Entrepreneurship could solve the obesity problem

In our last article, we discussed how we can ensure equal access to food, reduce wastage, and create a more sustainable supply chain.

But there is another side to the topic of food, especially in our Western societies. The problem we observe is Obesity. Obesity is rising among both children and adults worldwide. It is estimated, that in the U.S. 36 of 100 people are obese. In Germany, almost two-thirds of men and more than 50% of women are overweight, and 25% obese. Obesity is not necessarily a form of “overnutrition” but another kind of malnutrition. We consume prepacked food that is low in nutrients, and high in preservatives and carbohydrates, especially sugar.

Why bother? Isn’t it great, that we have plenty of food at our disposal? Well, the problem is the following:

If we look at Germany, some of the most common causes of death are:

  • Cardiovascular diseases (e.g. heart attacks) – 345.000 deaths per year

  • Cancer – 230.000 deaths per year

  • Respiratory diseases – 71.000 deaths per year

  • Alzheimer's – 50.000 deaths per year

There is strong evidence that overweight and obesity, as well as certain diets (high sugar, lots of processed foods), are correlated to some of those death causes. For example, people suffering from obesity have a 3x higher risk to get Diabetes Type II, which then leads to coronary heart diseases and Alzheimer's. Also, it is estimated, that 40% of cancer diseases could be linked to obesity.

So now we know that our diets might not be that healthy. How can we change that?

Actually, there is a super simple solution: Just consume less junk food. Avoid processed food. Eat fresh stuff. Cut out the sugar and alcohol.

If it is this simple, why don’t we all do it? I truly admire those people who manage this. But to be honest, I struggle. I try to consume less and cook regularly but more than often I chose the path of the least resistance. I know it is bad, but convenience and availability dictate my consumption. Or to phrase it differently:

Habit trumps intention

I don’t argue the fact that everyone is responsible for him- or herself but it seems to be human nature to choose the easy path. From my experience, only those who really have to change something will alter their diet. Mostly, we are lazy, primed for convenience, and tend to ignore long-term thinking. So, I wondered: How could we change the future of diets towards health and longevity, without sacrificing the joys of life? In other words: How can I get a cake with the cherry on top, served with whipped cream?

This is where entrepreneurs can make a significant difference. By providing alternatives, which are superior to existing solutions, we could change our current diets drastically. Such alternatives should not only provide a healthy solution but also greater, or at least the same amount of convenience than current products and services.

Here are four areas, which could improve the way we eat dramatically:

Allow for personalized diets

In 2015, a team of scientists from Israel tracked blood sugar levels in the blood of 800 people and discovered that individuals’ biological response to almost identical foods varied. Some people had a blood glucose ‘spike’ after eating ice cream, while others’ glucose levels increased after starchy rice. (ScieneFocus) It seems that we are not that equal after all and hence, this finding opens the door for personalized diets based on one's personal physical and genetic blueprint. Companies like Lykon are already experimenting with those approaches, which will lead to tailored diets. Of course, once you have that data you’ll also need personalized foods fitting to your diet – Brandl Nutrition for example are working on personalized supplements.

Provide sugar alternatives

Sugar is one of the most problematic ingredients, since it has a very high caloric density and caused strong insulin spikes. Currently, there are artificial sweeteners, but they can have side effects and can’t be processed as well as regular sugar. Low-calorie sugar substitutes, such as sugar-alcohols like sorbitol, taste like sugar but cause digestive problems if eaten too much. Startups are working on both ends to tackle the challenge: Create meals and products with less or no sugar, but also trying to create healthy sugar alternatives. Israel startup DouxMatok just announced a $ 22 m Series B funding round, working a low-cost- high-quality sugar alternative, with many more to follow. I am already looking forward to enjoying my ice cream guilt-free.

Support the change in lifestyle

Those who want to change their diets, profit from guidance, and improved ways to keep track of their progress. Although there are 100,000+ lifestyle and fitness apps in the App stores, there is always room for improvement. The success story and recent fundraising of Fastic is proof of that. Fastic is an app that focuses on intermittent fasting and uses gamification and the community to have a lasting change on the diet. Other apps are focused on simply counting calories, but from my recent experience, this process is annoying. FoodVisor, Lifesum, and others experiment since 2018 with an AI that counts your calories based on an image, making the measuring process a lot less tedious.

Improve access to healthy food

For several years, startups have tried to simplify the cooking process and make it more convenient. Based in Germany, HelloFresh is probably the most well-known player, but others are working in different niches and different angles. Swile (former Lunchr) is tackling the B2B sector, by improving the lunch experience. Prepmymeal is focusing on fitness enthusiasts and Smart Meals are providing pre-cooked, healthy meals. Although COVID-19 certainly gave it a strong uplift, this market still has some potential to grow, since it only accounts for roughly 1.5% of the total grocery market.

So, here is the task for aspiring entrepreneurs out there: We are looking for solutions to provide healthy, nutritious food for everyone – by reducing as much friction as possible and allowing for maximum convenience.

If you are a founder, who wants to change the world for the better and you have an idea on how to improve the way we eat feel free to reach out to us. We are willing to invest and support passionate founders in these fields.