The Doctor Is In…The Kitchen

We live in a culture increasingly steeped in health and wellness. The messages radiate through the airwaves, pop up on social media feeds, and materialize on store shelves. And whether people are juicing, detoxing, and Soul Cycling or simply cutting down on soft drinks and sugary cereals, their amplifying aspirations are reshaping the consumer landscape.

One undeniable aspect of today's wellness culture is the central role that food and beverages play in it. Infused into our deepening obsession with what, where, how, and with whom we eat and drink is an awareness that what we do (or don't) put into our bodies has a profound impact on our health. Now it seems the medical community is beginning to embrace this understanding in a methodical way as some doctors learn to operate in the kitchen.

Food As/Is Medicine

In March, the BBC's "The Food Programme" aired an episode called "Doctor's Orders: Getting Tomorrow's Medics Cooking." Despite the increase in conditions such as obesity and diabetes, the program noted, many medical students believe they learn little during their training about how diet and lifestyle affect health. To fill this gap, doctors and medical students have begun developing curriculum to expand physicians' nutritional knowledge and ability to empower patients through evidence-based lifestyle interventions.

This story from across the pond mirrors a similar movement in the US referred to as "culinary medicine." While awareness of the links between diet and health is not entirely new, the emergence of a medical field that aims to help people access and make good decisions about eating healthy food is. This approach is unique in its fusion of evidence-based nutritional science and hands-on, practical culinary training, with classes taught in tandem by physicians, chefs, and dietitians. Beyond training medical students, some hospitals are even beginning to consider cooking classes that teach patients nutritional basics and kitchen confidence.

Accelerating Threats and Opportunities

The emerging field of culinary medicine is interesting not only from a medical perspective, but also for its potential implications for a range of industries, from food and beverage to tech. In their aspirations for healthier living, consumers are influenced by many sources of information and inspiration, from friends and family to fitness instructors, celebrity chefs, and self-made social media lifestyle gurus. Doctors, of course, have always been a spoke in the influence wheel, but often their role has tended to be functional and reactive; we turn to them to fix what's broken, rather than to prevent or improve what works. Murphy Research's 2018 Shopper Archetype syndicated study found that 53% of consumers only visit the doctor when they have health concerns or issues. In the context of a culture of wellness that's proactive, positive, and holistic, medical experts may influence, but they don't seem to inspire.

But if doctors are now donning chef's hats with their lab coats, their role as cultural influencers might change, and with it, some key consumer trends. Here are a few questions about trends that might get a shot in the arm if doctors fuel consumer awareness of and aspirations for healthy eating.

  • Fresh Focus: Will the medical community have a louder voice in shaping consumer knowledge about nutrition, health claims, and ingredients? Will they accelerate the shift in food retail from center-store to fresh periphery as they coach patients on nutrition and encourage healthy cooking?
  • Personalization and Customization: As physicians help patients tailor their diets to particular health needs, what role will they play in driving interest in personalized, customized approaches to eating and drinking?
  • Food and Fitness Tracking: Our research found that 45% of consumers feel managing their health is a chore. What roles might the medical community play in creating new opportunities for supporting consumers in adopting and adapting healthy lifestyles? Will physicians inspire even more patients to seek ways to measure their behaviors and optimize their health and wellness regimes?

At Murphy Research, we know that today's consumer aspirations for health and wellness are tomorrow's business threats and opportunities. Our customized research not only helps companies understand where the market is today, but also identifies opportunities for growth and innovation to stay ahead of the curve. Stay tuned for our upcoming 2018 Health and Wellness syndicated study, which will dive deep into the aspirations, behaviors, and drivers fueling the growth of the wellness and fitness market.