Insights into the state of consumer health and wellness from NielsenIQ VP Sherry Frey

“Health and wellness are the most powerful consumer force in 2021.” This is the main discovery of The latest global health and wellness report from NielsenIQ. Here’s more about the results and what they mean for food and beverage companies from Sherry Frey, vice president of Total Wellness and NielsenIQ.

What does health and wellness mean for consumers today

There has been a massive shift in ideas about health and wellness since before the pandemic. It’s not just about diet and fitness anymore. Consumers today are taking a more holistic approach, considering not only their health and wellness but their communities and the planet.

“Even before COVID, there were a lot of factors affecting the health landscape — an aging population, increased talk about mental health, obesity, growing healthcare costs, etc,” Frey said. “Then COVID struck, and broadened our collective view of what we think of as wellness. Health is no longer just the management of disease. There is a lens toward vitality, toward living an inclusive life well.”

The broader concept of wellness includes the planet as well. “A lot of research has shown a significant increase in consumer interest in the environment as a result of the coronavirus,” Fry said. “Everything from helping local businesses survive to taking care of the local community to reduce our personal carbon emissions. Nearly 70% of global consumers understand that their choices affect the planet, and are willing to take action on environmental and sustainability issues.”

How can food and beverage brands meet the health needs of consumers

It’s all because consumers today are “eating their values,” Fry said. Their consumer choices reflect who they are and their priorities. This not only creates an opportunity for food and beverage brands, but it is imperative.

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of consumers believe that businesses play a large role in providing and accessing healthy food. And more than six in 10 (63%) said they were more likely to buy from companies with strong health mandates across their product portfolios.

On the personal health and wellness front, consumers want food that helps them proactively manage their well-being. “One of the areas of explosive growth that we’ve seen is the idea of ​​food as medicine,” Fry said.

According to NielsenIQ data, more than three-quarters of consumers have prioritized health at least some of the time. Nearly half (48%) are proactive — they read labels and make deliberate, informed decisions based on goals like reducing inflammation and improving brain and digestive health — while another 29% prioritize wellness when a problem arises. The remaining 23% do not actively make wellness-based food choices.

Fry believes there are opportunities for food and beverage manufacturers to gain access to all three groups. Take added sugars, for example. By reducing added sugars, brands can directly appeal to proactive consumers and also provide health benefits to the other two groups. “It’s not that they don’t want to be healthy; it’s just that they aren’t actively doing the work,” Frey said. “There is an opportunity for the industry to make it easier and help consumers on the path to wellness without forcing them to do work.”

On the environmental front, Frye believes that sustainability is a continuum where all manufacturers can, and must, find their place. “The industry is starting to realize that consumers are not just saying that sustainability is important… There is a willingness to buy differently, to pay a premium. Even if a product isn’t a healthy product, it doesn’t mean you don’t take action on animal welfare, social or environmental issues. Every manufacturer It has a role and opportunity along this ongoing continuum towards the health of the planet.”

Fry realizes that achieving sustainability goals can be more challenging for large manufacturers who have had many brands they have acquired over the years than for smaller brands that have built these values ​​into their process from the start. But, she noted, “there are certainly a lot of positive aspects for the industry to continue to evolve and to make sustainability a priority.”

In terms of what will happen on the environmental front, Frey believes that “the next iteration of the continuum is about renewal – and not just ‘How can we reduce our impact?'” ‘ But ‘How do we repair the damage that has been done?’

Looking to the future, NielsenIQ expects perceptions of health and wellness to continue to evolve and expand. Frey sees the greatest opportunities coming from technology – whether in agricultural technology or consumer technology – that will “allow the industry to collaborate in new ways across the supply chain and across the consumer needing space”. Specifically, it refers to technologies that enable traceability, accelerate market access for new innovations, and even collaborate with retailers on products brought to market.

For more insights into the current state of consumer health and wellness, Explore the full report.

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