Scientific challenge

Given the high costs of obesity and comorbidities in terms of health care expenditure and quality of life, prevention strategies are paramount. In Western Europe obesity has risen by 9-15% in the last 10 years and where a correlation has been made between eating out and this data. Food consumed outside the home accounts for half of total food expenditure and is higher in calories, of poorer nutritional quality and served in larger portions, hence promoting over consumption. The EU Action plan for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases 2013-2020 (EEAS, 2013) has as its goal ‘to reduce the preventable and avoidable burden of morbidity, mortality and disability due to non-communicable diseases by means of multi-sectoral collaboration and cooperation so that populations reach the highest attainable standards of health and productivity at every age and those diseases are no longer a barrier to well-being or socioeconomic development’. The overarching principle of a life course approach that empowers consumers is reflected in this academia/industry project proposal while it is a fundamental right for consumers to know what they are eating. Any recommendations resulting from the findings will be based on evidence based strategy and involve a multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral partnership drawing on research from consumer behaviour, ICT, foodservice and public health. In addition, this project reflects member states policy of promoting the provision and availability of healthy food in all public institutions including schools, other educational institutions and the workplace.

E-menus have the ability to deliver richer information contexts and enable transparency for the food service operator while allowing evidence of greater integrity. From a public health and food policy perspective, providing consumers with information at the point of purchase will empower and provide the framework for measured food choice decisions.

Researchers in each partner institution present a multidisciplinary academic base encompassing marketing, consumer studies, public health nutrition, ICT, statistics, sociology, psychology, foodservice and culinary expertise. This synergistic approach will ensure a holistic appreciation and understanding of the wider implications of interactive menu design within public health whilst concurrently guaranteeing a seamless transition from a theoretical understanding to practical application and commercialisation.

Thus FoodSMART will address the scientific challenge and demonstrate excellence in respect of three key themes;

  1. Product (nutrition / ingredient) information quality.
  2. Human-mobile interface and data mining to predict consumer food choice pattern.
  3. Consumer behaviour: Public sector foodservice settings where meals are consumed by the same people habitually, can significantly impact individuals overall diets; highlighting a potential for health promotion. FoodSMART will address key factors that facilitate appropriate menu choices by consumers across the lifespan.

The project is innovative and demonstrates scientific excellence in that:

  • The research will bring together synergistic and holistic integration of all factors such as personal and social aspects impinging on dish selection in the real world.
  • The main innovation of FoodSMART is the development and evaluation of a mobile interface. Data mining and predictive capabilities will allow vital patterns of behaviours to be evaluated at the individual as well as at the regional, national and international level, and by user demographics. Contextual data will be gathered by the mobile devices, which can be used in order to enhance understanding of factors that have an influence on user behaviour.
  • FoodSMART will develop a model mapping the effect of contextualised and personalised information in food selection in captive settings, such as universities and workplaces in Demark, France, Greece and the UK.
  • Results will act as a resource for business, practice and as an evidence based source of information for policy makers.
  • Data mining across EU will gather the “wisdom of the crowd” to produce a predictive platform of food choice behaviour in public sector food service.