- Healthy ingredients like ancient grains and fermented foods and lifestyles centered on wellness and well-being, like vegan and paleo, are setting food expectations for generations to come, according to a new study by Packaged Facts.
- Consumer concerns about functional health, proactive wellness and incorporating ancient wisdom of minimal processing and traditional medicines into today’s lifestyles are among the factors driving a trend Packaged Facts calls “cutting-edge wellness.”
- The movement toward functional foods and the use of “food as medicine” to address health and wellness issues will continue to grow. Many food makers, especially innovative upstarts, are increasingly incorporating ingredients known to have natural health benefits and healing powers into their products.
Food fads come and go, but the rise in clean eating and overall better-for-you movement — as well as the decline of heavily processed foods — is here to stay. Consumers are paying extra attention to how the foods they eat play a role in maintaining wellness instead of taking medications to cure what ails them. There’s been growing interest recently in everything from adaptogenic plants, which improve the adrenal system, to the paleo diet as natural and healthy ways to maintain wellness. While these may be on the extreme ends of the healthy eating spectrum, they have some merit.
About 60% of Americans say they actively make dietary choices to help prevent conditions like obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol, according to Nielsen’s Global Health and Ingredient Sentiment Survey. In the last few years, 26% of consumers say they are drinking more plant-based milks — like almond, coconut or soy — and 21% are eating vegetarian sources of protein, according to Packaged Facts research. Some major food manufacturers are already embracing medical foods in response, including those made by Nestle and Hormel, to promote healthy lifestyles and aid consumers with a variety of conditions.
Other major companies are gobbling up small, entrepreneurial startups that use new-wave ingredients to create and market superfoods with health benefits. Dean’s Food just bought Uncle Matt’s Organics, a maker of probiotic-infused juices. Some of these are made with ashwagandha, an ingredient whose benefits include stress reduction, enhanced memory and muscle recovery. General Mills recently invested $3 million in Purely Elizabeth, which uses Om Mushroom powder to enhance its wellness bars with specific health benefits like increased energy, vitality and immunity.
Consumer lifestyles and eating habits are clearly changing. Even consumers who’d never consider going full-on paleo are increasingly embracing healthy living and eating lifestyles. This is reflected in the kinds of food products seeing growth in conventional grocery aisles: grass-fed meats and dairy products, coconut oil, stevia, avocados, sweet potatoes, and grain-free pasta like zoodles. It will be interesting to see how this trend evolves, but one thing is certain: it's here to stay.