Food manufacturers looking for a growth market should investigate producing healthy snacks for stressed workers.
This is the view of Gavin Stainton, director of product innovation at Herbalife, who was commenting on research into the eating habits of workers in the EU.
The study, which was carried out by Herbalife in conjunction with food psychologist Dr Barbara Stewart-Knox of the Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health (NICHE), showed a strong link between work-related stress and workers likelihood to snack on unhealthy foods high in fat, sugar and salt.
Stainton said that if workers were to avoid problems caused by their unhealthy diet, such as obesity and the complications it can cause, then they would need to be encouraged to eat more healthily.
He said: “When people are under stress it is human nature to reach for a snack, so if employers wish to keep their staff healthy they should try to make healthy snacks readily available.
“More and more employers are already looking at employee health as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies and trying to help their staff eat more healthily.”
Currently, Stainton said, when many employees want a snack they go to the vending machine and are faced by a range of soft drinks, crisps and chocolate.
He added: “I’m not saying ‘take vending machines out’ but companies will be looking at what they stock and introducing healthier options.”
Stainton said that in order to cater for this huge market, food manufacturers needed to reformulate their products, or develop new ones, to minimise the calories and the amount of fat, sugar and salt and to ensure healthy components such as fibre, vitamins and minerals were present.
“Food manufacturers need to be forward thinking,” he said. “Obesity is a global problem and healthy snacking is the future.”
He also said that manufacturers needed to consider cost when producing new healthier products. “Many people don’t have a lot of money in the current climate so they don’t want to pay a cost penalty to eat healthily.”
He suggested that soya was a low-cost source of protein and also scored highly in terms of sustainability when compared with meat and eggs.
In addition, fibre is a very important component and helps to feed healthy bacteria in the gut, which in turn produce short chain fatty acids which produce a feeling of satiety.