To attempt to understand health and wellness one must venture outside the health studies and product releases, and what the media says consumers should be eating or you may go down a path that is disconnected from the path consumers are traveling on. Product launches are then in danger of attracting adversaries, timing errors, consumer distrust and disinterest.
A marriage of the patterns found between consumer drivers, health trends, consumer disconnects and flavor trends will lead to more focused navigation strategy development.
Before examining health trends one must first understand consumer recovery drivers. They include economic drivers, health, control and safety, sustainability and pure motivational drivers. Behavior and drivers during a recovery are vastly different than those created by a recession. We are in an awkward period between the end of recession and a begrudging recovery so while the patterns may seem a bit contradictory at times they are exactly the patterns expected during a rocky recovery.
The economic drivers include the rebounding of brands as they do equal value. And during a recovery, if consumers value and item, they will spend more. Also cost and value must co-exist now. In survey work the terms resilience and optimism are again appearing. And then there is Deal Chic. Deal Chic means that the consumer did not need to get a great deal but because they did – it is cool. Motivation drivers include drivers left over from the recession such as simplicity, authenticity and value. But for recovery motivators, they include risk taking, playfulness, escapism, brands and invigorating experiences.
Regarding sustainability – which is tied to health – when these numbers go up again it is a sign of recovery because it is one of the first things consumers abandon, to some extent, during a recession. Drivers here include seasonal, local, animal rights, affordable green, green verification, re-commercing and indigenous as the newest entrant.
Control and safety drivers also have crossovers between the recession and recovery. Recession holdovers include consumers being attracted to companies or products that provide or offer legacy, reassurance, accountability and stability. The concept of now eating alone is a control issue tied to recovery. Consumers are stepping out alone more often but are still tied through technology to other groups or individuals. So while sitting at the restaurant they may be texting or speaking to a friend or they may have discovered the restaurant through a social website recommendation, so in a sense they are not truly alone. But the act is a sign of confidence and bravery.
And now for health motivators. When consumers enter a recovery they become less fearful and more focused on solutions, educating themselves and taking back control of their health. They are now more interested in front of pack labeling, snacking, the concepts of pure and natural, kids health and how to control / influence it, portion options in food service and retail, and wellness now equals quality.
Looking at current health trends born off of consumer drivers you discover they break out into Prevention, Control, Simplify, Obesity, Cognitive Function and Trust.
Prevention trends include digestion, vision, muscle, mood, fiber and grains, joint and bone health, the rise of flexitarians and heart health.
Trust trends around health actually involve distrust of organic and natural, free from, sustainability, food safety and health claims. So while consumers desire these things, they don't have untold trust for them and are hoping that the products are truthful so will take the chance on companies they have more trust for. Control trends overlap again with consumer trends. Health trends including control issues are kids (again), calories, digestion, diabetes, seasonal / local, cholesterol, salt, sugar and fat, acrylamide, menu labeling, apps and satiety. These are all items which consumers wish to have or feel they can have control over in their lives.
Simplify includes the concept of unprocessed foods, convenience, naturally healthy and understanding exactly what the benefit is for them. The two health issues that are receiving them most attention are obesity and cognitive function. Obesity encapsulates snacking, satiety, dining out, portion control and, again, kids. Cognitive function campuses development to decline meaning and it includes Gen Z and Boomers+. Individual topics include energy, focus, relaxation, depression, memory, sleep and stress.
Breaking down by generations makes things even more dizzying. The health issues revolving around Gen Z include developmental cognitive function, diabetes, vision development, vision, digestion, obesity and immunity. Gen Y (Millennials) are concerned with cognitive function (focus, memory, mood), digestion and obesity. Gen X is focused on cognitive function (focus, mood, stress), digestion and obesity. Boomers+, well... the list is long and includes vision, obesity, cancer, diabetes, digestion, immunity, heart health, muscle and joint health and cognitive function (focus, memory, mood).
The associated elements to tackle these issues, and ones which the food industry can provide solutions, include omega-3s, sugar, fiber, pre and probiotics, saturated and trans fats, caffeine (an enemy to Gen Y but savior to Boomers), salt, vitamin D, calcium and magnesium, among others.
Suzy Badaracco is a toxicologist, chef, and registered dietitian. She holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Criminalistics, an Associates degree in Culinary Arts, and a Masters of Science degree in Human Nutrition.