A study from the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), together with Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Nielsen Global Connect, flagged health as an important business priority – and a significant opportunity for CPG manufacturers.
The report, How the Consumer Industry Can Boost Healthier Eating, was based on interviews with 15 global CEOs in the retail and CPG space, alongside a survey of 7,000 consumers from seven countries (China, France, Mexico, Turkey, the UK and the US).
Almost all consumers - 97% - reported that their health is important to them but, when it comes to diet, 23% of all respondents said that they were struggling to achieve a healthy, balanced approach to nutrition.
The higher price of healthy food was cited as a key hurdle to healthier diets, with 80% citing price as an issue.
Formulation and flavour presents another problem, with 43% suggesting that healthier food ‘does not taste as good’ and 32% complaining that healthy options are not satiating.
Education and awareness also appears to be a factor: 36% cited uncertainty about which foods were healthier as an issue.
Access to healthy foods, on the other hand, was not a barrier for the majority of consumers with 73% reporting that healthy foods are ‘widely available and accessible’.
‘A moral and business imperative’
Consumers worldwide demonstrate ‘steadily growing concerns’ about their nutrition, from the higher price commanded by healthy options to a ‘lack of understanding’ about what makes up a healthy diet.
The business leaders interviewed in the report, which is part of the CGF’s Collaboration for Healthier Lives Coalition, demonstrated an awareness of these problems and suggested that addressing them is a ‘moral and business imperative’.
The CEOs questioned shared a ‘common view’ that society needs to take rapid action to combat issues ranging from malnutrition to obesity and other diet-related non-communicable diseases. The need for a collective approach – reflected in the Healthy Lives initiative – was an opinion repeatedly echoed.
“I believe that business can be a force for good, including by supporting better nutrition. We, manufacturers and retailers, aim to make a positive difference in people’s lives, serving our communities responsibly and protecting the environment. The Collaboration for Healthier Lives is our platform to help achieve sustainable healthy diets and lifestyles for all,” said Mark Schneider, CEO of Nestlé.
The global scale of the problem means that it cannot be addressed by one company alone, Danone chief executive Emmanuel Faber noted. “We believe that by acting together, we can drive the systemic change that we need and scale efforts to affect healthy eating globally. No company can face these global issues alone. Collaboration has never been so meaningful.”
There is also a growing expectation that pressure to act from consumers and regulators is going to increase.
The CEO of a European food retailer noted: “When you are called to account in this domain, you have either done the work, or find yourself on the back foot responding. Where issues have arisen, we have chosen to be on the front foot.”
In terms of the business case for action, BCG’s research suggests that investors reward the top performers in specific environmental, societal, and governance topics with valuation multiples that are 3% to 19% higher than those of median performers in those topics.
Meanwhile, the report stressed the market potential for those that deliver healthier foods: 73% of consumers said they would pay more for healthier products in any industry, and 85% said they would shop more often at a retailer that is actively promoting healthy solutions.
The report added: “Some questions remain around how to deliver on the economic potential, and some of our respondents did not see an immediate business case at the time of our survey. Nonetheless, the bulk of our CEO interviewees wanted to act because, while the short-term business benefits may vary by market and company, they felt it was in the long-term economic interests of their enterprises to tackle this societal issue.”
“Consumers have become increasingly interested in health and wellness in recent years, yet a myriad of hurdles often get in the way of intention matching action," said Olivier Lamare, Retail Leader, Nielsen. “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shift consumer habits toward the price- and health-conscious, retailers and manufacturers have an opportunity to win on transparency, price and taste–and help fuel healthier lifestyles.”