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Nielsen Knorr Report

South Africa’s plate, again, found nutritionally poor

A new research survey report by Nielsen has looked at the eating habits of the South African population and their health impact – and, as is well-known, has again found them wanting.

According to the Indigo Wellness Index, South Africa is one of the unhealthiest nations in the world. The survey was commissioned by Unilever brand, Knorr, in a bid to help South Africa move towards a better food future by providing stakeholders – government, NGOs, industry, retailers, media and consumers – with information about how and what the nation is eating and how it impacts our health.

“The Knorr purpose is to reinvent food for humanity in three ways: champion dietary diversity, more plant-based meals and more sustainable ways to grow and produce food,” goes the press release.

Nielsen undertook the study, Understanding the Eating Habits of the South African Population, in February 2020, surveying 1,005 respondents aged 16 years and over, across South Africa.

The research objectives were multi-fold and included an understanding of the following:

  • Composition of the plate across different meal occasions, demographics and regions.
  • Attitudes towards food and the link to health.
  • Impact and access to healthy food.

So, what exactly is on our plate?

The current South African plate has a large proportion of meat and starch but is lacking in vegetables.

The current plate consists of 41% starch and 26% meat with only 13% vegetables and the rest composed of fats and oils, dairy and legumes. This is consistent across all regions and demographics. Even kids living at home eat the same as their parents.

Breakfast generally has the largest proportion of starch, while dinner the largest amount of meat. Meat is eaten on average of four times per week, with poultry and red meat being the most popular.

Starch is eaten six times a week, with bread, rice, potatoes and Mielie pap the most prevalent. Vegetable consumption is also four times a week, with cheaper fruits and vegetables consumed the most.

82% think that it has become easier to find healthy food within the past five years. But, only 52% think healthy food is affordable.

84% of South Africans are meat eaters, 14% are flexitarians, 2% are vegetarians, 0,3% are pescatarians and 0,1% are vegans.

How do we fix the plate of the nation?

The Eatwell plate composition as defined by the University of Cambridge and the NHS says that our plates should have the following 33% vegetables, 32% starch, 15% dairy, 12% meat and 8% fats and oils. [Many would dispute the science or sense behind the Eatwell plate. Ed]

“By making small changes to our plate, we can help shape the health of the nation. Whilst it is relevant to 58 million people, how each one of us changes our plate is personal, and this will have a positive ripple effect on our families and our communities. It all starts with small, delicious changes,” says Knorr.

“We are fortunate that we have a rich history of food and agriculture; we can learn from how our forefathers ate. Crops rooted in heritage can once again have a place on our plate. Many of these nutritional crops were identified in Knorr and WWF’s Future 50 Foods report, and include millet, cowpeas, bambara groundnut and mung beans, amongst others.”

Chrislynn Ramdeo of Knorr notes, “We need to change the plate of our nation because as Winston Churchill once said: healthy citizens are the greatest asset a country can have. Knorr is encouraging South Africans to choose to eat better by championing dietary diversity and more plant- based meals. Knorr wants to make healthy eating more accessible for all.”

About Knorr: Dating back to 1838, Knorr is the 8th–most-chosen FMCG brand in the world (according to Kantar World Panel) and Unilever’s largest food brand, with a yearly sales value of over €4bn. Knorr products are sold in nearly 90 countries around the world and its flavours are enjoyed by more than 2.8 billion people each year.

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