Growing Ideas: Platform wants to make people healthier

FoodFirst Network is an online health platform focused on nutrition. And it’s a platform without ads, which is really important to founder Jan Dekker.

Jan Dekker has over 25 years’ experience in Dutch television, mainly behind the scenes. He is the manager of TV presenter Irene Moors, which is how he became involved in setting up Life & Cooking. And he discovered Dutch celebrity chef Rudolph van Veen.
Dekker also developed the format of the 24Kitchen TV channel. And now he’s founded the FoodFirst Network, where he wants to tell the real story of food, independent of food manufacturers. “Food is your best medicine.”

What is FoodFirst Network?

“We want to help people become healthier by changing their lifestyle. The platform has around 25 experts offering their advice on nutrition, exercise and health. These experts are not pretty blondes or muscle-bound guys with tattoos, but people who have a proven track-record in their area of expertise. People like Hanno Pijl, professor of Diabetology at Leiden University Medical Center. Our platform works a bit like Netflix – visitors can opt for a subscription of € 4.99 a month or € 44.99 a year. After they complete a personal profile, we provide information specific to them. So for example, someone with high blood pressure will only see recipes suitable for that condition. Someone who has trouble sleeping will receive sleep advice from one of our experts. And there are all sorts of articles to read or videos to watch.”

Which problem does it solve?

“A lot of people don’t feed their bodies, they ‘fill’ them. Our society is increasingly becoming sicker because of the excessive amounts of sugar in drinks and processed food, where ingredients have been taken out and replaced by additives. Did you know that there are now five million chronically ill people in the Netherlands? That number is set to grow to seven million. And one million people in this country take antidepressants.

Many doctors think in terms of medication, because that is what they were taught to do. But the best medicine of all is nutrition. For example, hypersensitivity can be lowered with nutrition and exercise. That reduces stress and in turn lowers the risk of a burnout or depression. Food should be eaten as fresh and unprocessed as possible. And you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to cook a healthy meal.

That was actually the message that we wanted to bring across on 24Kitchen, but we were only partly successful. Fox is a television company that sells commercials and uses commerce in programmes to make money. Nothing wrong with that, but food shouldn’t be commercialized. Advertisers have only one goal, which is to influence society. That’s where things go wrong because people start using packets and sachets and think they’re eating well.”

“The best medicine of all is nutrition”

- Jan Dekker, FoodFirst Network

What developments do you have in store?

“We started on 1 December and the platform was officially launched on 7 May. During the first months we received ten thousand applications both from private individuals and employers taking out a subscription for their employees. I hope we get hundreds of thousands of subscribers but that will take time. In the future we want to adapt the recipes to cater to more target groups. We already address allergies, diabetes and high blood pressure but soon we will be including special recipes and content for pregnant women. We are also working to develop recipes for patients undergoing chemotherapy, because chemo changes their sense of taste.

We began here in the Netherlands but ultimately we might expand the platform internationally. In this country, society is now really starting to think about lifestyle and to expect quality food. That is something to be proud of.”

This interview is part of the Growing Ideas series, in which we take a look at the future of agrifood and offer a platform to innovative companies in the sector. It previously appeared in Dutch on RTLZ, the website of a Dutch business and financial news channel.