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Top 10 Global Consumer Health and Wellness Trends for 2014

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In 2014, the global health and wellness market will continue to be driven by demand for natural products, with consumers becoming increasingly sophisticated in their expectations. Not only do they want less of the “bad” stuff (and this now includes gluten, lactose etc), but they also want more of the good, such as protein, veggie and functional properties. Emerging economies, characterised by poverty and wealth co-existing side by side, are driving global health and wellness growth, and, sadly, the challenging economic conditions mean that food fraud has crept into the spectrum of First World consumer concerns.

Top 10 Global Consumer Health and Wellness Trends for 2014
1. Protein rules
2. Enhanced natural merging with free from
3. Meat reduction is the word
4. More veggies please!
5. Sugar reduction – by stealth in food but openly in beverages
6. Emerging markets drive global health and wellness growth
7. Cold pressed juice is the new premium
8. Probiotics are conquering the southern hemisphere
9. Wholegrain controversy
10. Health and wellness products under suspicion of fraud

Source: Euromonitor International

1. Protein rules

Without a shred of doubt, the protein trend is dominating 2014. The boom may have started with Greek yoghurt in the US, but now the high protein badge graces tubs and packets in virtually every packaged food and beverage category, swiftly expanding its geographical spread.

What we will see throughout this year is an increased protein emphasis in breakfast foods as well as snacking. Breakfast foods, and especially cereal-based breakfasts such as toast and jam, croissants and, of course, breakfast cereals, are notoriously low in protein. Standard cornflakes, for instance, provide less than 3g of protein per serving. The addition of milk doubles this quantity, but it still fails to turn a traditional bowl of cereal into a high-protein breakfast.

Chips/crisps, like all purely potato-based products, are also very low in protein, and this is the largest sweet and savoury snacks category, accounting for 23% of the wider category’s global value in 2013. Nuts, in comparison, which are naturally high in protein, claimed just 13%. However, nuts were also the most dynamic type of sweet and savoury snack in 2013, posting global value growth of 9%, double that of chips/crisps.

Another development we are likely to see on the back of this is the proliferation of legume-based snacks. Roasted chickpea (garbanzo bean) snacks, offered for example by US-based snack maker The Good Bean, are a perfect example. The company points out that its chickpea-based snacks, which come in a variety of flavours, including Smoky Chili and Sweet Cinnamon, contain as much protein as almonds, while being low in fat and carbs. Roasted chickpeas, which are tasty, nutritious and affordable, are a popular snack in India, and served as the inspiration for this product range.

The appearance of protein combination products is also going to be a hallmark of 2014. Kraft has just launched a snack product under its Oscar Mayer brand called P3, which stands for “Portable Protein Pack”. The pack features three compartments filled with meat, peanuts and cheese.

2. Enhanced natural merging with free from

Consumer demand for ‘natural’ products shows no sign of abating, and the clean label trend remains in full swing. Zapping suspect “artificial” additives is still not enough, however. What we have been observing is that, besides hankering after ‘natural’ products, consumers also want functionality, demanding what may be termed “enhanced natural” offerings. The aforementioned high protein trend is a clear manifestation of this.

Furthermore, consumer expectations that a natural, clean label product should also confer some sort of functionality do not stop there. To many, a truly healthy food or beverage should be free from substances such as gluten, dairy, wheat, soy etc. This is further fuelling the ‘free from’ trend, which is not entirely separate from the ‘natural’ trend at all – a significant overlap exists.

Our data show that over the review period gluten-free food topped the global health and wellness product growth charts ahead of fortified/functional. In the US, value sales rocketed by 110%. Lactose-free food performed particularly well in Australasia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa and Latin America.

Life for ingredients manufacturers is not about to get any easier. Finding acceptable substitutes for gluten, lactose and other such widespread food components which convey essential properties during the production process as well as the palatability of the finished product is all but easy to achieve. But, in a world where value erodes increasingly quickly, thanks to private label and me-too products shrinking the window of competitive advantage, food industry players cannot take their eyes off evolving consumer preferences.

3. Meat reduction is the word

In highly developed consumer markets, the drive towards meat reduction, rather than a switch to outright vegetarianism, is already in evidence. This trend, also popularly referred to as “flexitarianism”, is being driven by four key concerns - health and wellness, animal welfare, environmental issues and tight finances.

Our fresh food data show that over the 2008-2013 review period fresh meat volumes declined by 2% in North America and remained stagnant in Western Europe. In the latter region, frozen meat substitute value sales rose by 7% in 2013, and in Germany by as much as 23%. Earlier this year, the Belgian Superior Health Council, a scientific advisory body to the Belgian government, recommended that no more than 500g of fresh red meat should be consumed in a week per person in order to ward off illnesses like colorectal cancer. Official guidelines advocating the moderation of meat consumption may soon proliferate across the globe.

Consumers are more highly conscious of their protein intake than ever and so eating less meat and maintaining or even upping protein can present quite a challenge. For this reason, 2014 is going to see a boom of foods and beverages marketed as high in vegetarian protein, and across all categories. Meat substitutes also stand to gain a new lease of life, particularly products that conform to up-to-date consumer preferences, including lactose-, gluten- and wheat-free offerings.

4. More veggies please!

Getting one’s five (or six, seven or nine, depending on the country of residence) a day is no easy feat, especially where vegetables are concerned. Fruit is comparatively easy as it mostly already comes ready to eat, and the ubiquitous chilled packs of chopped up mangoes, melons, pineapple, etc, are a boon for consumers wanting to save time on tedious tasks like peeling and de-coring. Dried fruit snacks, 100% fruit smoothies and tubes filled with fruit purée that can be eaten on the go are another convenient way to cram one or two extra fruit portions into a busy day.

Vegetables are much trickier. Besides tending to need more preparation than fruit, consumption occasions are more limited because they are not a common breakfast food, nor do they make for a popular dessert choice.

The industry has recently started to tackle this problem in creative ways. For instance, we now have veggie bread. Country Harvest Veggie bread, introduced in Canada last year by George Weston, the country’s leading bread manufacturer, boasts one full serving of vegetables per slice. There are three varieties - Green Pepper and Spinach, Carrot Celery and Leek and Tomato, Red Pepper and Zucchini.

London-based sandwich company Plan Bread is currently bent on re-conquering the UK capital’s lunchtime sandwich market by homing in on today’s top health and wellness concerns. The flour for its sandwich bread is made entirely from dried broccoli florets, plus some added fibre. In terms of nutritional properties, broccoli bread has pretty much everything that today’s discerning health and wellness consumer could possibly ask for - it has 70% fewer calories than standard bread, has less than a 2% carbohydrate content, a low glycaemic index (GI), is wheat-free, gluten-free, yeast-free, soy-free and high in fibre.

Blue Hill Inc, a New England (US)-based dairy company, meanwhile, has been working on bringing about the next dairy revolution - savoury yoghurt. In the final quarter of 2013, the company launched a range of vegetable yoghurts under its eponymous brand. Currently, there are six flavour varieties - Carrot, Sweet Potato, Beet, Butternut Squash, Tomato and Parsnip. The company uses vegetable purée in its yoghurts, which accounts for around one third of the product.

There is certainly plenty of untapped demand for more vegetable products, and consumers are sure to welcome any convenient and tasty offerings the industry can come up with in 2014 and beyond.

5. Sugar reduction – by stealth in food but openly in beverages

The war on sugar continues. In January 2014, the global campaign Action on Sugar was launched in a bid to reduce the average consumer’s sugar intake through calling on food manufacturers to reduce the sugar content of food and drink products by 30%, primarily through stealth.

Sugar has long been under attack due to its link with obesity, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and its detrimental impact on oral health across all ages. Euromonitor International’s Countries & Consumers data show that globally diabetes affected 660 million people in 2012, with the problem not restricted to developed markets. “Bad Western diets” are increasingly being adopted in emerging economies, driving the prevalence of obesity and diabetes in those markets too.

The stealth approach is favoured by manufacturers as many consumers will remain blissfully unaware that their favourite food and drink products have been altered and they will continue to buy them without being suspicious of their taste or texture having deteriorated in any way.

While stealth is an option for reduced-sugar beverages – Fanta, for example, has been successfully reformulated by stealth - they will fare better than packaged foods if marketed as low/reduced-sugar. Consumers readily turn to low-calorie alternatives, particularly as ‘natural’ sugar replacers such as stevia are increasingly being used by leading manufacturers and smaller players alike. The category is set to record absolute growth of US$4.8 billion over 2013-2018.

6. Emerging markets drive global health and wellness growth

Our data show that the top 23 leading health and wellness growth markets are (with the exception of Hong Kong) emerging economies, and this is where the global engine of growth will continue to chug away most enthusiastically in 2014. In soft drinks alone, emerging markets are expected to generate US$95 billion of new sales between 2013 and 2018, whilst developed markets will only grow by US$5 billion.

Needless to say, most of these markets are still fairly small and so these extraordinarily dynamic growth rates come from low base sales. Developing countries are increasingly facing the same challenges as First World countries where non-communicable diseases like diabetes and obesity-related conditions are concerned. According to our Countries & Consumers data, in Vietnam, for example, which features as the third-ranking growth market, obesity in the population aged 15+ rocketed by 92% over the 2008-2013 period, while in China and India it rose by 57% and 37%, respectively.

Owing to a multitude of factors resulting from rapid social and economic change, extremes of malnutrition and obesity exist side by side in emerging markets. This puts a firm focus on affordable maternal and child nutrition, as well as weight management and diabetes products.

7. Cold pressed juice is the new premium

The rising interest in cold pressed juices is yet another branch of sophistication sprouting from the broad and all-pervasive natural trend. Consumers have cottoned on to the fact that just because a bottle or carton is labelled “100% juice”, it may not be what many would consider a “natural” product. Juice made from concentrate, for example, has undergone a fair amount of processing, and certain additives such as citric acid and flavourings are also permitted in the reconstituted product.

“Not from concentrate” is really only the most basic of requirements for consumers looking for healthy juices, but for staunch health food proponents, “raw” constitutes the ultimate in healthiness. Most vitamins and phytochemicals are heat-sensitive, and naturally occurring enzymes, which many healthy living proponents claim are highly beneficial to health, are destroyed by heating (this includes flash pasteurisation).

Truly raw juices have a shelf life of just three days, and so this is simply not an option for packaged products intended for standard grocery retail or foodservice distribution.

Big premium brands like Odwalla and Naked (PepsiCo) employ pasteurisation to ensure the safety of their products, but manufacturers at the super-premium end have started to eschew heat treatment. Instead, they are opting for high pressure processing (HPP), also sometimes referred to as high pressure pascalisation, which kills microbes through the application of pressure to the liquid. Juices produced in this manner are then marketed as “cold pressed”.

Californian-based Suja Life LLC, founded in 2012, employs HPP to produce its Suja Juice brand. In Forbes’ America’s Most Promising Companies list, published in January 2014, the company occupies a coveted third position. Coffee giant Starbucks acquired Evolution Fresh, another up-and-coming HPP juice maker, in 2011, and has recently made a major investment to quadruple production. Hain Celestial Group, a major player in the organic and natural foods and beverages realm in the US as well as internationally, added cold pressed Blueprint Juice to its portfolio in December 2012.

Being “gently pasteurised”, a claim still employed by many, including premium UK-based juice maker Innocent (GBO Coca-Cola), no longer cuts the mustard in convincing consumers that a juice is as healthy and natural as it can possibly be. HPP technology is the way to go, and with consumers driving this trend, the industry has little choice but to give shoppers what they want - cold pressed juice.

8. Probiotics are conquering the southern hemisphere

Probiotics have so far been infamously unable to secure any kind of officially sanctioned health claim in the EU, other than “live cultures in yoghurt or fermented milk improve lactose digestion of the product in individuals who have difficulty digesting lactose”. In 2013, value sales of pro/pre biotic yoghurt declined by just over 1% in Western Europe, maintaining their recent downward trajectory. Eastern Europe managed 4% growth, which is quite respectable, but not exactly buoyant.

However, probiotics remain the main digestive health ingredient outside the EU, and pro/pre biotic yoghurt is booming in other geographies. In Asia Pacific and North America, value growth hovered around the not-too-shabby 10% mark, while the most dynamic performance was to be found towards the southern half of the globe, with the Middle East and Africa and Australasia surging by 16%, and Latin America by 17%.

Growing consumer awareness of digestive wellbeing and the rising popularity and distribution of dairy products in emerging markets are set to fuel pro/pre biotic yoghurt sales in 2014. This is good news for dairy and ingredients manufacturers which may be struggling to grow their revenues in more saturated markets where the regulatory environment may not be the most hospitable.

9. Wholegrain controversy

Last year, two high-profile publications caused a renewed stir in the bakery world for suggesting that manufacturers were misusing the term “wholegrain” for products which often contained a pitifully small quantity of whole grains.

One of these papers was a Harvard University study which lamented the fact that there was no consistent regulation in the US as what actually defined a wholegrain product, never mind what could be marketed as such. The other was a report from the Real Bread Campaign in the UK, entitled A Wholegrain of Truth, criticising the fact that many industrially produced bread loaves marketed as containing ‘wholegrain’ turned out to have fairly little wholegrain content. In an interview following the publication of the report, the Real Bread Campaign’s co-ordinator was quoted taking issue with the fact that even just one teaspoon of wholegrain flour added to a loaf mix would, in theory, qualify the end product to be labelled “wholegrain” just because it contained the ingredient.

In February 2014, the HealthGrain EU project published a new definition in an effort to harmonise labelling and nutritional guidelines across Europe. The reason that this issue is getting so much attention of late is linked to the natural trend. In theory, health-conscious consumers want to eat products that are 100% wholegrain, and they want to be able to trust that a product is just that if it says wholegrain on the label.

Bakers, however, are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They would surely like to sell more products that are close to 100% wholemeal, but consumer enthusiasm for dense-textured bread, particularly in markets where such bakery products are not part of local baking tradition, tends to be weak.

Rather than waiting for legislation to level the playing field, bakers continue experimenting to ascertain the mixtures which permit the highest wholegrain content that will garner the required consumer acceptance, and 2014 will see plenty of activity on this front.

10. Health and wellness products under suspicion of fraud

Food fraud has been committed since the dawn of time. China may well be the most infamous country when it comes to fake foods and knock-off brands, but the 2013 horse meat scandal brought it home to consumers that First World economies are by no means immune from shady profiteering practices.

Indeed, a report issued in the last quarter of 2013 by the European Union highlighted that health and wellness-positioned products were at the top of the list in terms of mislabelling and adulteration. Olive oil, fish and organic foods occupy the top three slots, and fruit juice is at number 10.

Honey (together with maple syrup) featured in sixth place on the EU’s list of the foods most likely to be fake or adulterated. Premium health and wellness- positioned honeys are a particularly sought-after target, and manuka honey is a prime example.

Manuka honey’s antimicrobial activity is way more potent than that of other honeys, and its potency can be measured and quantified, and is officially referred to as Unique Manuka Factor or UMF. In our last price checks, the supermarket price for 500g of Comvita Manuka UMF5+ cost around NZ$25, compared to NZ$5 for the same quantity of Pam’s Creamed Clover (from Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd.

In August, 2013, the UK Food Standards Agency issued an alert to retailers and traders warning them about the considerable quantities of fake manuka in circulation. Earlier tests conducted by the Food Environment Research Agency (FERA) found that 56% of the samples tested were fraudulent. According to data from the Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA), which represents producers in New Zealand, production of manuka honey in New Zealand amounts to around 1,700 tonnes per annum, but more than that - 1,800 tonnes – of “manuka honey” are sold in the UK alone. Globally, that figure is around 10,000 tonnes.

Consumer suspicions are understandably roused, especially when the authenticity of products or the veracity of claims cannot easily be verified by sight, smell and taste. The ongoing economic crisis in many parts of the world complicates things even further. Cash-strapped consumers will be increasingly tempted to purchase products with too-good-to-be-true price points, and these may well later turn out to be fake, damaging the reputation of the industry even further. A widespread loss of faith will then lead to consumers eschewing all non-essential premium offerings, rather than spending their hard-earnt money on a “suspect” offering.

Most of the effort and cost involved in fighting food fraud will fall onto the industry’s doorstep. Individual manufacturers are virtually powerless in the face of the onslaught, and so the credibility of health and wellness products will largely depend on the strength and unity of well-coordinated industry bodies, which will have to engage actively in combating fraud by employing the most cost-effective measures. And this will be quite a challenge.



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