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The Millennial Appetite for Culinary Wellness by Catherine Fitzgibbon

The Millennial Appetite for Culinary Wellness

“The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.”

– Thomas Edison

WELL let me Begin…

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to my state of being comfortable, happy and healthy. When presented with the concept of ‘wellness’, what inevitably springs to my top of mind awareness is – food. Now maybe, that is because I very much appreciate the hugely important role that nutrition plays when it comes to our overall wellbeing, however,both my work history over the last few decades in marketing and my academic research contribution in the area of food tourism, also affirm this point of view.

Being an active process of awareness and of making choices toward a fulfilling and healthy life, wellness should be viewed as being more than just free from ill-health. It would be more authentic to view it as a dynamic process of growth and transformation that aids our overall wellbeing. In this respect, the World Health Organization (2006:1) champion the idea that health is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Therefore, maintaining an optimal level of wellness is critical to maintaining a high quality of life. Closer to home, here in Ireland, eating well, thinking well and being well are the focal points at the heart of a ‘Healthy Ireland’ government-led initiative to improve the health and wellbeing of everyone living in Ireland (Government of Ireland, 2019). It is encouraging and heart-warming to see the evocative power of food playing a pivotal role in the success of the nation’s overall wellbeing.

Eating for Wellbeing

“All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child” – Marie Curie

The phrase ‘your health is your wealth’ has helped shape me in terms of what is important when it comes to my wellbeing. I grew up in a world where food and nature combined. Since infancy, I was fortunate to be instilled with an appreciation of food and the many sources that it comes from. Eating was not just for daily nourishment; rather, it was a celebration of my family’s rural lifestyle. Growing up on a self-sufficient dairy and tillage farm in Ireland’s ‘Golden Vale’ nature’s seasonal bounty was our menu of the day. Not only set in an idyllic area of rolling pastureland, Bins (1837) acknowledges the Golden Vale in having the best land in Ireland for dairy farming.

Our narrative was based on seasonality, whereby we ate what was grown and reared on the land whilst also valuing the work that went in to make it.Thankfully, food fascination in terms of wellness is now also important to the millennial generation cohort, and the movement of their conversations concerning it online has further elevated their culinary curiosity in terms of wellbeing. After “#nature” (482 million) and “#food” (369 million) “#wellness” (33 million) is another trending topic online. These online trends and digital food footprints help to educate and highlight the importance of appreciating food and understand how it provides for our overall continued wellbeing (Fitzgibbon, 2019).

Food Friend or Foe!

Wellbeing is now big business when it comes to food and nutrition and, whether millennials like it or not, it is now a big part of their media consumption patterns. When older generations talked about wellness, they mainly discussed it against the setting of being ill. Whilst in comparison, millennials and younger generations are embracing the multitude of products and services that contribute to their overall wellbeing with a more holistic view incorporating their bodies, minds and spirits.

According to a recent study of the market published by the Global Wellness Institute (2018), the global wellness economy was valued a staggering $4.2trn in 2017. Within that economy valuation, the healthy eating and nutrition market is worth $702.1bn and the fitness and mind-body market $595.4bn. The current culinary wellness revolution is predominantly driven by millennial consumers and their quest for healthier food habits and lifestyles, some of which can be triggered by their inherent insecurities. The wellness economy is also robust in Ireland with the health and wellness category, comprising of fifty-nine sectors, having value sales of €2.8bn (McKeown, 2019).

However, on the other end of the spectrum according to the Euromonitor International (2020), the country remains in the grips of a health and wellness revolution being driven by public health authorities’ concerns with obesity. Across the water in the UK, estimates by Cancer Research UK (2018) report a staggering figure of more than 70% of millennials as being set to be overweight or obese before they reach middle age (35-44 years), meaning this generation are the most overweight generation since current records began. I firmly believe that ease of access to unhealthy food aided by expert marketing techniques in the food industry are likely causes for this accelerated obesity epidemic.

Eating for Everyday Wellness

Strolling through most supermarket aisles can be bewildering by the vast amount of food and drink products, offering some form of health and wellness benefits. For millennials having grown up in an age where they are continually being bombarded with so many choices, it is open season from all forms of marketing when it comes to food and (supposed) wellbeing!

On the one hand, popular fitness and wellbeing television programmes transport us to watch people shed pounds and, in some instances, families compete for the title of being the ‘fittest’. Whilst other programmes focus on medical and cosmetic aspects with the need for people to have to undergo different forms of bariatric surgery. Having worked in the print media industry for the past 21 years, I have also seen no shortage of features and pull-out supplements about eating well, losing weight or how various trending diets can aid one’s overall wellbeing. At the other end of the spectrum, the millennial generation has also embraced online technology advances from the multitude of digital apps available to help oversee their fitness levels.

On this front Joe Wicks AKA ‘The Body Coach’, has been a guru at getting people fit and healthy online since 2014. As narrated by Menato (2009) that’s not just down to his workouts – it is also due to his simple healthy eating plans. A testament to his success, Joe has established a healthy balanced approach to encourage millions of his online and offline fans and followers to eat and prepare healthy food at home in the kitchen alongside his regular HIIT exercise workouts. With 2.9 million Instagram followers, his YouTube channel has garnered 794,000 subscribers and has sold two million books in just two years The Body Coach’s remarkable success can be attributed to his highly popular “Lean In 15″ recipes, which have become a well-established phenomenon.

Recipe for Success

Having grown up during significant technological change, millennials are leading the way when it comes to positive wellbeing thinking and behaviours. Since childhood, this foodie generation has been continuously flooded with culinary brands and messaging and in general, having a healthy mistrust of brands, this generational cohort look for transparency and authenticity in the brands they buy and tell their friends about. Food choices are now, both individually and collectively, becoming a core part of millennials personal brand, making the food experience they encounter increasingly important to them (Fitzgibbon, 2019). Best-selling Irish cookbook author and healthy lifestyle enthusiast, Roz Purcell, has led the way when it comes to incorporating wellness into her millennial lifestyle. Her pilgrimage in wellness took off with the launch of her celebrated food blog Natural Born Feeder and publication of her cookbooks, helping to showcase her food interests amongst other aspects such as personal wellbeing, activity and the benefit of the environment.

In general, millennials view health and wellness differently than previous generations that precede them. Hilton (2017) proposes that their path through life is less sequential and linear than traditional ‘Boomers’. This generation cohort is more focused on living their current life to the fullest whilst maintaining good health rather than being worried about ageing prevention or health preservation. One such example of appealing to this food-centric generation is the ‘Meals for Millennials’ food series in which #ubermillennial Meghann Scully, the podcast coordinator and author with Book Hub Publishing Group, alongside Eoin Sheehan, focus on healthy, nutritious, quick and easy meals.

The Role of Food on Mental Health and Wellbeing

When it comes to mental health, what we eat can make a considerable difference. Against the backdrop of health and wellbeing being a major trend globally, Irish people maintain a positive perception in relation their health, with 88% recognising the importance of eating well and acknowledge a link between diet and mental wellbeing (Bord Bia, 2017). In the previous volume of this book series in my chapter titled “Millennial Culinary Curiosity: Generation Foodie Fuelling Generation Next” I disclosed the fact that the quality of the food we eat not only impacts our physical health, it also plays a critical role on our mental health and wellbeing (Fitzgibbon, 2019). At the heart of this culinary wellness revolution lies the appetite of millennials for food and beverage options that integrate their lifestyle values with value prices of convenience (www.mondelezinternational.com). With travel being one of this generations core lifestyle values, one of my recent Association for Tourism and Leisure Education and Research academic publications highlighted further research opportunities from a consumer-tourist perspective, with specific focus on the food travel trends of the millennial generation (Fitzgibbon, Wright, 2019).

Well-balanced diets can be a great way for millennials to create a sense of balanced wellness. Research studies have found compelling evidence showing those who eat the most fruits and vegetables are generally happier, feel more satisfied, and find more purpose and fulfilment in their lives than those who eat fewer or none (Brookie et al., 2018). Nevertheless, the power of nutritional foods can often be forgotten in the daily lives of this fast-paced generation. However, it is essential to realise that consistent healthy food choices can help counterbalance low mood, energy, and concentration levels, optimally nurturing both brain and body.

Follow my Tribe!

With such a great range of food options now available globally we may become tempted to eat foods that have travelled great distances. However, Sadhguru (2017) advocates the viewpoint that this type of food consumption may pleasure us and entice our taste buds, alas, it will not bring us wellbeing.

We need to stay rooted in the fact that food is a transaction, in that our bodies consume what was once in the earth. I think that our bodies function best if the food we eat comes from the local area that we live in, as there is a constant interaction between body and the earth that is very important of our overall health and wellbeing. In essence, we take in a part of the planet to sustain the body. So how we treat the planet is how we ultimately treat ourselves. Conversely, how we feed our body is linked to how we treat the planet. So, it is essential to understand the vital overarching role that food plays in our physical, mental, spiritual and emotional wellbeing.

Namaste, I will sign off on this chapter with this beautiful poem that has helped to ground my underlying respect and appreciation for food.

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The Element of Earth Soil

The Soil that you walk upon

The Soil that you treat as Dirt

Is the Magical material that turns into leaf, flower and fruit.

All that you know as life was at one time held in the eternal pregnancy of the Sacred Soil—mother to some and Dirt to some other.

But the Sacred Source of all

The life encasing cage of the body is but the Soil.

Under farmer’s Till, Potter’s Wheel, above all the Divine Will. It turns into Magical Mill.

Isha Sadhguru

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References

Bins (1837) Miseries and Beauties of Ireland, (Vol.2), London: Longman, Orme, Brown and Co.

Bord Bia (2017) “7 In 10 Irish People Want Help to Eat Healthy”, available at https://www.bordbia.ie/press-releases/7-in-10-irish-people-want-help-to-eat-healthily-bord-bia-research/  , accessed at 15:35, 11th February.

Cancer Research UK (2018) “Millennials Top Obesity Chart Before Reaching Middle Age”, available at https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-us/cancer-news/press-release/2018-02-26-millennials-top-obesity-chart-before-reaching-middle-age, accessed at 13:12, 1st February.

Euromonitor International (2020) “Health and Wellness in Ireland”, available at https://www.euromonitor.com/health-and-wellness-in-ireland/report, accessed at 14:22, 11th February.

Fitzgibbon, C. (2019) Mental Health for Millennials, (Vol.3), Galway: Book Hub Publishing.

Fitzgibbon, C., Wright, A. (2019) “Destination Cork: A New Offering for the Culinary Curious Tourist”, (Vol. 2019-2), Destination Dynamics, Association for Tourism and Leisure Education and Research.

Brookie, K., Best, G., Conner, T. (2018) “Intake of Raw Fruits and Vegetables Is Associated with Better Mental Health Than Intake of Processed Fruits and Vegetables”, Frontiers in Psychology.

Global Wellness Institute (2018) “Wellness Now a $4.2 Trillion Global Industry – with 12.8% Growth from 2015-2017”, Global Wellness Economy Monitor, available at https://globalwellnessinstitute.org/press-room/press-releases/wellness-now-a-4-2-trillion-global-industry/, accessed at 20:23, 6th February.

Government of Ireland (2019) “Healthy Ireland and Department of Health”, available at https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/healthy-ireland/?referrer=/, accessed at 10:42, 1st February.

Hilton, J. (2017) “Choice and Connection: Marketing Food to Millennials”, Natural Products Insider available at https://www.naturalproductsinsider.com/branding-marketing/choice-and-connection-marketing-food-millennials, accessed at 14:12, 26th January.

Sadhguru, I. (2017) “Eating Local – A Yogic Prescription for Wellbeing”, Isha Foundation, available at https://isha.sadhguru.org/global/en/wisdom/article/eating-local-yogic-prescription-wellbeing, accessed at 21:07, 25th January.

Menato, F. (2019) “Try the Body Coach’s Simple Healthy Eating Plan to Supercharge Your Workouts”, Women’s Health Magazine, New York: Hearst Communications.

Mc Keown, M. (2019) “Nielsen on trends that will dominate in 2019 – Part 1 Health & Wellness”, Bord Bia – Irish Food Board, available at https://www.bordbia.ie/industry/insights/food-alert/nielsen-on-trends-that-will-dominate-in-2019–part-1-health–wellness/, accessed at 21:48, 6th February.

Mondelēz International “Foodservice for Thought: Millennials Put Value and Values at top of Menu”, available at https://www.letschatsnacks.com/foodservice-for-thought-millennials-put-value-and-values-at-top-of-menu, accessed at 16:31, 11thFebruary.

World Health Organisation (2006) “Constitution of the World Health Organisation”, available at https://www.who.int/governance/eb/who_constitution_en.pdf, accessed at 18:50, 4th February.


*From Fitzgibbon, C, (2020). Mental Health For Millennials Volume 4: On Wellbeing. Galway: Book Hub Publishing.