Gut support salad? Brain function soup? What the increasingly ‘sophisticated’ consumer wants from food and drink

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

No longer is branding a product 'healthy', enough, according to Tastewise's Alon Chen. GettyImages/Tara Moore
No longer is branding a product 'healthy', enough, according to Tastewise's Alon Chen. GettyImages/Tara Moore

Related tags: Gut health, Tastewise, immunity

In a near-post pandemic world, consumers want more than ‘healthy’ food. From ‘gut health-supporting’ to ‘immunity-boosting’, terminology must catch up, argues CEO and co-founder of Tastewise Alon Chen.

More than two years have passed since the coronavirus pandemic first spread to Europe. While some countries are relaxing COVID restrictions and working to navigate a ‘new normal’, the world – and its consumers – are changed.

Shoppers are reacting with ‘sophisticated specificity’, according to CEO and co-founder of food intelligence platform Tastewise. No longer is branding a product ‘healthy’, enough, he argued at the FoodNavigator Positive Nutrition broadcast series​.

“Consumer needs and motivations regarding what they consume have become more specific. ‘Health’ is no longer a motivation, but ‘stress relief’ and ‘ethical eating’ are,” ​he explained,

“There needs to be a more granular approach for consumer research, it’s no longer enough to say ‘healthy’ – you need to call our ‘immunity’, ‘depression’, or ‘sleep health’.”

Spotlight on functionality

Israeli food tech start-up Tastewise analyses social media posts, photos, restaurant menus, reviews, and recipes to provide information on current industry insights, predictions, and emerging food trends.

In so doing, Chen has observed some dramatic differences in consumer motivations pre-pandemic to now. According to Tastewise analyses, 30% more consumers are seeking functional benefits today than they were in late 2019.

“Food is more than just nutrition anymore, or general health. It’s specific to each consumer, for example eating elderberry for immunity, or kiwi for weight loss, or melon for sleep support,” ​he told delegates. “Consumers have evolved, and there are more functions to food than ever.”

monk fruit ThamKC
Ingredients such as date syrup and monk fruit have risen in popularity, and consumers looks to reduce their sugar and refined sugar intake. GettyImages/ThamKC

So which functions are consumers most interested in? Tastewise data suggests interest in sleep is up +61%, brain function is up +35%, and immunity, up an impressive +128%.

Other consumer trends across the health and nutrition landscape include ‘refined-sugar free’, which is up 14%, ‘low sugar, which is up 23%, and ‘salt free’ – up 29%. “Consumers are increasingly looking to reduce the sugar and salt content in their food, and natural alternatives such as [non-centrifugal cane sugar] jaggery, date syrup and monk fruit have boomed,” ​we were told.

Specificity is key

While ‘brain function’ and ‘immunity’ is up, interest in ‘healthiness’ as a broad term is on the decline in consumer conversations. Year-on-year, discussions of ‘healthy’ food and beverage have dropped by -20%.

For Tastewise’s Chen, this indicates that consumers are increasingly interested in targeting specific health benefits, rather than addressing ‘health’ as a general claim. “Before it was enough to say it was ‘healthy’,” ​he explained. “Now, consumers want to know why and how.”

salad Morsa Images
A 'gut support' salad may appeal to consumers looking interested in functional foods. GettyImages/Morsa Images

An analysis of restaurant menus, on the other hand, suggests an increasing number are leaning on generic ‘health’ terminology. Tastewise sees an opportunity for restaurants to appeal more specifically to consumer demands.

“This indicates there is room for improvement, to meet what consumers actually want – it’s the difference between advertising a ‘healthy salad’ or a ‘gut support salad’.”

The Tastewise CEO also pointed to up-and-coming ‘niche’ health claims in food and beverage discussions that observes are on the rise. ‘Gut health’, for example, is up 4% year-on-year, ‘medicinal’ is up 6%, both ‘blood sugar’ and ‘brain function’ are up 3%. ‘Anti-bloat’ and ‘sleep improvement’ are up 10% and 9% respectively.

To watch Alon Chen’s full presentation, or if you missed any of the FoodNavigator’s Positive Nutrition broadcast series, you can still access all of our sessions and handouts on-demand for the next 90 days. Click here to REGISTER FOR FREE​.

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