Research: US consumers using food to manage medical conditions

29 Aug 2019

While it is commonly understood that good nutrition promotes general health, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of how their food and beverage choices can help them manage and, in some cases, reverse certain medical conditions, according to health and wellness research by The NPD Group.

NPD finds that about a quarter of U.S. adults are trying to manage a health or medical condition by making healthy food and beverage choices.

Research: US consumers using food to manage medical conditions

Younger adults, ages 18-24, are particularly interested in using foods to improve their health. Last year young adults chose foods and beverages with healthy profiles for 19% of their meals and in-between snacks. For example, nine% of adults say a top nutrition goal is protecting brain health and when asked about foods that promote brain health, young adults were 45% more likely to express an interest in these products compared to 35-44-year-olds, finds NPD’s Health Aspirations & Behavioral Tracking Service.

Growing interest in food as medicine is evidenced by the types of emerging superfoods. Among the emerging superfoods NPD is tracking, consumers expressed the most interest in trying the following: elderberry, which contains antioxidants and is believed to relieve colds, fight the flu, and boost the immune system; cannabidiol (CBD), which is an active ingredient in cannabis and may help treat conditions like pain, insomnia, and anxiety; and Mānuka honey, which is honey from the Mānuka flower and its perceived benefits are wound healing, soothing a sore throat, improving digestion, and more.

Also up and coming as superfoods are reishi mushrooms, an Asian mushroom that is thought to boost immune systems among other health benefits; ashwagandha herb, sometimes referred to as “Indian ginseng” is believed to act as a sedative; and microgreens, young vegetables that have an intense aromatic flavor and concentrated nutrient content.

“There are a variety of superfoods, like kale, quinoa, and acai berry, that have mainstreamed and found their way into a myriad of foods,” said Darren Seifer, NPD’s food and beverage industry analyst. “Rather than being one of many offering a superfood, understanding the trajectory of emerging superfoods helps food marketers be ahead of the curve in making calculated decisions about new product investments.”

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