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Tap into Trends to Better Communicate with Customers

July 17, 2008
Tap into trends to better communicate with consumers.
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Converging trends have given birth to the Age of Well-being, according to New York City-based Ketchum, one of the largest public relations, marketing and corporate relations firms in the world.

Ketchum’s “Health, Wellness and Nutrition Global Trends Forecast for 2008 and Beyond,” based on a variety of global internal and external sources, was developed by Cathy Kapica, the firm’s vice president of global health and wellness, and Linda Eatherton, partner/director of the global food and nutrition practice.

Health Comes of Age

  • 1980 to 1990   The Manufacturing Age
  • 1990 to 2000   The Technology/Information Age
  • 2000 to 2010+ The Age of Well-being

Both have interesting food industry backgrounds. Kapica, a registered dietitian and Ph.D. of public health sciences, was director of global nutrition for McDonald’s and director of nutrition education at Quaker Oats. Eatherton was formerly with Kraft Foods and Dairy Management Inc. Kapica kindly shared the findings with us during IFT. They can be used as a guide to market new products and communicate effectively with consumers.

Factors leading to the Age of Well-being include: the global rise in obesity rates; rising healthcare costs; an aging, affluent population; growing interest in prevention vs. treatment; emerging technologies and scientific advances; and the increasing availability of “responsible” foods (such as portion-controlled, reduced-fat, reduced-salt and reduced-sugar).

Ready access to information combined with empowered consumers will continue to drive health and wellness. You need only look at consumers’ growing interest in organic, natural, functional and superfoods, as well as prebiotics, probiotics, synbiotics and fortification.

According to Kapica, the new definition of wellness is broader than it used to be. It includes not only being healthy, but feeling healthy, having less stress, eating right, and having time for oneself. And the specifics are being defined differently by ethnicity and life stage.

Sustainability also has been redefined from responsible farm-to-fork food cultivation processes. Consumers want to know how a product came to market and how the company treats its employees, suppliers and the environment. And they want the same information about suppliers to the food industry.

Organic continues to grow in Europe, led by Germany, France and the UK. It is also growing in North American and parts of Asia. But recent food safety concerns have led consumers to question the strength of organic certification standards. In Germany, where organics are viewed as cheap commodity products, farmer/processor cooperatives such as Bioland are branding their organic products as “exceeding regulations” and therefore, safer and better. Meanwhile, imported organics in Asia target the wealthy and educated.

Clean label foods is the mantra. Consumers demand short ingredient statements they can understand, rather than stabilizers, gums, additives, substitutes and chemicals. Less is also more appealing in a desire for foods that are “free from.” Those include gluten-free, lactose-free and animal-free.

In contrast, positive nutrition appeals to consumers. The debate is changing from no salt, no fat and no sugar to added vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein-rich and naturally nutrient-rich. Superfoods (acai, pomegranate, etc.) are moving to the forefront of value-added ingredients.

More value in value-added is key. Fortification is changing its focus from overcoming deficiency to enhancing performance, both cognitive and physical. Notable ingredients include calcium, vitamin D, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics. Due to the prevalence of obesity related diseases, foods and diets with risk-reduction benefits will continue to gain interest. Fiber and whole grains also add value and are perceived as less processed. 

Sweeteners, unless found in nature (honey, fruit) are questioned. High-fructose corn syrup and non-calorie aspartame are suspect. Concern about metabolic syndrome and diabetes is driving interest in the glycemic index and the use of sugar, especially in Europe.

Nutrition gets personal with the emergence of nutrigenomics (the ability to detect individual nutrition, health needs and risk through DNA mapping). And there will be a push to produce products that are personalized to specific gender, age, lifestyle and ethnic indicators.

Continued interest in breakfast all day will gain momentum as a way to manage weight by promoting satiety (sense of fullness) and for brain development, especially for children. Sugar in breakfast foods will remain a concern.

Health means beauty inside and out. Consumers of all ages recognize that a healthy lifestyle leads to a better appearance. As a result, “beauty foods” will gain interest, and cosmeceuticals (also called nutricosmetics) will be new selling points. Fruit, especially pomegranate and mangosteen superfruits, will gain favor for use both inside and out.

The holistically healthy brand emerges as the company is viewed as part of the wellness solution instead of part of the health problems. These are processors that invest in innovation and reformulation, value workplace wellness, and have a heritage of social and environmental policies and practices.

Some of the trends predicted in Ketchum’s “Health, Wellness and Nutrition Global Trends Forecast for 2008 and Beyond” include:Standardized global labeling guidelines emerge

Global food safety and health concerns are driving standardized labeling guidelines. Expect country-of-origin labels (COOL) on all foods and for each ingredient in processed food. Company-developed labeling symbols and signposts are gaining momentum. Controversy will continue over the best format for communicating nutrition information on packaging, especially throughout the EU and North America. Legislation is not far behind. As organic interests/demand rises, expect international certifications to emerge, which in some countries will be more rigid than current guidelines.

Marketing to children under attack

Activists and regulators are working overtime to devise restrictions on advertising and marketing practices. What is allowable by law is not to be misconstrued as “acceptable” marketing practice. Licensed characters, cartoons and kid-friendly personalities are on the radar. Self-regulation must promise an authentic solution to avoid regulation.

Mom takes control

The rise of Alpha-Moms, highly educated, working women with a strong sense of activism, has ignited debate and, in some cases, regulation with respect to foods made primarily for children. These moms aggressively blog, research, form committees and sit on boards to ensure their wishes are heard. Advertising is viewed with skepticism and must be strongly reinforced by multiple, third-party influencers to be viewed as credible.

Caregivers diversify

As more women reach their mature years healthier and more active than their parents, a new generation of caregivers emerges. Grandparents are helping to raise their grandchildren in record numbers, so their shopping decisions are becoming more important. And as more women enter and remain in the workplace, more men opt into the primary caretaker role for their children. While women continue to shop and prepare most of the food, men are more involved in what their children eat.

Influencers go local

While women pay attention to celebrities, stars and personalities’ shopping choices, they are more likely to be influenced in their purchase decisions by those closest to them … neighbors, friends, relatives, retailers and fitness trainers.

Multi-minding and multi-tasking

Bombarded with information and more time-stressed than ever, today’s woman is no longer multi-tasking. She is multi-minding … literally carrying multiple agendas, conversations and thoughts in her head at all times while multi-tasking. The messages to her must be bite-sized, repeatable and discoverable in multiple settings to be heard, remembered and acted upon.

Health claim changes may lead to healthy confusion

In Europe, there is a reassessment of food additives (E numbers), which will lead to communication challenges, especially about natural ingredients. New health claim regulations may make the approval of new claims challenging. And functional foods are being defined. While some Asian countries, such as Japan, have well-defined rules for functional foods, other Asian countries are in the very early stages of regulatory oversight for food and beverages in this category. Effectiveness of U.S. health claim regulations is being questioned.

Border wars rise

In Asia, the lack of region-wide regulations make cross-border marketing a challenge. Cultural health beliefs add a layer of complexity to marketing (hot/cold food; yin/yang). Food safety standards vary country to country. With the rise in anti-China sentiments around the world, more scrutiny will be placed on ingredient sourcing and resting region to region and country to country … each different. U.S. imports may be perceived as safer and more nutritious but more costly.

Consumers tracking carbon footprint and food miles

As concerns of global warming rise and commitments to reverse the tide take hold, expect several countries to call for declaration of a product’s carbon footprint on the label. A carbon footprint is the total amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases emitted over the full life cycle of a product or service. Heightened desires to reduce carbon fuel emissions are driving consumers to demand the “food miles” a product and all its ingredients have traveled. Food miles is a term which refers to the distance food travels from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer. The less local, the less desirable … a serious implication for foods produced out of country, out of region. Many retailers are leaping ahead of regulation and requiring these declarations now.

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