Healthy Snacking - Making An Informed Decision

People know more about health and nutrition than ever before but that doesn’t change the fact that trends and lifestyles are constantly changing. A more nutritionally-savvy audience means retailers need to themselves in a great position to expand their audiences and boost sales figures.

Dan Clarke, an inhouse nutritionist at leading brand Huel, gives you a professionals view on the health trend with insights into specific ingredients, what to look out for and what will make your decision making easier.

"What should retailers be looking out for in 2021?"

Number one for everyone - from consumers to brands - is immunity. "Immune-boosting" has been used by numerous companies but in my opinion, “support the immune system” is a much better alternative. We have to be careful when we say this - we actually want our immune system to be working normally and not necessarily "boosted".

The close runner up is “mood-boosting” foods. There’s that word boost again. A product can’t just help a consumer live a happy healthy life, it has to go one step further, or at least in times of lockdown, lift us out of a rut.

In 2021 what we have seen as lockdown fatigue really set in is people trying to get back to where they were this time last year. Exercising at home for muscle gains has really taken off in 2021. 

Diet has continued to see the promotion of eating for mental health and mood. There are actually two angles to this, one is, as previously mentioned, is eating foods with nutrients that can directly affect our wellbeing e.g. functional foods, and secondly is foods that make us feel good through taste, texture and memories e.g. comfort foods. Think kale smoothies vs cookie dough ice cream.  

"What impact has CV-19 had on consumer fitness?"

On a positive note, workout routines have moved to zoom classes and home workouts. Something that a lot of people didn’t do before. Hopefully, this has broken down some barriers to exercising and people see they don’t always have to pack their gym stuff, drive somewhere and workout with strangers, it can all be done at home or in the park. 

So, people will want a product that not only looks good and fits in a vending machine but also in their home too. If someone is buying something for their home and they see it in the gym, they are more likely to purchase it and vice versa - familiarity helps here.

Physically, people have become more lenient towards themselves, kinder. That’s not a bad thing, balance is so important and constantly talked about in nutrition. Body positivity has come around again and probably peaked mid 2020. 

Avoid products that appear to body shame e.g. “lose that lockdown weight”. They may do well in short-term sales but it’s a risk longer-term especially if this topic gets media attention. 

"Which products would you recommend to retailers?"

Plant-based products, particularly from a sustainability point of view. We’ve seen lots of progress from meat-free Mondays to the explosion in meat alternatives.  People want to help the planet but they want to do it in a way that affects their lives in the smallest way possible

Products that call out carbon footprints, water usage, growing conditions can be a unique selling point.

Diets go in and out of fashion. Something like “low-carb” appeals to more groups without confining itself exclusively to one group, unlike "keto". Personally, number one at the moment is products that I enjoy. Most people I'd imagine are the same. If you like the look of the product and it tastes good then you’re onto a winner.

The bridge often is “guilt-free foods” such as Huel Chocolate RTD for instance. What we are likely to see in 2021 as lockdown eases is more people eating out, indulging themselves and drinking. Towards the end of the year the health trend maybe around the bounce-back of this when people ease back into the more mundane and look for a health kick to counteract the bingeing. 

A product that can be both be indulgent/nice to eat and healthy, can hit both these trends with small tweaks in marketing. As we’ve seen for the past year, it’s really hard to predict what comes next and this way, you don’t have to.

"Why is it important retailers and workplaces reflect nutritional health and sustainability in their range?"

Bluntly, because there will come a day when they will have no choice. Get ahead of the curve, more and more consumers are seeing climate change as a major issue (on average 2 thirds of the population whether you’re 17 or 70). If choices aren’t reflected then consumers will make the choice for you anyway. Particularly true for young generations, you can offer a product at a higher price if a consumer perceives it to be healthier for themselves and the planet

COVID has highlighted health in a big way, for example, if you’re obese you’re more likely to have severe COVID symptoms. People cared about their health before, they care even more because they can see the direct effects.


"What should retailers look out for in nutritional labels?"

Clean label has been important for years and it’s not going away anytime soon. What I mean by that is shorter ingredient lists made up of ingredients the average consumer can recognise. If a product isn’t clean label, ask yourself what has the company done to put the consumer’s mind at ease?

Plant-based - this term is less off-putting than “vegan” and in general is perceived as healthier than animal products regardless of the ingredients. Avoid “immune-boosting” and buzzwords that feel off. The product may sell well but they are likely to be pulled up by regulatory agencies requiring a change in wording.

When seeing "high in protein" claims to look for supporting evidence on the product. “High in protein” is often not enough to draw consumers - perhaps a product has a link to collagen formation and skin health, then this will help the consumer understands the benefits better.

It's also good to see Epicurium explaining a lot of the key nutritional labels in their Nutritional Explanation page online.

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