On a health kick

There’s a ways to go but Scotland’s national diet is evolving, and firms reckon this creates a chance for retailers to get ahead by adapting their offer

Family eating vegetables
Firms said shoppers are increasingly motivated to eat healthy and fresh food

AWARENESS of obesity is at an all time high, but rates of obesity are no longer skyrocketing in the way they once were, which could be testament to the changing nature of the national diet.

As dining habits evolve, so too does consumer demand and according to producers, there’s room for independent retailers to expand their range of healthier options, and plenty of reasons to do so.

Polly Davies, category controller for bagged salad brand Florette reckons the healthy eating trend is driving performance in the produce category, with research suggesting this growth will continue into the future.

“Shoppers are increasingly motivated to eat healthier foods and include more natural and fresh ingredients in their diet,” said Davies.

“Healthy choices is a booming trend, with research stating that 73% of adults actively try to lead a healthy lifestyle, which has risen from 66% in 2015.

“Research shows that consumers are becoming increasingly health conscious and looking to lead cleaner lifestyles, with the ‘strong not skinny’ ethos taking the world of social media by storm.” 

All this attention on healthy options isn’t just good for the nation’s waistline, it’s good for retail bottom lines too according to Florette, as Davies points to figures which suggest shoppers are willing to spend a bit more for healthier options. 

“Shoppers are also willing to pay 9% more on healthy foods, which offers retailers a great opportunity to drive spend and offer healthy, tasty and convenient meal options.

Davies added that over half of all UK shoppers are currently seeking healthy products in store, and Florette also claims the strongest category growth has been enjoyed by healthier sectors.

And it’s not just about cutting sugar or reducing calories either. Davies flagged figures which suggest a marked increase in consumers following a plant-based diet, suggesting that c-store retailers who don’t offer a good supply of fresh produce could be missing a trick.

“Over half a million people in Britain are now following a vegan diet and never consume any animal products including meat, fish, dairy, eggs and honey.

We know that plant based options are continuing to gather pace and interest in soup could be key.

“This is a whopping increase since the last estimate of 150,000 ten years ago, making veganism one of Britain’s fastest growing lifestyle movements.

“Produce is perfectly placed to tap into this trend and offer shoppers healthy solutions for their lifestyles,” she said.

The rise of the plant-based diet was also highlighted by Cara Chambers, marketing director at Baxters, who reckons increasing demand could also be good for soups.

“We know that plant-based options are continuing to gather pace and consumer interest and soup could be a key focus of choices made in this area,” said Chambers 

“It is always interesting to see how tastes and trends can alter, boost or challenge a category so we must stay engaged and connected to our consumers’ needs to make sure we deliver against expectations, today but vitally in the future.”

Chambers added that the rise in health consciousness among shoppers has “dramatically shifted the dial in terms of needs, motivations and product appeal,” but she also reckons Baxters has risen to meet evolving consumer expectations.

“For Baxters, the introduction of Super Good is in recognition to changing consumer demands, attitudes and tastes,” she said. 

Healthier choice products
Clean living: Whether it’s a ‘superfood’ ingredient or a high protein content, on pack claims have become key signposts for shoppers looking for healthy foods

“Its philosophy reflects increasing evidence and understanding of the benefits of these ‘super’ ingredients.  From the anti-inflammatory values of ginger and turmeric to the high fibre content of super greens, the vitamin D and B delivered in oily fish and the high protein provided from chicken, this is a range rich in health-boosting ingredients.”

While it’s easy to see how a salad or soup firm might make the most of an increase in demand for healthy options, what about those stores where snacks are big business?

It’s good news for those too according to Georgina Edmonds, marketing manager at Nature’s Finest.

“The snacking and food to go category has seen an increase in healthier options on shelf,” said Edmonds. 

“In c-stores, the food to go section can often be dominated by chocolate and crisps, but more recently we have seen retailers increase their offering to include a healthy selection of products which offer consumers nutritional value without compromising on taste.”

For the future, Edmonds predicted that health and fruit snacks will continue to grow and drive the category over the next year, with plenty of new SKUs in the pipeline.

“Innovation is the key to driving consumer interest and ensuring momentum continues to rise. Nature’s Finest will be unveiling NPD throughout this year.” 

Foods traditionally associated with a Mediterranean diet, fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and pulses, fish and unsaturated fats like olive oil are seeing renewed popularity.

Doubtless there will be plenty of NPD in the healthier side of the market in the coming months, but when it comes to healthy snacking the cultures found by the Mediterranean have been ahead of the game for a long time.

That Mediterranean diet is one which Brindisa Spanish Foods reckons Scottish retailers should tap into if they want to see healthy snacking sales soar.

A spokesperson for the firm said: “Snacks needn’t be unhealthy – consider all-natural foods for shoppers seeking a protein-rich fix.

“Nuts such as Spanish Marcona and Catalan almonds are wonderful sources of vitamin E, protein and magnesium, essential nutrients and antioxidants, and are proof that great taste and healthy choices are not mutually exclusive.”

“Foods traditionally associated with a Mediterranean diet – fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and pulses, fish, and unsaturated fats like olive oil are seeing renewed popularity.

“Primarily built on plant-based foods and good-for-you fats it offers numerous, proven health benefits.”