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Bayer Food Focus Project to explore eating behaviours of Kiwis

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Media Release - Bayer Australia/New Zealand, 16 September, 2019
A new partnership aimed at exploring what Kiwis eat and why was announced by Bayer New Zealand today.

Coined as the Bayer Food Focus Project, the partnership brings together Bayer and the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation (NZNF) with expert help from the Foundation’s Board members, Elaine Rush, Scientific Director and Emeritus Professor of Nutrition at Auckland University of Technology (AUT), and Niki Bezzant, nutrition writer and commentator. 

The project will consist of two key parts: the use of a new innovative technology, the Veggie Meter, to establish a benchmark of Kiwis’ vegetable and fruit consumption; and an online questionnaire to understand which foods New Zealanders are commonly consuming.

The Veggie Meter, originally developed in the US, measures participants’ levels of beta-carotene, a plant derived form of Vitamin A through a fingertip reading device. The technology accurately and painlessly measures whether people are getting enough beta-carotene from plants to be considered healthy. This will be the first study in Australasia to utilise the Veggie Meter technology. 

“Much of New Zealand's nutrition data is out of date. This creates challenges for researchers, the food industry and policymakers when looking into what needs to be done to improve the food system and health outcomes for Kiwis,” says Professor Elaine Rush. 

“We all know that we should eat a variety of vegetables and fruit every day, but for many reasons, this is not happening. We want to find out what the average level of plant Vitamin A is among our population - as it’s a key nutrient found in fruits and vegetables. This will give us a benchmark against the recommended intake, as its reported that only four out of ten New Zealand adults consume the existing recommendation of five plus a day.”

The Food Focus Project is led by Bayer, with expert help from NZNF and members of its Board. The project aims to support New Zealanders in making more positive food choices and encouraging people to take more consideration of their diet for the betterment of their overall health. Heart disease, diabetes, strokes, high blood pressure and some cancers are all nutrition-related diseases that can take years from life and life from years.

“As a life science company with a focus on consumer health and agriculture, this initiative has a natural alignment for us. We want New Zealand to be a healthier nation and are committed in finding ways to support this,” says Bayer New Zealand Managing Director Derek Bartlett.

Although the Bayer Food Focus project does not profess to be an update on the decade old Adult Nutrition Survey carried out by the Ministry of Health in 2008-09, it does hope to plug some of the gaps felt by the industry. 

“We should uncover some interesting findings that shed light on our dietary habits as a nation, and perhaps, make people stop and think about their own food consumption,” says Niki Bezzant. 

Having access to a valid measure of the quality of foods eaten and gaining up-to-date insights into what and why certain foods are being consumed over others, can help us better address these issues and find actionable solutions to make health and wellbeing a priority for all,” concludes Sarah Hanrahan, Chief Executive Officer of the NZNF. 

The Bayer Food Focus Project commenced its two-part study last month, with the survey results expected to be released in October along with the early findings of the Veggie Meter study. The Veggie Meter field measurements are being carried out by PhD students who specialise in food and nutrition from AUT’s Faculty of Health and Environmental Science, with the online survey conducted by the National Research Bureau.