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Māori and Pasifika communities show greater care with food

Bayer Food Focus Project indicates Māori and Pasifika communities show greater care with food purchasing decisions

• Bayer Food Focus Project, a partnership between the NZNF and key nutrition experts sheds light on Kiwis’ dietary habits and eating behaviours
• The first Australasian pilot study conducted by AUT using new Veggie Meter technology to provide an objective measure of vegetable and fruit intake
• Compared with all respondents, those who identified as Māori and Pasifika were 14 percent more likely to say knowing how their food was produced was extremely or very important.

Auckland, 26 November 2019
– A partnership between leading life science company Bayer and the NZ Nutrition Foundation (NZNF) has released the insights from its inaugural Bayer Food Focus Project, taking a look into Kiwis’ eating behaviours and food consumption.

The project consisted of two key parts: the first Australasian pilot study conducted by Auckland University of Technology (AUT), using the new innovative Veggie Meter device to establish a benchmark of Kiwis’ vegetable and fruit consumption via a fingertip scan; and an online questionnaire with 1,346 adult respondents to understand which foods New Zealanders are most commonly consuming and why.

Findings indicate that while 27 percent of all respondents believed that knowing where their food comes from was extremely or very important, this increased to 34 percent among those who identified as Māori and Pasifika*. Almost half (47 percent) of Māori and Pasifika participants placed extreme or very high importance on knowing how their food was produced, while only one in three (33 percent) of all respondents did the same.

Furthermore, Māori and Pasifika respondents were also at least 10 percent more likely to say that knowing the manufacturer is committed to producing food in an environmentally sustainable way, including organic, was of high importance. Only 26 percent of all respondents rated it to be extremely or very important, while 36 percent of Māori and 37 percent of Pasifika said the same.

While factors around food criteria in relation to purchasing ranked highly among these groups, the cost of healthy food appeared to be a barrier. Findings indicate that just over half (52 percent) of all respondents claimed that while they can cook, healthy foods are too expensive - this increased to 65 percent among Māori and jumped to 83 percent among Pasifika communities.

Nutrition writer and commentator Niki Bezzant says “we clearly still have a long way to go to ensure healthy food is easily accessible and more cost effective for all. In order to achieve this, we will need to look at creating more inclusive policies around food.”

Interestingly, while taste was rated as the most important factor when consuming food across the board (with 81 percent of all respondents deeming it extremely or very important), this dropped to 66 percent among Pasifika respondents. Around four in five (79 percent) of Māori respondents said taste was extremely or very important, only slightly behind that of all respondents. Women (88 percent) and NZ European (85 percent) participants rated taste the most highly.

While the results found many similarities between Māori and Pasifika communities, when it came to the importance of healthfulness in food, there was a big discrepancy. Only 38 percent of Pasifika respondents identified healthfulness as extremely or very important which is of concern. This was compared with half of all respondents, and a higher 55 percent of Māori participants.

NZNF Scientific Director and Emeritus Professor of Nutrition at AUT Elaine Rush says, “we need to be doing a better job of both educating Kiwis about nutrition and changing our food systems, to ensure the needs of our growing population are met. Despite the findings indicating that Māori and Pasifika respondents have a deep care for what they eat, ultimately, lack of income determines which foods are purchased.

“The survey provides us with a great stepping stone in understanding some of the barriers to healthy eating; and the Veggie Meter component of this study can collect an objective measure of Kiwis’ vegetable and fruit intake to help establish a benchmark of how we’re tracking as a nation.”

Preliminary findings from the Veggie Meter pilot study of 200 participants indicate that one in five recorded a low status of carotenoids which are mainly found in vegetables and fruit and are the building blocks for Vitamin A. It also revealed that while there was no association of age with scores, those with higher body weights did have lower readings.

“These preliminary findings have given us an indication of some of the trends in vegetable and fruit consumption, and we think it will influence positive behavior for some people. When participants find out they have a low score and know their vegetable and fruit intake is low, the reaction is often that they will try to eat more,” says Prof Rush.

Bayer New Zealand Managing Director Derek Bartlett says “nutrition plays a key role in our overall health and wellbeing, and our diets are a good place to start when looking to make improvement in those areas. We hope this project encourages people to reflect on their own eating patterns and make small changes so they can live longer, healthier lives.”

The survey component was carried out by the National Research Bureau using Dynata’s consumer panel; and the Veggie Meter readings were measured by PhD students who specialise in food and nutrition from AUT’s Faculty of Health and Environmental Science. The full findings from the Veggie Meter study are expected to be presented at the Nutrition Society meeting at the end of November and submitted for publication in the peer reviewed literature soon after.

*For the purposes of the survey, this definition includes participants who identify as Māori and Pasifika / Pacific Island including Micronesian, Melanesian and Polynesian ethnicities.

Additional Findings

• Forty percent of respondents identified that they or someone in their household believe they have a food they are either allergic to or can’t tolerate. A further 23 percent identified that they or someone in their household have a diagnosed allergy or immune response to food.
• New Zealanders are not meeting the five plus a day vegetables and fruit consumption target. Only two in five respondents identified eating the recommended three or more serves of vegetables (excluding root / starchy vegetables) per day, with the recommended two or more serves of fruit per day only slightly higher at 46 percent.
• Weight loss plan was the most commonly followed diet with almost one in four respondents (23 percent) having followed a weight loss diet in the last 12 months. Vegetarian and low carb diets were the most common diets for 20 percent of respondents. All respondents aged 55 plus were much less likely to be following or have followed a diet in the last 12 months than other age groups.
• Respondents with a diagnosed health condition made up less than a quarter of those who take supplements. Only nine percent of respondents acknowledged taking supplements (including vitamins and mineral types) specifically for a diagnosed health condition. A further 34 percent of respondents acknowledged the use of supplements for general improvement of their health. Most commonly taken supplements included unspecified vitamins and multi-vitamins (28 percent), vitamins D and C together or alone (19 percent), followed by magnesium (18 percent).

To access further findings, please find the full report here.


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