Consumers likely to move away from ‘medicalized’ foods, predicts report

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

Consumers likely to move away from ‘medicalized’ foods, predicts report
While there is little doubt that the food and beverage industry’s preoccupation with functional foods will not lose steam, consumer reaction could well be set for a shift, according to a US market researcher.

The Hartman Group predicts that consumers will start to move away from “overly medicalized”​ foods in favor of those offering what it calls “more playful, aspirational benefits”.

“Our research suggests consumers are beginning to approach nutrition in critically different ways than in past epochs,”​ writes Hartman in the report Contemporary Food Trends: Emergent Themes in Products, Retailers and Restaurants​.

Medicalized vs Aspirational

Products that Hartman places in the ‘Medicalized’ category include Benecol, Corazonas Heart Healthy Tortilla Chips and Borba Drinkable Skin Care.

Examples of products in the ‘Playful & Aspirational’ category include Vitamin Water, GT’s Kombucha Teas, Red Bull, Goodbelly Juice Drinks and Clif Shot Blocks.

“The single most consistent trend occurring at the intersection of health, wellness and food is the redefinition of quality,”​ writes the report.

“Consumers are gradually transitioning away from ascetic, medicalized eating styles, ‘quick fix’ diets or supplements, and so-called ‘better for you’ packaged foods and practicing a more mindful eating style via engaging, higher quality experiences.”

Quality and sourcing

Increasingly, people are placing a priority on food culture, and are willing to spend the time and money on overall higher quality. Interest is growing in identifying what is behind the food rather than settling for the standard ‘better for you’ packaged products, according to Hartman.

“Consumers are increasingly looking to specific foods — ideally nonpackaged versions of those foods – which are considered to provide nutritional benefits originally obtained from supplements.”

One result of this is a “precipitous”​ decline in supplement usage for a number of critical categories, says the report.

Antioxidant caution

Hartman also highlights a potential shift in consumer attitude towards antioxidants.

Interest in superfruits as a category is likely to remain high, it says, but there will be much “trading” ​and “shifting”​ within the category as consumers move from fruit to fruit – or flavor to flavor – in search of the “ultimate cure”.

“While generalized consumer interest in antioxidants remains high, we are skeptical that such interest will ever translate into any sustained, patterned behavior in the marketplace that will prove lucrative to branders or marketers looking to ride this whirlwind.”

Hartman compiled its observations and data, along with Tinderbox Analysts, from a variety of methodological approaches - such as in-store shopping ethnographies and in-home pantry audits - throughout 2008.

Related topics: Markets

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