1,959 employees responded to the questionnaire from France, the biggest response (nearly three time the average response) out of the six countries (Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden) From this initial survey, some important results emerged that helped to shape the first set of tools and messages.
The following graph analyses the overall weight of employees. Only around a third claim to be overweight or obese, lower than the OECD estimate. This may be a result of the survey demographics, which was composed of 74.2% women with more than half of the respondents under 35 years of age.
Figure 1: Breakdown of employee reported weight
The largest number of employees out of the six countries claimed to have knowledge of a national programme dealing with balanced food (74%). The two popular definitions for balanced food chosen were eating: ‘various foods in moderate amount, in a nice environment’ and ‘eating pleasant food while at the same time protecting your health’.
79% of respondents claimed to have a lunch break daily and the most respondents out of the six countries claimed to never have a break (6.7%). Out of those who have a lunch break, 32.1% eat out, 26.6% go home during lunch and the majority (41.3%) have food brought from home. The main reason for not eating out for those who would have time to do so and do not bring their own food is restaurant food being too high in calories (19.5%).
Figure 2: Breakdown of lunch places frequented by French employees:
The employees eating out tend to choose a restaurant close to their workplace (55.5%) and which is cheap (50.2%). In line with the results from the other six countries, French employees choose what to eat when eating out depending on what they want at that moment (65.7%). Price again was the next most important determinant (36.7%).
Over half of respondents spotted nutritional information in the restaurants they eat in, yet this information was not easily found (78.6%) and not always clear (63.5%). Having nutritional information is useful thought 70.1% of respondents and triggers positive eating habits (74%). 58% of respondents would have liked an icon indicating the balanced meal and 42% wish to know the calorific value of their chosen dish.
Again in France, the most responses to the questionnaire were received with 91 restaurants participating; just over half of them independently run. A special lunch ‘formula’ was offered by half of the restaurants surveyed.
Figure 3: Respondents’ restaurant classification:
Similar to the response by the employees, restaurant owners were aware of the existence of a programme on balanced nutrition (62.8%). Most respondents thought these programmes were government run; yet 72.5% did not know the name of the programme. These results indicate that despite the fact that such programmes are becoming popular and restaurateurs are more aware of them, they do not always leave a strong or lasting impression on this target audience.
Respondents who were aware of a nutritional programme tended to also follow its recommendations such as reducing salt, fat and sugar in preparing their dishes and offering more fruit and vegetables. The minority not following any recommendations (37.2%) blamed it on lack of time and budget. Another reason given by 45.5% of respondents for not following recommendations was lack of demand by customers. This answer slightly contradicts the fact that over half of employees surveyed claimed to choose their restaurant based on its menus and nutritional information offered.
Figure 4: Restaurant owners’ knowledge about balanced food
Restaurant owners were willing to participate in improving their customers’ health. None of the respondents, as evident from the previous graph, were uninterested in balanced food. Out of the 28.2% of respondents who saw obstacles to promoting balanced food, budget and time were perceived to be the main barriers. Those interested in improving their knowledge would mainly prefer training (50%) and wished to be contacted by email.
The response from France was the biggest for both sectors that also claimed to have knowledge and interest in the issues relating to balanced food. A third of French employees eat in a restaurant at lunchtime with the rest preferring homemade food. The choice of restaurant was most often based on proximity to the workplace and price. Working directly with the restaurants and providing employees with a list of restaurants close to their workplace offering balanced food and signposting the healthy meal option (despite its complicated implementation) could help them eat better and make healthier choices in the future.