We are living in a time of innovation in food. There has been a literal explosion of new products using a range of different ingredients, with new techniques and with all kinds of claims.
Now I totally love trying new foods and am always on the look out for brands and products that I can recommend. When companies approach me and ask me to try something or review it my answer is usually yes. Going to a food show is always a time of huge excitement, it’s like Christmas and Easter all at once. What new goodies will I find? What novel products will there be to taste?
Food Matters Live is one of those events that fuses seminars on the evidence base with talks on food manufacture and then has a huge arena for brands to showcase their products. It can be a great place to network, get your brand in front of people who purchase, recommend and know about foods and a place to learn.
As a dietitian I am literally learning everyday. Nutrition is an evolving science, we have new studies being conducted everyday. we are very much still finding new nutrients and discovering the effects of nutrients. It is an exciting time and I am always grateful to those who continue to bring us new, high quality research. I’m also grateful to those who continue to think of new ways to add foods to a product or come up with new food ideas. We need this. However there is a way to do it.
The food exhibition at Food Matters Live caused my dietitian soul to cry out. It left me with a sour taste and very skeptical, which for me is not the norm. Talk to my husband and he will tell you I’m a very positive, upbeat person who dreams big.
I met some fabulous people and brands.
I got to taste some delicious new products.
I tasted some foods I’ve wanted to try for a while.
I definitely discovered some new things to recommend.
So why so sad?
There was a sea of health claims being made that I just couldn’t see were true, proven or even allowed. Some of the products were frankly laughable. The science did not stack up. In fact at the show I bumped into a lady from trading standards who was blown away by the number of claims that needed to be looked into. The whole thing has led to quite a debate chat on twitter in the nutrition community. Registered nutritionists and dietitians being united in their views on how unhelpful and wrong it is to be advertising products with claims such as “boosts metabolism” and “calming” “anti-inflammatory” or “makes you feel energised”. I don’t think that all these brands are trying to dupe us or to lie, I just think they are confused about the science. That could totally be me being naive of course! Also, I don’t want to single these out by any means but what I do want to point out is:
- In order to make a health claim a nutrient needs to have the science to back it up and health claim has to be EFSA approved.
2. There needs to be enough of a nutrient in a product for it to have an effect. Sometimes there is some science but the amount of the nutrient needed is just not palatable to have in a single serving.
3. By making wild claims a product may look good but consumers are becoming savvy and some will definitely start avoiding these types of food items.
4. What is the science? Is it good quality or a one off study on 10 people?
5. If you are a brand and have used a different technique or added extras to a food product then be prepared to explain why. I chatted to multiple food brands who couldn’t tell me the role of an ingredient or how a product had been made.
6. Is there a need for your product or for the claim you are making? High protein water for example, why is that needed?
If you are a food brand or new starter to the market and you want your product/brand to be credible then it is not just a case of having a few studies to back it up. Ideally you want an approved health claim. If that isn’t possible then are still ways to word things. Working with a registered nutritionist or dietitian to get the wording, science and understanding of right is so important. We want to have the right messages going out into the public domain so that great brands flourish and the consumer knows they can trust labelling and advertising. Isn’t it better to make less claims and have a trusted product? Yes working with someone like myself will cost you some pennies, but in the long run you will end up with a much better product.