According to a recent presentation made by Mike Hughes, Head of Research & Insight, FMCG Gurus, COVID-19 pandemic has raised consumer concerns and awareness over their health, which could translate to huge opportunities for food and beverage producers to meet these growing needs.
Mike also highlighted that consumers prefer functional food and beverages over nutritional supplements in capsule or medicinal format, as they want to consume products that are perceived as natural, convenient and yet do not compromise on taste and nutrition. (see Chart 1.0 for comparison)
This opens up questions on what kind of health benefits do consumers look for in a functional food or drink. FMCG Gurus has recently done a survey to identify what are the main health concerns highlighted by Asia-Pacific consumers during the pandemic, and apparently the top 4 concerns are overall immunity (65%), overall health (63%), mental well-being (35%), overall nutrition (32%) and heart health (26%).
With the ongoing lockdowns and ‘social distancing’ restrictions in many countries, most of the consumers work from home and maintain a rather sedentary lifestyle, with food stocked up at home, there is a high likelihood they will also gain weight. Mike emphasised that consumers are also concerned about their emotional well-being especially when cooped up at home most of the time with limited social interactions. Study has shown that there is a clear link between good mental well-being with good overall health.
The pandemic has also created a higher level of fear and anxiety among consumers. It has also led to a change in lifestyles and food habits in some consumers.
Mike added that the damage to the immune system can often be self-inflicted with the consumers not realising it. Roughly 44% of global consumers reported that they have experienced health problems in the last 12 months that have indirectly impacted their quality of life. Meanwhile, 30% suffered from an allergy or intolerance.
The pandemic has also created negative lifestyles and eating habits. It is not surprising that 23% of global consumers surveyed described their dietary habits as unhealthy with another 6% confirmed that they do not do any form of exercises with a similar number describing themselves as ‘heavy users’ of alcoholic beverages. Consumers are also concerned on the time spent indoors ‘snacking’ with their mobile and gaming devices (52%).
In the formulation of functional food and beverage products, it is important to know what do consumers plan to eat and drink to improve their health, as well as their target (intended) consumers. FMCG Guru survey in 2021 found that most of the consumers who plan to eat and drink healthily in 2021 are looking for natural sources of nutrition like fruits and vegetables, while food and beverage products with higher contents of Omega 3, Protein, Lower Sugar and Higher Calcium will also be popularly sought after by global and Asia Pacific consumers. (see Chart 2.0)
(The presentation entitled ‘COVID-19 impact on consumers approach to long-term health’ was made during Vitafoods Insights Virtual Expo held from 10 to 13 May and organised by the Informa Group)