Friday, June 14, 2024

Emerging Trends in the Health & Wellness Sector

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The landscape of health and wellness foods encompasses several broad classifications, including nutraceuticals, naturally healthy food and beverages, functional food, better-for-you (BFY) food, and organic food. “Within these categories, various subcategories are gaining momentum, each offering distinct nutritional benefits and catering to evolving consumer preferences.

Examples of such subcategories include multigrain and oats biscuits, energy bars, multigrain atta, high-fiber breakfast cereals, wheat and oats noodles, sugar alternatives, alternative dairy products, green tea, and healthy juices,” points out  Saibal  Banerjee, Sr Vice President – Merchandising, Wellness Forever.

He adds that these products are witnessing increased consumer interest and demonstrating significant growth potential, driven by a combination of factors such as heightened health consciousness and the pursuit of premium quality. “Consequently, brands operating within these segments are leveraging the perceived value of health and wellness attributes to command premium pricing and capitalize on the growing demand for nutritious and wholesome food options.”

Banerjee notes that the concept of “functional foods” is gaining traction as people look for products that offer specific health benefits going beyond basic nutrition. Functional foods are designed to improve overall health, boost immunity, and address specific health concerns. “Consumers are increasingly gravitating towards foods fortified with probiotics, prebiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants, among other functional ingredients. Gut health has become a priority. The global pandemic heightened the focus on maintaining a robust immune system. Consumers are now seeking foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to support their immune health,” says Banerjee.

According to Hari  Goyal, Business Development Advisor, Otipy,  consumers are gravitating towards healthier options within the fruits and vegetable categories, particularly organic and exotic varieties. This shift is evidenced by the heightened consumption of nutrient-rich vegetables like broccoli, lettuce, bok choy, and celery, alongside a preference for fruits such as avocado, dragon fruit, longan, kiwi, and tender coconut. “Remarkably, sales of these fruits and vegetables have seen a twofold increase over the past year, with subscriptions for tender coconut experiencing a manifold rise on online platforms since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic,” points out Goyal.

His assertions are backed by Mintel research that says vegetables, fruits, and proteins are the top ingredients of interest in functional foods. “Not only are these ingredients familiar to consumers, but they also have an inherent health halo around them. This makes them the most suitable candidates to incorporate into foods with health benefits. Working women are gravitating towards vegetables and fruits, while metro dwellers are showing keen interest in proteins.  Furthermore, millet and ayurvedic herbs are emerging ingredients of interest,” says Dr Anamika Banerji, Food and Drink Analyst, Mintel Reports India.

In fact, in the backdrop of the pandemic, which triggered a heightened emphasis on holistic well-being, over a quarter of Indians say they intend to spend more on food and drink products with such ingredients. “For instance, 34% of consumers, particularly the financially healthy segment and those living in West India, are keen on functional foods with ayurvedic herbs,” finds Mintel research.

Nutraceuticals, too, are emerging as a focal point of importance. This category encompasses a range of products designed to bolster immunity and ward off illnesses, as well as those aimed at optimizing bodily functions. “Recognizing the pivotal role of nutrition in mitigating lifestyle related disorders, there has been a notable surge in the popularity of nutraceuticals, driven by their demonstrated therapeutic efficacy. Broadly classified as dietary supplements and functional foods, nutraceuticals offer a diverse array of options to address various health concerns and support overall wellness,” says Banerjee.

At the same time, the rising consumer demand for health and wellness products that are organic, labeled with clarity, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly has manifested in a pronounced preference for offerings that prioritize environmental consciousness and transparent labeling practices.

Mintel research shows that 52% of Indian consumers expect a brand offering healthy food/drink to provide healthy ingredients, and 46% are keen on ingredient transparency.

According to Nielsen’s Global Health and Ingredient-Sentiment Survey, 64% of respondents prefer clean label foods. “Modern consumers are becoming more conscious of what goes into their food. They are increasingly seeking out products with ‘clean labels,’ which means foods made with simple, recognizable, and natural ingredients. It’s a key reason for the increasing popularity of plant-based diets,” states Banerjee.

In the contemporary marketplace, sustainability has become a pivotal factor influencing consumer decision-making processes. Brands that prioritize eco-friendly practices, particularly in packaging, are increasingly resonating with consumers. According to a survey conducted by CGS, a significant 68% of consumers express a willingness to invest more in products featuring sustainable packaging.

“The landscape of healthy food consumption is undergoing rapid transformation as consumers actively pursue choices that resonate with their individual health objectives, ethical convictions, and environmental awareness. This consumer behavior is supported by empirical data, which underscores the prominence of key trends such as plant-based diets, clean label foods, functional

foods, online grocery shopping, immune-boosting options, and sustainable practices. These trends are collectively shaping the future trajectory of the healthy food industry,” says Banerjee.

Furthermore, consumers are extending their core values and preferences towards brand values and practices embraced by manufacturers and parent companies. “As such, brands that align with sustainability principles and demonstrate a commitment to ethical and environmentally conscious practices are likely to enjoy heightened consumer trust and loyalty in the evolving marketplace,” asserts Banerjee.

As demand for H&W foods surges, the consumption basket has widened to include superfood-based packaged snacks, juices, and nutrition bars to energy drinks, sports nutrition beverages, plant-based dairy-free alternatives, protein-enriched foods, nuts such as almonds and cashews, and offerings catering to vegan and gluten-free dietary preferences.

“This heightened consumer interest in health-conscious options is underscored by the growing popularity of superfood based packaged foods and beverages, which feature organic ingredients known for their nutritional attributes,” notes Goyal. Elaborating further, he says that these products often incorporate a rich array of superfoods such as blueberry, cranberry, chia, sesame, hemp, and avocado, recognized for their high levels of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. The utilization of these organic ingredients not only enhances the nutritional profile of the products but also aligns with consumer preferences for natural, minimally processed offerings.

There are various other products that contribute to health improvement and are exhibiting remarkable patterns of consumption and expansion. “These include fiber-rich millet flours, a diverse range of multi-grain products such as flours, breads, and buns, as well as millet-based offerings. Additionally, there is an increasing demand for dry fruits, including fox nuts (makhana), almonds, walnuts, berries, and an assortment of healthy seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower, watermelon, and chia seeds,” observes Goyal.

As consumers become increasingly discerning about the nutritional content and sourcing of their food and beverage selections, products incorporating superfoods and organic ingredients stand poised to capture a significant share of the market, catering to the evolving needs and preferences of health-conscious consumers.

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