Catering to consumers' healthy appetites
Health is rarely out of the headlines, with recent government interventions aimed at nudging consumers into healthier behaviours. In recent years we have seen products which are explicitly marketed as healthy become more mainstream - for example, low calorie ice cream, dairy-free yoghurts and milk, and various vegan lines. That brands and manufacturers are looking to innovate in this area is not surprising, given that 73% of us claim we are trying to lead a healthy lifestyle. Health now drives a third of our in-home food choices and accounts for over £20bn of spend.
Food and drink choices made for health-related reasons are up 10% on four years ago. This translates to a whopping 6 billion additional servings that were chosen for health over that time. However, over the last year we have seen the health trend begin to plateau after four years of consecutive growth. As a result, we consumed almost 700m fewer “healthy” servings compared to the previous year (-1%). This mirrors the trend following the 2008 recession; as consumers try and cut costs in response to uncertain economic conditions, health becomes less of a priority. In times like these, there is still room for small, affordable luxuries and snacking is on the rise– an inherently less healthy moment - on 534 million more occasions compared to last year.
The benefits balance
The recent decline in healthy choices has been driven by ‘benefits-led health’ - rather than ‘managed health’ which is centred around calorie control and lighter, less filling options. This is in stark contrast to a couple of years ago, when benefits-led health was the key area of growth. Currently, we see managed health needs growing year on year. This reflects the pressure from government on manufacturers, in the form of taxes and voluntary targets, and consumers, in behaviour change campaigns like Change 4 Life. To what extent this is a consumer-driven trend remains to be seen, once consumer confidence returns the pendulum may swing towards benefit-led health yet again.
Consumer attitudes to health, and the impact these have on food and drink choices is constantly evolving, and will continue to set the agenda going forward. Retailers and manufacturers must stay on top of trends to ensure they stay relevant with consumers during the potentially turbulent months and years to come.