Olam Cocoa research reveals UK consumption habits are changing for the healthier

24 Sep 2020

In the UK, consumers are snacking with gusto as continued lockdown measures drag on. However, instead of indulging in snacks that are better for the soul than one's health, the British are reaching for healthier options and plant-based foods, according to new research from Olam Cocoa.

While 39% of consumers said they have been snacking more frequently since COVID-19 restrictions began, a third of those (36%) noted that they have become more health-conscious about their choices. As a result of this intense focus on health, 22% of consumers claimed to have consumed more plant-based products since the start of the pandemic. That number jumps up to 37% among younger consumers between 18 and 34 years old.

Olam Cocoa research reveals UK consumption habits are changing for the healthier

Still, the survey did note that over half of the respondents (55%) were seeking out an indulgent treat to boost their mood.

This dichotomy between comfort eating and searching for health through sustenance is playing out in more countries than just the UK. In the U.S. Chocolate sales spiked 17.9% and non-chocolate rose 13.5% between March 15 and Aug. 9 of this year, according to data from the National Confectioners Association. But at the same time, plant-based food sales outpaced other categories by 35% in the four months ending April 19, according to SPINS data.

Despite the contradiction in diet, it appears that the environment has become a driving force behind food choices, indulgent or not. In the Olam Cocoa survey, the environment drove choices in snacks for 45% of consumers. A study from the consulting firm Kearney similarly found that as of this spring, 83% of consumers considered the environment when making purchases, up from 71% in 2019.

Even with concerns over individual health and the environment driving purchasing behaviors for UK residents, taste remains a barrier to adoption. Olam Cocoa’s research showed that concerns over taste, texture and limited product ranges deterred consumers from purchasing plant-based options, particularly plant-based dairy.

Although taste remains a sticking point for consumers, the plant-based market is continuing to grow. Sales of plant-based foods have grown 40% from £582 million in 2014 to an estimated £816 million in 2019, according to Mintel data. This growth trajectory is expected to continue to reach total sales of £1.1 billion by 2024.

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