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Thematic investing

Superfoods – not so super afterall

The stimulus of superfoods

June 2018

Superfoods are not essential for a healthy diet. Nevertheless, the focus on these beneficial nutrients may benefit people and the environment.

A handful of maqui berries, chufas or reishi mushrooms every day; does that make you healthier? Or are these so-called superfoods primarily a trendy ingredient for food blogs and glossy magazines? Marie-Laure Schaufelberger believes that the emergence of superfoods is a healthy development, at least in one respect. Schaufelberger is Product Specialist of the Nutrition strategy. ‘The growing attention for all kinds of superfoods is a signal that more and more people want to eat consciously’, says Schaufelberger. ‘Those who pay attention to their diet are less likely to become ill and they will probably live longer in good health1. As a matter of fact, you don’t need any superfoods for that.’

More is not always better

Superfoods have in common that they contain many nutrients that contribute to good health, such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. ‘However, if you consume a varied diet, you’ll get all the important nutrients you need anyway’, says Schaufelberger. ‘You won’t become a superman by eating as many superfoods as possible. A car cannot digest more petrol than what fits in the tank.’ In addition, insights into the concept of ‘healthy’ constantly change. Eggs are a good example. ‘Twenty years ago the consensus was that you should not eat too much of them, as they contain fats and cholesterol’, says Schaufelberger. ‘Nowadays scientist are paying much more attention to the healthy nutrients that are also found in eggs, such as vitamins, minerals and proteins2.’
Agriculture

Pitfall of superfoods

Another pitfall of some superfoods is that they may be healthy, but that the cultivation of crops is a burden on the environment. ‘Avocados contain 20 different vitamins and minerals’,3 says Schaufelberger. ‘However, the growth of avocados requires a great deal of water. In California, for example, cultivation contributes to water scarcity in dry periods. In addition, hectares of forest soil are illegally felled in order to make room for the cultivation of avocados. As investors we look not only at the various opportunities, but also at the sustainability of superfoods. We now have more than 15 years of experience in measuring important trends in the field of people, the environment and society in our investment process.’
In building the portfolio, we ensure that it offers a good balance, instead of placing all hope on one or two super shares – Marie-Laure Schaufelberger, Product Specialist

From seed to supermarket

‘Packaging companies are an example of a promising segment, as these ensure that food can be kept for a longer time and that it arrives to our plates from the field with less damage to the food’, explains Schaufelberger. And as to whether superfoods actually make you healthier, she says: ‘If you eat in a balanced way, with sufficient fruit and vegetables, you do not need superfoods to improve your health. And if you don’t do so, there will be no food that will magically cancel out the effects of an unhealthy lifestyle. It is exactly the same with investing. In building the portfolio, we ensure that it offers a good balance, instead of placing all hope on one or two super shares.’

 

This is one of a series of articles investigating the themes driving our healthy living thematic funds – four actively managed global equity funds.
Focusing on the structural forces shaping our world, our investment managers seek to deliver a compelling risk-adjusted return over the long run.

Discover more on our range of healthy living strategies.