What are the drivers behind the current consumer demand for healthy and immunity-boosting products?
“Across all age groups, from Gen Z to Boomers, consumers have told Innova that health should be the most important driver of new product development. We have also seen our survey respondents state – in large numbers – that they believe it is never too soon to take steps towards healthy aging and holistic wellbeing. Factor in the pandemic, when people started to take greater responsibility for their own health needs, and you have a huge demand for products that can be shown to have positive benefits.
“This has translated to purchases. One in three consumers globally say they've recently bought food and beverages to boost immunity. Even more are seeking out food that positively affects their wider health; not just reducing the things perceived as being bad for you. And over half check the ingredients on functional foods, which displays a deeper understanding of what ‘healthy’ means, a desire for more knowledge, and a need to see evidence.”
How has this consumer demand on health and nutrition evolved since the pandemic?
“Last year, Innova asked consumers what aspects they have engaged in most to live healthily over the previous 12 months. At 45%, the biggest response was eating a healthy, nutritious diet. For many, this focus on food and the benefits they now seek has a direct line back to the concerns that grew during the pandemic. People want to protect their immune systems and many are seeking to boost their mental health. There is also wider awareness of and interest in the benefits of supplements.”
What product-categories are proving popular?
“Categories seeing the biggest share of innovation in functional food and beverages are baby and toddler, sports nutrition and dairy. We also see more beverage consumers seeking out drinks with a purpose beyond tasting good and quenching thirst.
“However, the influence of health and wellness trends are crossing many categories and answering a range of demands. It's not just major health concerns like immunity that are being addressed, but areas such as mood and sleep. Products that improve gut health are also seen as having a major contribution to overall wellbeing.”
What about in terms of ingredients?
“In terms of ingredients, consumers associate freshness and naturalness with healthiness. So, fruits, vegetables, nuts, all are viewed positively. High protein, low or no additives and vitamin-rich ingredients catch the consumer eye.”
What continue to be some of the challenges to successfully tapping these opportunities?
“Supply issues are a factor, even more so due to the war in Ukraine, but price is a major consideration during economically volatile times. The cost-of-living crisis has hit globally and across income groups, with consumers really noticing the effects of price inflation and product shrinkflation. Almost half the respondents to Innova's latest global survey said it was hard to eat healthily when nutritious foods are less affordable.”
What key messages do you hope to communicate in your presentation?
“One message would be that the key consumer demands of health, cost, quantifiable benefits and trusted claims majorly impact every market. People expect health to be the number one consideration in product innovation. They then want to trust claims linked to those products and they'll turn to clean, clear messaging and trusted certifications for reassurance. Most consumers (71%) tell us they are seeking simple, affordable nutritional solutions.”
How do you see demand related to functional foods evolving in the near future?
“A number of Innova's Top Ten Trends for 2023 speak to the future direction for functional foods. Redefining Value looks at where consumers draw the line on compromise, while Affordable Nutrition highlights the financial and emotional value consumers place on healthy eating. Our number nine trend, Unpuzzle Health, reveals the importance of simple, trusted communication. The demand for healthy, functional food and beverages will remain high so brands need to win trust in their products and give evidence of their benefits.”
Nicole is delivering a presentation at the Vitafoods Insights Theatre entitled ‘Innovation, trends and consumer expectations in functional foods.’ She holds a master’s degree in food quality management, and leads the insights & innovation team at Innova Market Insights.