The Latest Global Food & Health Trends - what they mean for you

Photo credit; Sven Owsianowski

Photo credit; Sven Owsianowski

The International Food Information Council’s 2018 Food & Health Survey* (IFIC), released on 16 May, provides valuable insights into the evolving consumer mindset while highlighting current and emerging influences of food purchasing decisions. The survey findings provide relevant insights for the Australian market and I've outlined my top 5 take outs below, along with considerations when applying these locally.

1. Food Values Influence.

If the nutrition information on two different products is the same, a consumers purchasing decision will be swayed by the values the product portrays. The drivers with the strongest influence are sustainable production, freshness and a shorter ingredient list.  
What this means:
Nutritional value is important to convey however may not provide the level of differentiation needed to influence purchasing decisions. It is becoming increasingly necessary to back up any nutritional features with values around how food is produced and the type and number of ingredients it contains.

2. Stressed and Confused

Eighty percent of shoppers say they often come across conflicting information and for 59% this makes them doubt their choices. This doubt is in turn creating stress when it comes to making decisions. Those who report being confused are more likely to stick with what they know and be influenced significantly by familiarity. 
What this means:
The idea that consumers are confused and are therefore struggling to make clear purchasing decisions further supports findings from Mintel in their APAC trends research reported here in April 2018. This highlights a growing need to seek out ways to help consumers make informed and clear decisions. Creating greater levels of trust, steering clear of fads and avoiding cluttering categories with choice are some considerations.  Finding ways to reassure consumers about their purchasing decisions will also be helpful. This could be through elevating the expertise of your brand, creating links with trusted external advisors or developing a more meaningful relationship by creating shared value in areas consumers care about.

3. Sustainability matters.

Sixty percent of survey respondents said it’s important that the food they buy and eat is produced in a sustainable way.The top considerations are reducing pesticide use, ensuring an affordable food supply and preserving natural habitats from which food is sourced. Respondents also indicated they are starting to think about ensuring a sufficient food supply for the growing population. 

What this means:
Sustainability is the next big issue in food and it means considering more than the end product produced or sold. Sustainability is a holistic approach to the way food is produced, its nutritional value, its environmental impact and its contribution to maintaining and preserving a positive food culture. This area provides significant opportunities for differentiation in marketing and innovation for those willing to invest in understanding the bigger picture issues and aligning their business accordingly.  For a good overview of this area and the implications and opportunities for food businesses in 2018, this article by Ben Cooper in Just Food earlier this year is a worthwhile read.

4. Artificial is the enemy

The desire for ‘real’ food remains strong with 70% of consumers stating they would give up a familiar food for one that contained fewer artificial ingredients. Forty percent of those who would switch brands state they would pay 50% more and 20% said they would pay double.
What this means:
The desire for fewer artificial ingredients and additives continues to grow. Commitments around reducing these in foods will be of ongoing appeal to consumers.  Growth in 'fresh' and 'real' food is complementary to this and seeking out ways to help consumers include more fresh foods in their daily diet is supportive of this trend.

5. Heart, Weight and Energy

The top three health benefits consumers are looking to obtain from their food are those linked with heart health, weight loss or management and energy. Brain functioning which includes memory, focus and cognition came in fourth indicating the area of 'food and mood' is also of growing interest.

What this means:
The regulatory framework in Australia provides good opportunities for linking foods to each of these areas, with some providing greater and lower cost opportunities than others. The key for food providers is to assess the nutritional profile of products and understand which nutrients and ingredients can be used to support which claims.  My perspective is that there are significant, untapped opportunities that exist in this area for those prepared to investigate a little more closely.
Other key findings outlined in the research include the ongoing desire to avoid too much sugar, the continuing concern about carbohydrate and weight gain, and the high numbers of people who are eating always or sometimes with distractions. While taste and price remain key drivers, price is continuing to loosen it's hold as an influencer and is coming in at a lower level than it did in 2017. When asked about online shopping, it seems take up is slow with the majority still feeling more comfortable going to the supermarket in person. 

Further details and a copy of the findings from the survey can be found here.

*The IFIC Food & Healthy Survey was conducted in March 2018. It was an online survey of 1,009 Americans aged 18-80 years.