Consumers looking for food as medicine

It’s been a rough couple of years, and people are feeling the pinch in many ways. The COVID-19 pandemic caused countless disruptions for everyone, and inflation has raised the cost of everything. After some serious treats in 2020, many consumers are now prioritizing health and wellness. They are looking for help to improve their mood and increase energy, mental alertness and immunity, among others.

“There is increased interest in nutrient density, functional benefits and food as medicine. Consumers today really want more for the calories,” DeeAnn Roullier, Cargill marketing research insights specialist, told an audience at an IBIEducate session in September. “Superfoods have shown double-digit sales growth. Consumers are looking for nutritional goodness, specifically in the bakery. In the United States, baked goods claiming to have vitamins and minerals have increased tremendously.”

Ms. Roullier cited a statistic stating that US bakery food sales in 2020-21 with a claim showing the presence of vitamins and minerals increased by 75% with unit sales increasing by 28%. , according to NielsenIQ. And bakery sales with fortification claims increased 183% with a 22% increase in unit sales.

As consumers search for more food to meet their health needs, bakeries have a number of ways to help.

Although consumers know the benefits they are looking for, they don’t always know what to look for on Nutrition Facts labels.

“Cognitive function as a driver hasn’t been around long enough for consumers to understand what items they need,” said Suzy Badaracco, president of Culinary Tides Inc. “What they’re really doing is relying on the packaging. If it says it’s good for you to focus or it will keep you moving or it will improve your mood, that’s what they trust. They are not educated enough about those specific elements, minerals, vitamins that help with depression, etc.”

He pointed to yogurt as a good example of how a category educated the public about the benefits of a product, in this case yogurt’s support for digestive health. Through that marketing, the public learned the terminology of probiotics. Similarly, bakers who offer products with additional benefits will need to provide clear messages on the packages so that the public understands how the product supports their health goals.

In Balchem’s proprietary 2022 Attitude and Use Study, the company identified the top wellness benefits consumers want from their food and beverages every day, including support for immunity and memory, brain health, heart and the digestive system, protein, fiber and longevity. From 2018 to 2022, 1,200 new products each year have included an active health or wellness claim, according to Nielsen xAOC data.

“Essential nutrients have the ability to help consumers support multiple aspects of health, including longevity, cognition and performance,” said Eric Ciappio, PhD and RD Strategic Development Manager, Nutrition Science, Balchem .

Consumers are looking for foods that act like medicines after living through the COVID-19 pandemic, said Sam Wright IV, chief executive of The Wright Group.

“Immunity and mental alertness rank high among the condition-specific benefits most consumers seek,” explained Mr. Wright. “The fight against aging in a rapidly aging population is definitely the most important thing today.”

Solutions that support the gut microbiome help not only with digestion, but with other aspects of health as well, said Vaughn DuBow, global director of marketing, microbiome solutions, ADM.

“Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the important role their gut microbiomes play in their overall health and well-being,” said Mr. DuBow.. “Our research shows that 58% of global consumers perceive a connection between the function of bacteria in the gut and broader aspects of well-being. In the US, 48% of consumers agree that good digestive health is important for general well-being.”

People are becoming more interested in the many aspects of healthy aging, said John Quilter, Kerry Ingredients vice president of global proactive health. He cited reports from Innova that nearly three-quarters of older adults say healthy aging is very important to them, and half of Gen Z are taking steps to age healthy. People are aware of the power of antioxidants and superfoods, such as botanicals and omega-3s, and want those benefits incorporated into their daily diets, he added.

“While demand for immune and digestive benefits has historically been very high, consumers are also looking for additional benefits directly related to healthy aging, such as support for heart, brain, eye and joint health, as well as control stress and sleep,” Quilter said. he said. “While supplements remain a strong category for these benefits, consumers are turning to everyday foods and beverages to incorporate these benefits directly into their diets.”

Ms. Badaracco said that energy is the number one benefit that consumers seek. But she made a distinction between consumer surveys and what she called media-driven consumer health and wellness issues. She said obesity concerns top that list, and cognitive function is next.

“Cognitive function ranks second to stress, sleep, anxiety, depression, all caused by COVID, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, inflation and recession,” he said. “That’s why cognitive function is easily number 2 in media concern. Energy is also included in cognitive function.”

This article is excerpted from the November 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the full article on Fortification and Enrichment, click here.

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