Spearheaded by the French household appliances manufacturer SEB, a new project has set out to develop products and applications to improve the way consumers approach the preparation of their meals.
The fitness/wellness field has proved to be a highly successful entry point for the first generation of personal connected objects because these products meet a clear need on the part of consumers – i.e. a healthier life. However, when it comes to a similar aspect, nutrition, there appears to be a serious obstacle: the timeframe. Evidence shows that people tend to abandon diets and balanced nutrition plans fairly quickly. So, to get beyond this short-term thinking, the SEB Group set up last year and continues to coordinate, in co-operation with research institutes and manufacturers of kitchen equipment, an initiative called the Open Food System, whose goal is to develop smart tools tailored to address issues around nutrition. With the backing of French state finance provider OSEO (now part of state funding body BpiFrance), this initiative was one of the top eleven selected as ‘Competitiveness Hub Projects’ as part of the French government’s ‘Investments for the Future’ programme, which seeks to promote Research & Development projects likely to have a major business impact on a particular sector.
‘Food for thought’?
The food sector has once again recently become a major part of the everyday lives of French people, mainly as a result of a series of campaigns on the subject of nutrition which have been run by the French authorities. The partners collaborating on the Open Food System have set out to develop a digital system encompassing people’s relationship with food. This involves embedding smart components into kitchen equipment in order to help both professionals and amateurs to get a better grasp of the qualitative and quantitative aspects of healthy eating. “We want to go much wider than the product itself, so that people aren’t just buying a piece of equipment. By bringing together equipment and service, we intend to help them enjoy a real experience,” explained SEB’s Digital Projects Manager François Mayor Olivos. With this in mind, the appliances manufacturer has developed Mon ActiFry, an app which enables users to assess and improve the quality of their weekly menus. “We didn’t want to draw up diet plans but provide balanced menus. The goal is simply to keep users motivated to achieve balanced eating,” stressed François Mayor Olivos.
Information reinforces positive action
It seems that just adding this app to the nutritional ecosystem and so helping to match ingredients and kitchen equipment has led to some real progress in the way users approach food preparation. Fully 92% of those responding to a study carried out on behalf of SEB by market research institute MediQual Research said that they had used the Mon ActiFry app, with 71% claiming that their waistlines are now markedly trimmer because of it. Moreover, some users’ attitudes to nutrition appear to have improved somewhat as 88% of those polled reported that they were now enjoying cooking. “These results demonstrate extremely important progress from a medical point of view, as nutrition is often seen in terms of a diet, constraints, and doing without,” points out MediQual Research Associate Director Yves Morvan, adding: “The value of this type of tool from a nutritional point of view lies in the fact that users now have the means to assess and track how they’re eating over time in a way that creates positive reinforcement.” The success of incorporating smart interactive components into nutrition programmes may now spark greater interest in ‘smart’ equipment among home appliance manufacturers. The next immediate step will be to develop appliances that communicate directly with one another, which will increase the quantity and quality of the information available to consumers, explains François Mayor Olivos.