“Consumers are looking for added extras on top of health claims. We’re moving beyond products with just a health claim. Benefits beyond nutrition needs to be a focus,” said Deborah Cross, food industry analyst at Euromonitor International.
“Certainly in more difficult economic conditions there is just that little extra that would help shift a product.”
Health… but conveniently
“Combined benefits are a core opportunity. Manufacturers can increase the chance of products being adopted if they can offer combined benefits – in addition to just health claims – such as organic, gluten-free, vegetarian or sustainable claims,” she said.
She flagged convenience as an increasingly important ‘added benefit’ that would prove successful in conjunction with a health claim.
“To a certain extent, manufacturers have already been linking health claims with the convenience trend,” she said, such as fortified breakfast biscuits packaged up for busy, on-the-go consumers.
Senior research analyst at Euromonitor Lianne Van den Bos said that the economic crisis and lower purchasing power had shaped consumer demands.
“You have consumers still working, but longer hours and under more stringent terms. They have money to spend but less time to eat. For these consumers, convenience is important,” she said.
Van den Bos added that another consumer group – the unemployed segment – are looking for value for money.
The need to differentiate and move beyond simple health claims is stronger than ever before, she said, especially in light of increasing competition among brands and private label.
Differentiate and hook into trends
“I would like to see manufacturers playing into specific current trends. For Western Europe, this is obesity and later lifers,” she said.
Almost half of the population in Western Europe is overweight or obese, Van den Bos said, and this holds huge opportunities for cardiovascular health claims.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has passed 26 health claims under this umbrella for ingredients including omega-3 for blood pressure and beta glucans for cholesterol management.
The analyst noted that 20% of Western Europe’s population is aged over 60, meaning clear opportunities for health claims in brain health and memory
along with bone and joint health.
EFSA has passed 15 claims relating to brain health and 10 relating to bone and joint health for ingredients including the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and calcium.
“Companies need to start by thinking outside the box on consumer groups. There are lots of different ways that you can split consumer groups – by age, by household numbers. But instead of targeting consumer groups, manufacturers should cater to trends rather than segment the market too much.”
Cross said that directing health claims is “not as clear cut as a certain age-group”.
She said that while there are clearly some health claims that would appeal to older consumers, such as oats for cholesterol and heart health, this could also appeal to a consumer looking to actively manage a health condition – such as high cholesterol.
‘Communicate the benefit, not the health claim’
Van den Bos added that manufacturers need to start communicating health benefits better to consumers.
“Communicating the benefit, not the health claim is a must and this is not happening yet. It’s these little things that can distinguish your brand,” she said.