Healthy takeaways for lower-income families

Creating an affordable online delivery service for low-calorie meals.

17 April 2019
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image credit: Getty Images

Meet the Expert

Who: Dr. Laura Wyness

What: Independent registered nutritionist


Obesity prevalence is disproportionately concentrated in the most deprived areas of the UK. In the least well-off parts of the country, 26.8% of children are obese, compared with 11.7% in the wealthiest regions. 

At the same time, hot pre-prepared food is one of the fastest-growing sectors in food, and this growth is predicted to continue, particularly with the increased market share of online ordering and delivery.

Shift, a charity that works on product design for social change, has observed both these trends. The organisation has developed a detailed understanding of takeaway food and families’ relationship with it, as well as the role of hot, prepared food in food behaviours and the economics of outlets and motivations of their owners.

Over the past few years, possible interventions for positive behaviour change have been tested, with one option in particular showing promising results: better everyday takeaways.

The current delivery market

The takeaway market has grown 34% since 2009 to £7.4bn and is predicted to grow by a further 11% by 2012 to £11.1bn.

Online platforms have made ordering takeaways almost effortless. One-button ordering is already available on the Just Eat platform, allowing consumers to reorder the last meal they bought, and voicebots on platforms such as Alexa and Siri – which can be linked to on-screen advertising – are also likely to reinforce the current habitual nature of food behaviours.

Takeaways are often seen by families as just another option for dinner. It is no longer an occasional treat. The problem is, most takeaways are still designed as a treat and healthier options are less accessible. So, is it possible to offer online ordering for family favourites that are better for you – and at an affordable price? 

The Family Feeds pilot trial

Shift ran a 12-week trial that involved the set-up of a delivery-only, hot prepared food outlet with a menu of six meals (such as lasagne or fish pie), each available in child and adult portions.

A temporary brand was developed called Family Feeds, which offered “proper dinners for you and the kids delivered to your door.” A local marketing plan was put in place to advertise the service around the pilot area of North East Birmingham city centre.

“We wanted to test whether there was demand for an alternative takeaway service that delivers family meals, full of goodness, satisfying the whole family’s cravings,” said Duncan Brown, development director at Shift.

Over the 12-week trial, 125 orders were received for 249 meals from 118 customers with 20 repeat orders. Almost 9 out of 10 (88%) customers were from the bottom three deciles of deprivation and all customers had takeaways three or more times a month, with very positive feedback from the customers, most of whom (74%) were families. 

Shift’s future plans for healthier family takeaways

Shift now plans to launch a sustainable business version of Family Feeds this summer in the London borough of Lambeth. The primary focus will be to provide appealing and affordable family meals for low-income families that meet the broad set of ethnically diverse tastes.

The aim is also to make the meals healthier than the many other takeaways options available, with a target of 500 calories per meal sold. (Research from Shift found that the average takeaway meal contains 68% of the recommended daily calorie intake, equivalent to around 1,360 calories.)

As the project progresses, the nutritional quality of the meals will continue to be considered and revised along with maximising affordability and customer satisfaction. Shift aims to positively impact obesity amongst its target audience by regularly substituting standard high-calorie takeaway meals with its healthier, family-friendly alternative.

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