OPINION: All the health talk has made a difference

Nestlé announced a drop in sales for 2016, promoting healthy eating is probably to blame

Nestlé have recently announced a drastic fall in sales numbers for the first 6 months of 2016, with this drop representing their lowest sales since 2009. The drop in sales for the Swiss company should be credited in part to the lessons and messages about eating healthier that have permeated our culture.

Before we all get carried away, the food giant has made a profit of €3.78bn, but that is down nearly 10% from this stage last year and is their lowest recorded profit margin since 2009. There is little fear of Nestlé going out of business in the near future, but for those against the food production titan, there are encouraging signs.

Nestlé are most well known here in Ireland for producing two things, coffee and all things sweet and ready for dessert from cake mixes and hot chocolate mix, to the far too tempting chocolate and sweets. They do breakfast cereals as well, but apart from Shredded Wheat, which quickly adopted a host of sweeter variations, it would be difficult to call any of them anything but sugary, sweet and probably unhealthy.

No surveys have been conducted on public opinion on the company or why people would have the opinion coloured against the largely confectionery producer, but the fact that there's consistently been a push both from the state sponsored campaigns or public opinion for greater health is too much of a coincidence to just brush aside.

The push to create a healthier Ireland is not a new one. There have been rumblings about it for decades to varying degrees of success, but the message seems to be finding its audience in its droves now. 

Companies adopted different ways of keying into it through either calling things 'sugar free', 'diet' or praising their nutritional value even if there's little to be had. These changes stemmed the tide for a while as people thought we could have our cake and eat it too, that we could still eat anything we wanted and be praised for our health awareness.

It's very easy to feel like you're being talked down to or told what to do when people keep reminding you that what you're eating isn't as good for you as you thought, and the holier-than-thou attitude by some doesn't help. Despite this, the message seems to be getting through to people and becoming an accepted part of communal wisdom. 

The general approach by many is similar to how cigarettes are being treated now; there's no point in trying to justify their health benefits, the only thing you can do to stay healthy is not go near them in the first place. Numbers of soft drink sales are plummeting around the world with a 30-year low in the United States. 

This doesn't mean that every new slice of health advice is taken to heart, and thankfully so. Being told that coffee causes cancer, or kale induces laser vision or, most miraculously, chocolate helps you lose weight muddies the water and gives those pining for a more innocent time in food, but those voices are growing quieter and quieter. In place of these old ideas is plain common sense coming through, but with the ability to remain open to new information on food, even if it turns out to be nonsense about quinoa as the only food humans should eat or milk causing baldness.

Nestlé may have reported a drop in the rate of growth for their profits for this year, but it hasn't reported a loss. If the majority of their products are in the business of making things we shouldn't be eating like there's no tomorrow, then maybe things are moving in the right direction. We can only live in hope.