Posted on Apr 08, 2019, 4 p.m.
Old health rules are being overturned, new ideas are emerging, old ingredients are becoming once more reborn, and retail channels are shifting as consumers beliefs over what healthy means change it opens the doors for a wealth of various opportunities.
Dietitians and health professionals are no longer being seeing as the know all and experts on food and health. Due to conflicts in the past it’s no surprise that consumers think dietary advice often flips and they now have a serious loss of confidence in so called experts. For example eggs which are now promoted for protein and other nutrients are also demonized for cholesterol; butter was a big no no and now we know in moderation it is fine and less processed than the margarines that consumers were told to eat in its place. 76% of Americans think the messages from the food and health industry are confusing; discovery of many natural foods doing no harm and can positively contribute to health has pushed many to do their own research and become their own experts.
Websites, apps, and social media platforms are enabling consumers to do their own research, with this increased knowledge consumers feel more confident to create their own personalized eating patterns and dietary choices. 50% of the population has accepted the fact that each individual is unique and has unique nutritional and metabolic needs. Every age group is becoming food explorers engaged in searches for something new; some are willing to try just about anything new, and are keen for provenance, clean labels, new tastes, and interesting experiences.
Consumers seem to be embracing DNA tests with 19% of Americans saying they have taken one for dietary reasons. Supplements makers may benefit from this as more are offering personalized nutrition solutions to make connections with consumers who want that individual solution in a non-intrusive manner. However doing so in food and beverage may be a bit tougher.
This era is ushering in lifestyle personalization, ideas on food and health are varied and complex, and choices modify as new information becomes available. Consequences of the changes can be seen in the US market where IRI’s Pacesetters report shows launching a new product and making quick success is much less likely than in the past; as a result businesses are lowering their expectations as to what success looks like.
Digestive wellness is the biggest drivers for functional foods and beverages, and it appears it will be even more so as the science of the human microbiome expands. This area has a history of reminding us how strange products and ideas can be successful and embraced. A great example would be the launch of a probiotic dairy drink in 1955 by Yakult Honsha which was dismissed as being too weird by industry executives that is now the world’s biggest brand and has spawned a host of emulators.
Restaurants are looking to join the packaged food companies with products, their associated tastes, and benefits to categories reaching beyond the yogurt aisle. Asian cuisine has rising popularity and healthy image, and would suggest that everything is in place to support fermented products being and enduring growth trend; kombucha may be on its way to mainstream acceptance as it’s sales have jumped by 43% in 2018. Coca-Cola has entered this sector by taking a stake in Health-Ade and Mojo; and Molson Coors Brewing has acquired Clearly Kombucha.
Australia based A2 Dairy Milk is quickly becoming profitable, with a 31% profit margin. A2 milk is a standard milk minus the A1 protein as a result of breeding not GMOs which many believe causes the gut problems associated with lactose intolerance. A2 outsells plant milks in Australia, and it is being embraced by US entrepreneurial dairies such as Alexandre Farms.
FODMAPS is another deemed too weird to succeed that is quickly growing, and when a major brand commits itself to an emerging trend it is worth taking note. Schar, Europe’s largest gluten free brand is the first major brand to offer low FODMAP accredited products in supermarkets. FODMAP friendly diets are said to be a solution for the some 45 Americans and others with IBS; this diet is backed by science, is accepted by gastroenterologists and dietitians, has media and consumer attention, can be used for self diagnosis and elimination diet attempts, and is easy to feel the benefits from. This may represent an area of opportunity for companies to expand which is science backed and driven; Nestle, Kellogg, Fazer, and Baker’s Delight have all launched FODMAP friendly products or labeled existing products as being so.
Protein sources continue to surge as connections with healthy weight, better body shape, and general wellness builds in consumer minds. There has been interest in low carb, high protein, and paleo diets putting the spotlight on collagen which accounts for about 30% of protein in the human body. Collagen derived products have gained much recognition for beauty, skin, sports nutrition, and healthy aging benefits. Collagen suppliers got a significant boost in 2018 when the sports nutrition sector International Olympic Committee recognized collagen for the first time as being a dietary supplement that athletes can use for injury prevention and recovery.
Consumers seem to be more aware of eating the right carbs and are taking steps forwards thanks to new science, such as in and around type 2 diabetes; treating this condition with a low carb diet is no longer a minority position. In 2018 for the first time low carb diets got the mainstream seal of approval from the American Diabetic Association who included it along with the Mediterranean diet as being recommended medical nutrition therapy for blood glucose management for type 2 diabetes. As more consumers drop bad carbs for good we will see changes in consumption patterns inspired by emerging science.
The relationship with fat may be at a tipping point thanks to more new science, not all fat is bad, and in moderation saturated fat is not the demon it was once said to be. This change will likely be slower in some areas than others, companies may have an opportunity to develop products with slightly higher fat content with better taste and satiety. 11% of Americans think fat is not all bad, which is a 50% increase since 2017; in Australia that number is 15%. However sugar is not what consumers want to see, more so healthy fats, including animal fats, 24% of Americans now see butter as a good fat.
A major changing is the rethinking of attitudes towards cannabis which was demonized unnecessarily; if any one area has the possibility of falling into the missed opportunities this is the area due to hive minds clinging to outdated proganada and intentionally spread misleading untruths. The biggest advantage of this type of product is the immediate benefit that can be felt. It is rare of any product to actually deliver the feel it benefit that this can deliver. What makes cannabis have such good potential is that it has two effective active components to it : CBD and THC, these can be used alone or partnered together to make it even more remarkable. Past products have unsuccessfully tried to deliver the benefit of relaxation using prescriptions, supplements, and OTC drugs. With legalization cannabis based products are likely to become a source of major growth in the market for relaxation and pain management, which to be honest will be a welcomed alternative to the opioid crisis.
CBD and THC products will also benefit from the natural and healthy trend which is the single most powerful consumer trend. This desire for more natural non-GMO food and ingredients perceived as being naturally functional is a massive trend underpinning the success of almost everything from protein to berries, almonds, or skin care. Natural and intrinsic health benefits are compelling, and can often be found buzzing consumer interest in blogs or by journalists which may help to inspire consumer research to form their own conclusions about the benefits of a naturally functional product or ingredient, which may go for or against a so called health claim, guideline, suggestion, or recommendation.
Whatever the product may be convenience is still king, if it is not convenient for the busy consumer that product will not do well in the market; on the go is the driver of growth and an opportunity to create products. Consumers are willing to pay a little more for these products within reason; provenance and waste reduction are also important and of growing interest. There is a niche for everything, creative product developers should be looking to connect to key trends, listen to the consumer, and be flexible if they wish to succeed in today’s market.
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