Child waiting for school dinner

Children's health and food

Young people's response to healthier food on the go

29 September 2020
3 min read

We try to support healthier diets by meeting people where they’re currently at. For many young people, this is fast food outlets. We wanted to explore whether an app like SMASH could nudge young people to select healthier options when in those outlets.

Sean Miller
Founder, nonon

Nonon’s brief

Impact on Urban Health were approached to support and invest in, a new business developing a healthy food discount app for 13-24 year olds, called SMASH. The app offers a 20% discount on healthier products in their favourite food outlets.

To aid the investment decision, Impact on Urban Health and SMASH partnered with Nonon and System Concepts, to test some of the underlying assumptions behind the SMASH proposition. Central to the research was understanding the potential feasibility, acceptability and impact on food consumption an app like SMASH might achieve. Price sensitivity of this demographic, and the lack of healthier products that compete on price with the less healthy ones, was also explored. The research had to be conducted in a lean way, while working remotely with participants during the UK’s national lockdown.

The goal of our research was to ultimately understand:

  • Does the SMASH app have the potential to influence 13-24 year olds to make healthier fast food choices compared to the ones they make today?
  • And if so, does SMASH offer a feasible, viable and sustainable option to deliver this?


What we did

Testing a new concept with teens and young adults, particularly during COVID, meant we needed to adapt our methodology to get to the right insights. With the SMASH app being centred around in-store use, we planned for a two-staged approach. Our mix of retrospective questioning through an interactive online diary, and friendship pair sessions via Zoom, helped us explore current behaviours when eating out, preferences, and participants’ response to the app concept itself and how / if it would be used.


SMASH research approach


Key takeaways

The overarching finding from the research was that there was a real demand for SMASH. There are currently no other apps on the market which focus on healthier options, and offer a discount to make healthier food options more affordable. Participants often wanted healthier options, but in many cases this meant paying a higher price.

Although there was generally a good amount of knowledge amongst participants about healthy food and a balanced diet, there was little knowledge of what healthier options were available within outlets. Some didn’t believe there were any healthier options in particular places at all.

The variety of options within the SMASH app was key. Even if the motivation to use SMASH was initially monetary, having access to discounts on healthier options across outlets they already went to, meant that it was more likely to drive teens towards exploring the healthier options.

SMASH app findings


Whilst a discount through SMASH would encourage healthier options in general, there was a common thread throughout that if participants wanted to eat a particular menu item at any given time, they would do so, irrespective of any discount. The taste of the food option and saving money were felt to be more important for most, than saving calories.

With that being said, it was interesting to see an increase in enthusiasm towards healthier options after seeing a demo of the app itself. This highlights the importance of providing a quick, easy and engaging experience for users, that motivates teens to explore healthier options.

There was a feeling for some that the app would provide subconscious motivation, knowing they always had the app with them – seeing SMASH as a “healthy eating companion”. References to day-to-day use of the app and it encouraging users to exercise through seeing the map feature, for example, were positive signs of how it might be used longer term.

Read the full Nonon and System Concepts report here.