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Demand for healthier, personalised products is driving the food industry [Interview]

Article-Demand for healthier, personalised products is driving the food industry [Interview]

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Specialised nutrition and health and wellbeing are two trends that have taken consumers in the food industry by storm in recent years. How are brands responding to consumer demand, and how might these trends play out moving forward? We sat down with Rick Miller, associate director, specialised nutrition at Mintel to discuss.

Rick will be taking part in the Health & Wellness Deep Dive Day on 18 October, part of the free-to-attend Fi Webinar Series. Click here to register.

Health and wellbeing in food and drink is a fast-growing trend amongst consumers. How is this being translated in the market, and is this trend here to stay?

“This is indeed a trend to stay. The pandemic has drawn a stronger emphasis for consumers on health and wellbeing, particularly in the areas of immunity, weight management and non-communicable diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.

“This, in turn, is fuelling the surge in new products onto the market, no category is absent in terms of drawing consumers in with the prospect of health and wellbeing benefits.”

Globally, research shows that consumers are increasingly taking a more active approach to supporting their health and wellbeing. How are brands responding to this demand for healthier products and is more innovation required?

“One outcome of the pandemic is that it has reduced the invasiveness barrier to the use of at-home diagnostics and tests. This is due to the previous necessity of using lateral flow tests that consumers had to comply with.

“As such, this lowering of the invasiveness barrier has augmented the possibility for brands to engage with areas such as personalised nutrition that involves the use of at-home blood or other forms of tests and we have seen a huge uptick in the launch of start-up brands in this space, with the vitamins, mineral and supplement (VMS) category growing at a rapid pace.

“However, most brands operating with personalised nutrition are not utilising biological sampling to its fullest extent, most are accessing a form self-assessment to create personalisation instead (such as a questionnaire). This is the gap that we expect to be filled by innovation and technology - smart wearables is helping to fill that gap.”

In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, consumers are taking a holistic approach to health. Is this interest in holistic health being seen globally or is it more pronounced in certain regions?

“We see a trend in all regions toward renewed interest in herbal/natural/food derived ingredients for health with more pronounced interest in certain aspects of health for particular regions.

“For instance, there is universal interest in energy and immunity-focused products within all regions but in the US, more launches within the functional food and drink category over the past three years have had a cognitive and brain health focus, whereas in Asia Pacific, the emphasis appears to be on digestion.”

Which sectors of the food and drink industry offer the greatest opportunities for manufacturers regarding the health and wellbeing trend?

“Whilst new launches in health and wellbeing continue to be dominant within VMS, there are signs of slowdown and in turn, growth within functional food and drink.

“Is this as sign of ‘pill fatigue’? Possibly not as VMS launches are strong but it does indicate that functional food and drink should be a focus area for innovators.”

A growing cohort of consumers are seeking ‘better for you’ products but oftentimes price is a barrier to mass market adoption. What other obstacles are brands in this realm facing and how can they tackle these?

“Brands continue to face the age-old concern of balancing taste, and indulgence with nutritional optimisation for health and wellbeing. Particularly in an era of increased scrutiny from consumers around sugar content, sustainable ingredients, and ‘cleaner’ labels.

“Brands are tackling this in multi-faceted ways such as turning to fibres as a source of ‘new-natural’ sweeteners such as inulin, as well as refocusing portfolios on key diet trends such as the ketogenic diet, where low sugar and carbohydrate go hand in hand and are highly engaged with consumers, particularly in the US.

“In terms of environmental sustainability, thinking beyond the product and looking to the packaging can help a brand with a greener outlook without the risk of ‘greenwashing’ through setting arbitrary carbon footprint targets.”

How can we expect this trend to play out over the next two years?

“We think the health and wellbeing trend will only continue to grow with more crossover between health areas (such as gut health and immunity) and better tailoring to consumers’ health needs through personalisation.”