Healthy food interest continues despite rising prices13 Oct 2022
Deloitte insights show that consumers are willing to pay a premium for food linked to health and wellness even though cost concerns are growing.
In its latest insights into consumer spending habits in food and beverages, professional services company Deloitte highlights how food as medicine continues to resonate with consumers. Its popularity remains even though price rises and shifting spending patterns to stretch budgets are at the forefront of consumers' buying habits.
As health and wellness is still an important decision-making factor, new opportunities emerge for fresh food producers and retailers to centre their formulations and product benefits on helping consumers make healthy choices.
Exploring healthy eating habits
“The fresh food perimeter is now the basis of competition in grocery,” says Oliver Vernon-Harcourt, UK retail lead partner, Deloitte. Concern exists about the impact of cheaper and unhealthier food on diets, especially in children, and obesity issues, Vernon-Harcourt says. Maintaining good on-shelf availability will also be under pressure in the UK during the winter as supply chain disruption and the effects of high inflation impact farmers, producers, and processors.
“Using food as medicine is one of the ways consumers can be empowered to take control of their health,” he says. “When not every household has equal access to or can afford to pay higher prices for fresh, healthy foods, it contributes to health inequities and poorer health outcomes.”
Cost versus value
Along with its fresh food survey, Deloitte is conducting an ongoing monthly global state of the consumer research initiative. In the UK, 84% of consumers say they are concerned about rising prices, which is up 12 percentage points over 2021.
Groceries are the food segment where consumers see prices rising the most. “Price is dominating the conversation around fresh food and how it is leading in the contraction of demand even in the food sector,” says Vernon-Harcourt. “There is a real flight to value here.”
Deloitte's findings indicate that consumers are adopting various tactics to deal with food price inflation. Its insights reveal that 38% of shoppers are trading down to store brands and private labels, one in three are shopping multiple stores to cherry-pick their sale items and one in five are changing their primary store to a lower-price outlet.
“Most surprisingly, consumers are very focused on reducing food waste,” says Vernon-Harcourt. The focus today is on lowering costs, with 40% of consumers saying they are trying to eat all their food to save money.
“However, fresh food bought because of its health benefits is somewhat resistant to inflation.”
Deloitte's food as medicine insights indicate 84% of consumers consider health and wellness when making fresh food purchases and 61% say they are still willing to pay a premium for fresh food.
Food as medicine leads
“Food as medicine is the biggest health trend we explored,” says Vernon-Harcourt. Around three in four consumers believe in the connection between food and preventative and therapeutic health benefits, Deloitte finds. Many also explicitly seek food as medicine benefits when they make their purchases.
The problem is that consumers are confused about how to use food as medicine, says Vernon-Harcourt. Of those asked, 62% of consumers say there is conflicting information and feel confused about the healthfulness of specific foods. Furthermore, four in 10 say they do not clearly understand which foods can be used as medicine. Over half of consumers say it is vital to receive data about food origins, safety and nutritional properties to confidently use food as medicine, Deloitte's research shows.
However, the industry is leaning into food as medicine. The opportunity is ripe to help connect the dots between food and health. Approximately half of consumers trust their grocer to make personalised fresh food recommendations and they are willing to share their health profiles and use an app to receive benefits, Vernon-Harcourt continues.
In the US, for example, Kroger's OptUP programme helps guide consumers to healthier choices. “We expect to see closer partnerships between grocers and food producers and health care providers and payers in using fresh food to keep their patients healthy,” says Vernon-Harcourt. Food prescriptions and medically tailored meals to address specific health conditions are examples of food as medicine developments.
Tipping the scales toward cost
Price rise concerns, however, are prevalent. “We do expect this to slow down somewhat as affordability becomes more important to the average consumer,” he notes.
There may be a point where we see cost concerns potentially deter consumers from focusing on health and wellness-led purchases. However, these points vary for different consumer groups.
Deloitte has seen some consumers deprioritise decision-making factors like locally grown or sustainability due to their price premiums. “At some point, that could hit health and wellness too,” adds Vernon-Harcourt.
Additives in US food products up 10% since 2001
18 Jul 2023
New research revealed that 60% of foods purchased by Americans contained technical food additives as of 2019, which was a 10% increase since 2001.Read more
Industry first: The Netherlands approves cultivated meat and seafood tastings
17 Jul 2023
The Netherlands has become the first country in Europe to approve tastings of cultivated meat and seafood in controlled environments, yet there is still a long way to go before widescale commercialisation is achieved.Read more
One-fifth of Brazilian whey protein products mislabelled
12 Jul 2023
One fifth of whey protein products sold in Brazil are mislabelled, according to one small survey, as the Latin American trade association ALANUR calls on authorities to act against brands that inappropriately advertise the nutritional attributes of the...Read more
New Nordic nutrition guidelines emphasise plant-based eating
11 Jul 2023
Nordic scientists and experts are now recommending that people should consume less meat and more plants for both their health and the health of the planet.Read more
Manufacturers await groundbreaking aspartame safety review
10 Jul 2023
The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is preparing to release its findings on whether the sweetener aspartame is a possible carcinogen.Read more
Food sector pushes unhealthy choices on consumers, new report shows
7 Jul 2023
Regulators and retailers must take action to prevent European consumers from being led to make unhealthy food choices, experts say.Read more
How to revive stagnating plant-based meat sales
6 Jul 2023
Sales of plant-based meat are stagnating, products are being withdrawn, and brands are declaring bankruptcy – but Rabobank’s RaboResearch has identified five strategies that could help revive the category, and precision fermentation could be an NPD gam...Read more
UK consumer trust in supermarkets falls to nine-year-low
5 Jul 2023
Research by UK consumer review organisation, Which?, reports decreasing levels of trust in the food industry, with two-thirds of shoppers feeling ripped off.Read more
UK retailers flout unhealthy product regulation
4 Jul 2023
UK retailers are continuing to promote unhealthy products that are high in fat, salt, and sugar (HFSS) despite recent regulation that bans such practices.Read more
Are Dutch supermarkets committed to human rights?
3 Jul 2023
Dutch supermarkets lack widespread measures to respect human rights in supply chains, research project Superlist Social's inaugural report finds.Read more