How to create a food product that delivers holistic health benefits11 Nov 2022
As interest in holistic health grows, consumers are looking for food and drink products that help them feel good, both physically and emotionally – but what does such a product look like? Mike Hughes, head of research at FMCG Gurus, shares some insights.
According to FMCG Gurus’ data, consumers remain committed to leading a healthier diet and lifestyle and are actively researching how to maximize their wellness. What’s more, they recognise the interlinked nature of different areas of health, said the market insights company, and this means brands should not treat them in isolation.
“For instance, consumers recognise the link between the digestive system, immune system, and other areas of health – a trend that will intensify as more becomes known about the gut microbiome. They recognise that poor sleep hygiene doesn’t just impact mood and energy levels but increases the risk of vulnerability to disease and illness. They also link good skin health and inner wellness for instance,” said Hughes. “As such, consumers will continue to focus on taking a proactive approach and looking to improve their overall health and wellness, as opposed to concentrating purely on one area of health.”
In 2023, FMCG Gurus also expects to see greater emphasis placed on emotional wellness, with people looking to address mental health, mood, and striving for happiness.
“Indeed, consumers feel that they have been living in an era of uncertainty for some time now,” said Hughes. “First, it was Covid-19, and now a cost-of-living crisis, without mentioning the current worry of nuclear war being a daily topic in the news. As a result, many people feel stressed, anxious, unable to relax, and suffering from fatigue and poor sleep hygiene.
“Consumers want to feel happier, meaning they are trying to step back from daily pressures, reprioritise what is important to them, and look to improve their emotional wellness because of the immediate and long-term benefits.”
Multifunctional products can deliver holistic health benefits
But what does this mean for food manufacturers, and is it possible to create a food product that delivers on a desire for holistic wellbeing?
According to FMCG Gurus, brands can do this by formulating products that have multifunctional health claims. Most people do not have the time to seek out specific products for specific health issues, particularly if they are taking a preventative approach and are not currently suffering from related symptom. Multifunctional products are therefore a tool to improve overall wellness – and this aligns with the desire for holistic health.
Calcium, for instance, enjoys several approved health claims in the European Union. Brands that add calcium to a product in a sufficient amount can claim that the mineral contributes to the normal functioning of muscles and neurotransmission, digestive enzymes, teeth and bone maintenance, and energy-yielding metabolism.
Nevertheless, there is something of a balancing act for brands to navigate, Hughes warned. Too many sensationalist health and wellness claims may leave consumers feeling sceptical, with the impression that manufacturers are trying to “capitalise desperation for instant health solutions”, he said.
In order to address this, manufacturers should use ingredients that have an approved health claim or have robust evidence underpinning the ingredient.
Be mindful of the attitude/behaviour gap
Despite all the talk of holistic health and wellness – and its reported importance for consumers in the food they eat – people continue to buy ‘indulgence’ products and levels of obesity and type-2 diabetes continue to rise. Does this indicate the food industry is simply failing to provide the healthy, nutritious food that people want?
According to Hughes, it is crucial to remember the attitude/behaviour gap when evaluating the health and wellness market.
“Consumer actions may not always mirror the sentiment expressed toward improving their wellness,” he said. “Barriers to leading a healthy lifestyle exist and will continue to exist, even in an era when people take a more proactive approach to health. One of the main challenges is that improving diets can still be associated with compromise and sacrifice.”
The dilemma is that people may believe that better-for-you products are lacking in taste and so, when they want to eat or drink something in a moment of escapism, they tend to pay little-to-no attention to nutritional intake.
In the current stressful context of inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, which is likely to continue in 2023, this will be “especially relevant”, said Hughes.
“While the industry will never fully eradicate this challenge, it needs to continue to focus on ingredients in product categories associated with indulgence, promoting the message that products are free-from bad ingredients, high in good ingredients, and not compromising on taste.”
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