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Companies Beware: Pushing Health to the Next LevelCompanies Beware: Pushing Health to the Next Level

Steve French

April 15, 2011

5 Min Read
Companies Beware: Pushing Health to the Next Level

Corporate initiatives to lower sodium, sugar and other not-so-healthy ingredients in packaged foods/beverages may be a proactive response to mounting consumer demands for more nutritious foods with fewer negative health implications. Additionally, corporate decision makers are feeling the heat from emerging and imminent government regulations encouraging reduction of detrimental health-robbing food components and additives. From the increase in corporate wellness programs, to Walmarts announcement to provide healthier and more nutritious food at lower prices, corporations realize they better get on board if they want to remain relevant and positioned for success. After all, consumers are becoming more vocal and determined about their desire to live healthier and are using their spending dollars to increase the volume of their discontent and make their concerns heard.

Getting Rid of the Excess

From food contamination issues, corporate mistrust, over-processing and negative additives, consumers are realizing they have to be more diligent about monitoring all aspects of their food-making decisions from where the food originates, to how it is processed and, ultimately, to what benefits it provides.

Therefore, it is not surprising consumers are looking to get back to basics, to minimize, and are looking for more natural and recognizable ingredients in the products they purchase. This trend is revealed by consumers growing commitment to look for foods and beverages with a short list of recognizable ingredients, a commitment which has grown from about one-third of the U.S. population in 2006 to almost half of all consumers today. Even further, one of the main reasons consumers cite as to why they initiated use of natural foods is avoidanceavoidance of toxins, GMOs, additives and hormones (note consumer perception confusion). In fact, research conducted by Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) found consumption of natural foods and beverages as a means of maintaining a healthy lifestyle has increased more than 25 percent from 2001.

There are several ingredients consumers have been making greater efforts to avoid or eliminate from their diets over the past several years (Figure 1). The term artificial appears to be taking on a broader connotation of negativity as consumers search for more natural and pure ingredients. Consider the ingredients showing the strongest growth in avoidance are artificial colors and flavors (29 percent growth) followed by artificial sweeteners (23 percent growth).


Figure 1


The addition or presence of a child in the household magnifies consumers diligence when monitoring food and beverage content. A majority of parents admit they became more concerned about the amount of pesticides, preservatives and additives, and antibiotics and hormones in foods and beverages after they had a child. Manufacturers have to be even more cognizant of artificial and negative ingredients if their products are targeted toward children. Not only are parents keeping a watchful eye, but it would be remiss to think government authorities will not continue to crack down on unhealthy food products targeted at children.

Getting What You Paid For

Consumers not only have to worry about what goes into their foods during processing; but, now due to outbreaks of E. coli, environmental disasters and the increasing use of GMOs, consumers have additional concerns about not only how their food is processed and what it contains, but from where it is sourced and who is monitoring that process. This adds an additional burden of having to worry about who is safe-guarding the food supply (Table 1).

Table 1



Not only do consumers worry about who is protecting the food supply, but they show high mistrust of food supply labeling. For instance, while seven in 10 consumers feel it is important for their store to carry food grown without pesticides and grown on farms that practice sustainable agriculture, almost two-thirds of the population does not believe that products labeled as organic actually are organic.

Furthermore, while two-thirds of consumers feel it is important to consume functional and nutritionally fortified food, almost half are concerned that their body does not absorb enough of the vitamins and minerals actually in the food. In fact, over half of consumers want more clinical proof supporting the bioavailability of nutrients in fortified foods.

Consumers are a little more wary, a little savvier and a little more watchful as they are becoming increasingly cognizant that they, ultimately, are responsible for their own health and what they put into their bodies. They are being pushed to re-examine what is in their diets. They are demanding more transparency from manufacturers and more accountability from food regulating authorities to ensure food safety. Similarly, regulating authorities are applying pressure on manufacturers to provide healthier options (and guidelines for consumers to make healthier choices). Additionally, manufacturers and regulating authorities are re-examining their processes and trying to work within the parameters, guidelines and demands of the other. It appears, therefore, that all three (the consumer, the manufacturer and government) have to bear the responsibility for the future health of the nation and the symbiotic relationship between them is helping to drive the health movement to the next level, spurring opportunities across the entire food industry continuum.

Steve French , managing partner at Natural Marketing Institute ( NMI ), has more than 25 years of marketing, strategic consulting and management experience across numerous industries. NMI is an international strategic consulting, market research and business development firm specializing in the health, wellness and sustainability marketplace.

About the Author(s)

Steve French

Chief Operating Officer, Natural Marketing Institute

As COO, Steve French ([email protected]) leads Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), a strategic consulting, market research and business development firm specializing in the health, wellness and sustainability marketplace. He has over 30 years of related experience and insight into today’s consumer and market trends, and has pioneered a range of consumer databases to help clients navigate, identify and validate market opportunities. Prior to joining NMI, French spent 15 years at PepsiCo, Mars and Marriott.

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