The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way consumers eat and shop for health. New findings from a global consumer study conducted by Health Focus International with Arla Foods Ingredients identified multiple changes worth tracking.
Healthy indulgence and ‘mood food’
Globally, 14% of people now look for foods that can help improve or enhance their mood—compared to 5% in 2014—while 13% said they now seek out foods which might help reduce feelings of stress. Consumers have long been seeking products with a natural, healthy or wholesome positioning, and this trend has accelerated during the pandemic.
There is also increasing demand for organic products, which are strongly associated with health and naturality. Arla Foods Ingredients has focused on this growth area with the launch of its first organic product, MicelPure (TM), in 2020. Moving through the end of 2021 and into 2022, the team will help manufacturers extend their portfolios with products that are both organic and packed with high-quality protein.
Online grocery shopping and food delivery is a global phenomenon. Globally, buying groceries online is up by 38%, with big increases in markets such as Brazil (up 64%) and China (up 61%).
As a result of the growth of e-commerce, companies have had to be more innovative in their sales and marketing strategies. In the performance nutrition space, for example, consumers are still spending, but in different ways. Purchases of sports nutrition products in gyms and stores are down but consumers have had more opportunity to shop online. Many brands have therefore seen lower sales in retail settings, but higher figures online.
The proportion of people globally opting for foods and beverages that provide protective, preventive health benefits—the idea of ‘kitchen medicine’—grew to 17% by October 2020, up from 12% at the start of the year, while those choosing products for specific medicinal purposes grew from 9% to 12% over the same period. The number of people taking vitamins, minerals and supplements (once a week or more) for general health also grew, from 45% to 62%. The study also shows that consumers are willing to pay up to 10% more for foods and beverages which provide immunity benefits.
It’s worth remembering that the focus on ingredients offering immune support was a growing trend even before COVID-19; between 2015 and 2019 the global immunity market grew at a CAGR of +7%.1
Expect to see continuing demand for ingredients that combine immune system support with other benefits. Whey proteins, for example, are well known for their role in athletic performance but are also rich in the amino acid cysteine, which naturally boosts levels of the antioxidant glutathione.
Consumers are increasingly seeing a connection between their personal health and sustainability, with 52% saying they would pay up to 10% more for food and beverages that are healthy both for themselves and for the environment.
Sustainability is part of the DNA at Arla Foods Ingredients, from the company’s foundation as part of a circular economy by converting whey, which used to be considered waste, into high-value food and nutrition products. The company has achieved C02 savings of around 60,000 tonnes a year by using energy from biogas, and hasinvested in dry blend lactose production capacity, helping infant formula manufacturers cut their emissions by as much as 25%.
Such initiatives are part of Green Ambition 2050, the sustainability strategy of our parent company Arla Foods amba, which aims to become carbon net-zero by 2050.
In summary, the survey shows that the pandemic has accelerated and intensified trends that were already underway, making it likely that these trends will last well beyond the duration of the pandemic.
* COVID-19 data was collected by health and nutrition research company Health Focus International in October 2020 with approximately 500 respondents per country. The study covered the following markets: USA, Brazil, China, UK, Spain and Germany.
1 Brick Meets Click ‘Online Grocery: New Consumer Research press release’ 26 March, 2020