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The Trend

A Kantar panel study across 20 countries, found that the move towards healthy eating was gaining support within the industry. Consumers, Chefs and operators recognised the need for change.

With fieldwork conducted in Q3 2020, the majority (76%) of respondents who agreed that there was an increase in demand for healthy eating (54%), believed that the trend was not as a result of COVID-19 (Kantar, 2020).

It is worth noting that a large portion (45%) of consumers are wanting healthier dishes.

How much of a problem is healthy eating in South Africa?

The recent State of the Plate Study (March 2020) commissioned by Knorr Professional investigated how and what the nation is eating and how it impacts citizens’ health.

Conducted among a nationally representative adult sample, the report found that 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 areas and population groups (Kantar, 2020).

How does this trend impact your business?

Your Business Application

  1. Firstly, it’s important to unpack what ‘healthy eating’ means to Chefs, operators and consumers.
  2. Secondly, it is worth taking a closer look at the South African reality.
  3. And finally, consider what opportunities the growing ‘healthy eating’ trend presents to your particular operation.

What is ‘healthy eating’?

Practically, the concept of ‘healthy eating’ does not have a single, shared definition. Among industry role players, countries and communities ‘healthy eating’ can encompass cooking techniques, menu composition, portion sizes, and so on. The global Kantar (2020) study found that healthy eating is all about freshness, naturalness, balance and vegetables.

The study identifies key characteristics of healthy dishes as:

  • Tasty: Healthy dishes are a human necessity and are beautiful in taste and appearance.
  • Balanced: What the human being consumes, such as protein, grains, seeds, vegetables, fruits, etc.
  • Colourful: We choose a wide variety of leafy vegetables; colorful dishes make this look good and what is eaten does not provide many calories.
  • Natural: Homemade meals with natural and fresh products, balancing foods and offering a variety of dishes.
  • Vegetables: Incorporate vegetables and/or fruit well into each dish.
  • Prepared in a healthy way: Healthy food is not fried but steamed’, Oven-baked dishes without fat.
  • Can include convenience products:
    • Convenience without chemicals.
    • Greater selection of ready-made semi-finished products.
    • Ready-made, non-greasy, non-salty, unsweetened sauces that add flavour, texture and colour to dishes / desserts.

These characteristics indicate how healthy eating is understood from a global perspective.

The South African reality

A snapshot of the current South African reality is provided by the following key findings from The State of the Plate Study (March 2020):

  • South Africans generally understand the main tenets of healthy eating i.e. eating vegetables. However, there is a massive discrepancy between what is “known” and what is “done” .
  • Vegetables are seen as far less important to include in a meal than meat or starch.
  • South Africa has a meat eating culture with meat being eaten, on average 4 times per week.
  • Poultry and red meat are most favoured.
  • Beans are the most used substitute, likely due to the fact that meat is relatively expensive.
  • The typical South African plate has a far greater proportion of meat and is lacking in vegetables. This is likely to be linked to the importance of traditional foods in SA.
  • Starch is eaten 6 times a week, with bread, rice, potatoes and mielie pap being the most popular. Around half the population do not use any type of vegetables as a substitute for starch.
  • Overall, bread with eggs and pap and meat are the most consumed meals in South Africa.

A move towards healthier eating should be made with these local market characteristics in mind.

A key finding from the report (State of the Plate, 2020) was that South Africans eat too many of the same foods, meaning our diets are unbalanced, and as a result, our health is suffering. Adding variety and vegetables to local plates would be a quick win.

Opportunities for healthy eating

By providing healthier options, it is possible to encourage diners to do what they know they should be doing. Depending on your market segment, you will need to be guided by the extent to which they will embrace healthy options.

Below are some practical suggestions for additions and substitutes to include more vegetables and add balance to dishes.

Add More Nutrition to Meat Dishes

Keep the meaty meals but improve the nutritional value of the dishes by combining them with a mix of tasty vegetables, increasing wholegrain ingredients, and ensuring that the dishes served have a balance of ingredients. When eating red meat, opt for lean meat. Also try experimenting with sustainably-sourced fish, beans and legumes, dairy and chicken.

Add Vegetable-rich Recipes to the Menu

Adopting a vegetable-rich menu means adding more vegetables to dishes or changing up the commonly used vegetable offerings with less common veggies such as sweet potatoes, baby marrow, mushrooms and broccoli. Stir fries are an excellent vegetable-rich option.

Wholegrain Substitutes

Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet but ensure that there is a variety of wholegrain ingredients in the menu. Try making simple swap outs such as replacing white bread with wholewheat bread to help boost the nutrition of your dishes.

Plant-Based Protein Substitutes

The easiest way to add plant-based protein dishes to a menu is to swap out meat protein with plant-based options. Good sources of plant-protein include legumes such as beans, peas, lentils, as well as nuts, seeds and soy products. These foods provide customers with iron and zinc, which are important for maintaining a strong immune system.

Final Thoughts

Increasing demand for healthy eating is a rising global trend. The concept is broad and can be understood from various perspectives, but locally, a lack of balance (variety) and vegetables are immediate problems. Adding vegetables, or substituting traditional protein sources with plant-based alternatives could satisfy guests’ appetite for a healthier diet.



Kantar Research (2020). Understanding Healthy Eating. David Ehlers, Sylvia Schöne
Project reference; 316400966; Qmob3017-3042.