As urbanization advances and lifestyles evolve, unhealthy dietary choices and carbon-intensive ingredients are presenting the UAE with critical challenges in two key areas: public health and environmental sustainability. In a nutshell, obesity is on the rise and carbon emissions are soaring.
A recipe for disaster
The average person makes more than 200 decisions about food every day. These choices are shaped by ﬁnancial constraints, geographical limitations, social inﬂuences and emotional connections. Against this backdrop, non-communicable diseases are inﬂicting a staggering cost on the UAE, amounting to USD 10.9 billion annually in 2019, equivalent to 2.7 percent of the nation’s GDP. Projections indicate that this cost will more than double to USD 47.5 billion by 2040, largely due to the tightening grip of obesity on the nation’s health. Beyond health concerns, food waste is exacerbating environmental degradation. To illustrate, the volume
of discarded food collected by Dubai Municipality so far in 2023 already stands at a staggering 4,000 tonnes.
A collective commitment to change
However, change is on the horizon. Governments, NGOs, schools, and startups are coming together to transform the food ecosystem. Their collective efforts are driven by a shared vision – to support consumers in adopting healthier eating habits and encourage sustainable food practices.
Steer from the top
On a governmental level, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are both taking proactive steps to promote healthier eating habits. The SEHHI (Safe Eating, Healthy Habits and Informative Choices) program, led by the Abu Dhabi Public Health Center (ADPHC), empowers the community with knowledge for making informed dietary choices, while the Dubai Municipality’s Sorat initiative provides consumers with digital nutritional information and star ratings for food establishments.
Private sector push
Major F&B companies are implementing measures reﬂecting their commitment to sustainability, such as BOCA, which publishes carbon footprint reports and works toward reduction in carbon emissions. The Hilton group’s Green Breakfast initiative, aimed at revolutionizing food waste management, is another example of the call for collective action. Innovative startups are playing a key, trailblazing role. Companies like Calo, Sprout, WellX and Winnow, among others, are at the forefront, introducing initiatives that range from personalized meal plans and healthy habit rewards to tackling the problem of food waste.
Data and transparency are the cornerstones of this transformation. At the food data and intelligence platform NutriCal, we equip UAE businesses across the food industry spectrum with essential insights into nutrition, dietary compatibility, the carbon footprints of their food offerings and more, providing them with the data they need to make informed decisions. These organizations range from government initiatives and supermarkets to restaurants, meal-plan and tech companies, and hospitals.
Bringing about a healthier and greener future in the UAE’s hospitality industry, requires establishments to take action in several areas:
Prominently display nutritional information and carbon footprint details on their menus.
Support sustainable, local and seasonal ingredients, highlighting these choices on menus.
Manage food waste through strategies and local initiatives that donate unused food or turn it into organic fertilizer.
Add healthy options.
Stakeholder collaboration is the cornerstone of a transformative approach. By merging resources and expertise, collaborators can create a powerful synergy to address both public health and environmental concerns, and create a consumer-centric, connected food ecosystem.