Challenges in Consumption

Consumer behavior plays a crucial role in negatively influencing human health and the environment.

Additionally, in many cases, consumers are influenced by political, social, and economic factors that put them at a disadvantage. These render them unable to optimize energy & nutrient intake, put them in situations where they are contributors to environmental degradation, or both.

    What are issues affecting **consumers**? What are the problems that arise during consumption that negatively influence the **environment**? What are the problems that arise during consumption that negatively influence human **health**? How severe are these challenges and how severe is their **impact**?

@JohnIngram, @Seifu and @Karu, you may be able to help us answer some of these questions. Please let us know what you think!

What are issues affecting consumers?
-in industrialized countries, food literacy is poor. Skills to prepare food are highly variable, and as such many consumers have to rely on convenience foods and highly processed product.
-highly processed product tends to incorporate more
-the are efficiencies of scale that come from larger scale processing, and certain processing techniques where the capital expenditure is only feasible for larger processors.
What are the problems that arise during consumption that negatively influence the environment?
-Large scale monoculture for commodity farming tends to rely heavily on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides
-Large scale animal husbandry has negative agricultural impacts, and is resource intensive
What are the problems that arise during consumption that negatively influence human health?
-Within the past few decades global populations have gone from higher levels of undernutrition and micronutrient deficiency, to now population levels of overnutrition and its issues of chronic disease (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity)
-Manufacturers are focused on repeat sales and profit margins rather than public health.
-Food literacy is low in the population, and individuals tend to get their information on what and how to eat from non-scientific influencers in the media, and from their family and social networks, rather than from scientific and regulatory authorities. There is a sense of disdain for much of the industry and the government complexes that regulate food and nutrition.
How severe are these challenges and how severe is their impact?
-Much of the challenge goes back to food literacy, and knowledge of food as a life skill, and knowledge of food science and technology as a vocational skill.

From my team’s experience designing food products in markets as diverse as Liberia, Rwanda, and the United States a core truth we have found is that mothers want to feed their kids healthy food, but what’s stopping them is product availability and nutritious food providers not using the ‘health’ language local consumers understand. Designing products that are delicious, nutritious, affordable, and local for consumers in extreme poverty is not only possible, but profitable.

Food insecurity is the societal problem the worldwide is facing especially my country Haiti. According to World Food Program, access to sufficient qualities of nutritious food remains an issue for millions of Haitians. An estimated 3.8 million 38 percent of the population is food insecure WFP 2012.This problem impacts people lives many ways like: education and health. It affects also their performance on work so the national economic growth.

This challenge can be explain by different factors:

  • Waste of food
  • Lack of literacy on food industry
  • The power of data for nutrition neglected
  • The unemployment rate
  • For the points above, a food literacy , alliances to provide technical, financial and policy support to the key participants in food systems with government, public and private sector can help to make a difference to this problem affecting our common dignity as human being.

    Today we live in the technology era , here are 6 points that technology through Artificial Intelligence and Learning Machine can be used as leverage while taking Haiti as example especially our food company LE NUTRITIF.

    1. AI will help us to build the community

    Sorting food with camera and near infrared sensor to view food and insort it based on the perception.

    2. Manage the supply chain

    Here are the way the platform will use AI to improve supply chain:

    • Food safety monitoring and testing product at every step of the supply chain
    • More accurate forecasting to manage pricing and inventory
    • Tracking products from farm to consumer to provide transparency.

    3. Ensure employees to follow personal hygiene procedures

    Haiti is facing a health challenge especially with Cholera. AI can help to decrease the rate of infection due at lack of respect of hygiene procedures.

    4. Developing new products

    AI purports to help our food companies do exactly new products. Our companies use machine learning and predictive algorithms to model consumer flavor preferences and predict how well they will respond to new tastes. The data can be segmented into demographic groups to help companies develop new products that match the preferences of their target audience.

    5. Cleaning processing equipment

    This one goes into the near-future category.

    As everyone in the industry knows, cleaning processing equipment requires a lot of time and resources, including water. Researchers at the University of Nottingham are developing a system that uses AI to reduce cleaning time and resources by 20-40%.

    The system, which we call Self-Optimizing-Clean-In-Place, or SOCIP, uses ultrasonic sensing and optical fluorescence imaging to measure food residue and microbial debris in a piece of equipment and then optimize the cleaning process.

    6. Growing better food

    Here’s another one for the future category — what if AI could help farmers actually grow better food by creating optimal growing conditions?

    With the data, they’re developing “recipes” for the perfect crops. Moving this one from lab to field might take some time, but if that means tastier pesto, then let’s hurry it along!

    At the farming level, AI is also being used to detect plant diseases and pests, improve soil health, and more.

    I hope this comment can be helpful to the food industry.

    In the Indian context, agriculture and nutrition interventions are conceived and handled independently without giving due recognition for the need for an integrated approach. Therefore, the diversification of crops in the farm is declining, as a result, the dietary diversity or food basket of the household has also been narrowing.

    The narrowing of diversity in crop species contributing to the world’s food
    supplies is a potential threat to food security.

    The dietary diversity is a practical tool to measure nutrition adequacy of an individual and household.

    Currently in India, both the farming communities and the consumers are looking for specific nutririch plants of their region.

    Promotion of nutrition-sensitive pathway would have a significant impact on diversifying the diets by increasing the availability of nutri-rich foods and productivity levels in the farmer’s field in short run and on the nutrition levels of the farm families in the long run.

    Also, nutrition literacy among young girls is essential as the malnourished mothergives birth to under nourished child which perpetuates in integenerational life cycles.

    Agriculture intervention or services should be design and build the knowledge of men and women farmers in integrating nutri-rich and biofortified plant species in their respective existing systems.

    Thank you for sharing your views, @arshimehboob and @ajacquelin! This is all great information for us.

    @taylorquinn, could you elaborate on using the “health” language local consumers understand? What does that mean? What would it look like?

    On the question of using local “health” language, we would disagree that nutrition literacy is the main issue. The bigger issue is marketing literacy for all of us in the nutrition community.

    For example, in Liberia from doing user research we learned that the word “power” in Liberian-style english connotes health, fatness, and strength. Therefore, we call our product Power Gari, and don’t use words like vitamins, nutrition, or fortification at all on the packaging, as those words in Liberia connote medicine and poor tasting products.

    @madagnino and @saraeckhouse, you might have thoughts on this as well. Are there are other examples of cultural context playing a role in the challenges affecting consumers?

    One of the major socio-cultural factors influencing businesses and business decisions is changing consumer preferences. Additionally, changes in the proportion of genders and different racial, religious and ethnic groups within a society may also have a significant impact on the way a company does business.
    Currently, changing gender roles and increasing emphasis on family life have led to increased awareness of healthy foods within households.
    The current practices represent not just how and what consumers are wanting to eat and drink, but the context in which they consider the production, purchase and consumption of food and drink products. People are seeking out ways to make positive decisions about what to support, promote and purchase, issues such as environmentally conscious manufacturing processes, responsible farming practices and overproduction of goods are all at the forefront of consumers’ minds; increasingly, we are seeking out solutions to the negative impact of consumerism.

    Consider this interesting read:

    Thank you for the link, @arshimehboob!

    Could you elaborate on how changing gender roles impact the way we eat?

    We often go back to archetype consumers when designing products and processes for food development. The archetypes in Western society are only moving incrementally over the past 30-40 years. Women shop more, women cook more. But digging into further archetypes, millenial and GenZ lack food literacy skills, and were raised in generations where they did not observe people cooking in the home consistently. We note a surge of food delivery services, and meal kit programs that give simple and partially fabricated product to people for finishing at home. This is semi-cooking. Cooking is resurging slightly because of the hobby characteristics in Western society, especially in higher socioeconomic groups, not because of food security concerns.

    But more on gender, I liked this paper quite well, and it appears to be open access.

    Thank you for bringing this up.

    Women and nutrition is a big theme in development across countries. The tradition of prioritising men’s needs were the basic cultures of society. Ever since the women start making the food choices as a negotiation between healthiness and taste the results have been encouraging. When women become parents, we tend to assume that caring for their children will be their first priority and should make them less committed and ambitious at work. As the wellbeing of children is often linked to that of mothers, their food security too.
    Women across different countries and cultures spend more time on household activities than men do, regardless of their employment status. In 2015, an average difference of 50 minutes per day in the time spent on housework was observed between the male and female members of couples living in the United States (Bur. Labor Stat. 2016).
    Furthermore, even though both men and women are willing to incur personal costs to help others, they typically do this in different ways. Healthy eating is perceived as a traditional feminine characteristic

    In the Indian context, traditionally, eating together has not been encouraged. Men and children are fed first and only then can women sit down to eat. But since the progressed cultural norm of the nuclear family has taken up the traditions are now changing.

    Also, today health promotions are directly reaching women which enhance and are helpful in implementing healthy eating habits and engaging higher commitment to consuming healthy foods.

    Thank you both for sharing! This is very helpful.

    @lecoutre, you may be interested in this discussion as well.