Identifying the transatlantic consumer value of nutrition. By Per Rehné
With each passing year, we get a fuller picture of where health and nutrition fits into the context of today’s consumer lifestyle. Generally speaking, we’re cash-rich but time-poor, perhaps as a result of the over-connected and highly digitalized way we live. Like any commercial sector, health and nutrition is susceptible to trends and influences from scientific breakthroughs to evolving consumer needs that drive change and opportunity.
One of the most swiftly advancing segments in the sector is the growth in attention to gut science and perhaps nowhere is this better evidenced than in the rapidly accelerating field of prebiotics. Targeted dietary fiber, designed to engage and stimulate specific ‘good bacteria’, acting as a fertilizer in the gut, has been shown to influence the function of the digestive system. By extension, it could also influence the gut’s ability to modulate other bodily processes, such as immune function, cognition and even sleep.
At Clasado, we take a science backed and consumer-led approach to ingredient development, guiding our prebiotic dietary fiber Bimuno® through certification and applications that matter to today’s shoppers. In better understanding the demands of the global consumer, we can more accurately anticipate the future of functional foods and supplements, enabling our customers to maximize the commercial lifecycle of their products The global market
The consumer base for prebiotic supplements and functional foods is certainly switched-on. The proactive consumer drive to modulate health by focusing on the gut has seen demand surge. Consumer intelligence agency, Global Market Insights, projects the worldwide prebiotics market to be growing at a compound annual growth rate of 9.8 per cent until 20241. The same report suggests that at the current rate of technology, fermentable oligosaccharides could replace more traditional sugars to add nutritional function to an even broader spectrum of products, opening up the market further.
To understand the future of health and nutrition, we need to stay acutely aware what influences it today, particularly in the uncertainty of a post Covid environment. What starts as a habit can become a behavior, which ultimately gives the supply chain a better-rounded view of what works with the consumer, and what doesn’t.
In segmentation terms, one of the most pivotal demographics to consider is the millennial cohort. Typically defined as those born between 1980 and 2000, they are currently the largest purchasing demographic. Generation Z, born between 2001 and 2012, is closing the gap, but today millennials make up about a quarter of the world’s population and are shown to be the biggest buyers of fortified foods, including prebiotics, driving much of the demand we see.
Geographic and behavioral differences
To better understand the market, it’s vital to understand the unique segments in today’s consumer space, and the variables that influence purchase decisions and one of the key areas to note is the geographic differences. Having recently launched Bimuno to the US market, we are able to identify a number of differentiating cultural behaviors, and perhaps more significantly, trends that share transatlantic similarities.
Wellness-focused food brands in both regions are embracing the health movement that has gradually gathered momentum in recent years. Driven by the rise of more health-conscious consumers, the demand for brands and suppliers to deliver ‘health foods’ is higher than ever.
Market research specialist NPD Group reports that almost 90 per cent of consumers in the US pay close attention to their food and drink labels, and in particular the ingredient lists. Of the consumers polled, 57 per cent are actively monitoring sugar levels through labels, while 38 per cent claim to be checking sodium levels and 33 per cent for protein. In terms of actual purchasing behavior, consumers in the US are also amongst the most comfortable with omnichannel buying, be it online or in the conventional brick and mortar store.
In contrast, UK consumers are tending to take a more holistic view of nutrition, not necessarily targeting a particular nutrient. Analytics business Future Thinking polled a similar demographic of consumers and found that sugar content played a less prominent role in purchase decisions.
There are also some similarities in nutritional gaps between the US and the UK. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data shows that just five per cent of adults in the US are meeting the daily recommended intake of fiber. Similarly, the British Nutrition Foundation reports that just nine per cent of adults in the UK are getting their recommended 30g of fiber per day.
One of the core values that unites consumers in both geographies is the demand for convenience. Consumers across the globe are more closely connected to their health than ever before. With apps monitoring vital signs and ingredients lists never more than a few clicks away, brands are finding value in providing simple, effective ways to support health and wellness that doesn’t impact or disrupt their limited time.
This points towards functional foods – a category that has seen considerable growth, which appears set to continue. In creating a positive revolution in the food industry, the products empower brands and their suppliers to develop innovative food and beverage formulations to help people get more nutrients from the products they are already consuming – eliminating the disruption of standalone supplement needs.
Combined with a healthy lifestyle, functional foods offer great potential to improve health and wellbeing. What’s more, the added functionality demands higher retail prices that consumers are willing to pay for and contain larger profit margins than conventional foods for brands and manufacturers.
Health foods have come a long way in recent years and the majority of consumers today expect food and beverage manufacturers to deliver products with health and wellness functionality built in.
The industry is also continuing to globalize. To make this an effective endeavor, understanding the way consumers make decisions differently across the globe is important – but identifying the ways in which it is the same is perhaps an even better grounding for long-term product and brand development success.
As the world continues to shift and evolve, the convenience of prebiotics and functional foods is hitting the mark with consumers, pointing the way toward the future of commercial health and nutrition.
Per Rehné is CEO at Clasado Biosciences, a leading biotechnology pioneer in the development of microbiome science producing prebiotic ingredients and consumer products aimed at gastrointestinal wellness destined for the food and healthcare sectors.