of food-consumption patterns linked to deleterious environmental consequences.
Nutrition and sustainability are high on the global political agenda, and the list of European or WW projects is long. To cite a few:
- The European Public Health Association, EUPHA
- The “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” resolution accepted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 2015
- WHO, who urges governments to promote healthy food in public facilities
Instead, what can we, as businesses do, to incentivize a healthy diet?
Conscious consumers give me hope. I have a credo: people can always vote with their dollars, pushing companies to source better and with more ethical ingredients.
This is to say: only a shift in demand will drive a shift in supply.
How to create that shift in demand then?
We struggle to understand and buy what is healthy because it’s complex, and the only incentive is price. But there are already some good projects of labelling food in a very simple way, adopted by some big brands like Nestle, sponsored by the European Commission and the World Health Organisation. E.g. https://world.openfoodfacts.org/
Those labelling systems are the new revolution. Imagine that there is a green label for food that is made from nutrition-rich only, unprocessed ingredients and that is having less impact on the environment.
What if we combine the labelling system with a Gift Card that works on healthy food only?
The call to action is here to create a 2-way incentive system:
- the social incentive – the labelling system that gives customers a more simple and easy to digest (if you pardon the pun) way to understand what’s healthy & sustainable
- the economic incentive – the Gift Card that works on food that has the best indicators of quality and sustainability on the labelling system
By creating gift cards that work on healthy and sustainable items only (the economic incentive), they will diffuse the labelling system (the social incentive).
The combination of the 2 incentives for the end customers, will create a push for the shift of demand for healthy and sustainable food. Corporations will understand and design or re-adjusting their operations to meet this shift.
Nutrition-rich, calorie-light alternatives will become more known, accessible, and affordable. Especially for the low-end population who traditionally has less access to it.
Generali Vitality is keen to kick this off and calling for action, are you eager to join?