This article is the 6th in the ‘Smart Future’ series, and originally appears in the Daily Mirror Business of 18th March 2015
Globally, consumer trends towards healthy and more natural foods are beginning to offer lucrative new markets for producers. The global healthy foods market set to hit $1 trillion by 2017, according to industry forecasts. The World Consumer Rights Day 2015, marked this weekend (15th March), was on the theme of ‘Healthy Diets’, and it is interesting to look at how the heightened focus on eating healthier and ‘eating natural’ is influencing the emergence of new opportunities for products that cater to these shifting preferences.
Consumers are increasingly concerned about foods that have been treated with antibiotics or hormones, produce that has had heavy application of poisonous chemical fertilisers, pesticides and weedicides, and foods that contain artificial ingredients including numerous ‘E-number’ preservatives. There’s also a heightened consciousness around the health consequences of transfats, which are in hydrogenated vegetable oils used in many processed foods. All these have stimulated demand for healthier foods, to accompany healthier lifestyles.
A big driving force of the changes in consumer preferences around food, globally but particularly in the West, is the demographic shift that is taking place. Both the large ‘baby boomer’ cohort of the population and the growing ‘millennial’ generation are, for different reasons, undergoing a serious rethink of their health and dietary choices. The baby boomers are looking to extend their youthfulness and vigor as they age, and the millennials are keen to be smarter about what they eat and how it is grown or made.
Growing Trend, Lucrative Market
According to the ‘Global Health and Wellness Survey’ by market research firm Nielsen, half of all consumers that were surveyed around the world say they are actively trying to lose weight, and 75% of them said they plan to achieve that goal by changing their diet. Over the last two years, Nielsen found that foods that are ‘all natural’ (43%), made from fruits/vegetables (40%) and ‘organic’ (33%) were among the most favored preferences among global consumers. This presents a huge new market opportunity.
Over the last five years, the consumer segments of ‘organic beverages’, ‘organic packaged food’, and ‘naturally healthy’ each grew at over 6%. In the US alone, sales of natural, organic and ‘better-for-you’ products grew at close to 8%. Interestingly, though, this trend is seen not only in Western markets. Much of the recent growth (between 2012-2014) in the healthy food category has been driven by demand from developing countries. Over this period, demand from the Middle East grew at 20%, in Latin America at 16% and in Asia Pacific at 15%. The growing middle class in these regions, particularly in Asia, affords more and more people the space to be more ‘picky’ about their food choices.