Healthy foods in convenient packaging is a consumer need that is growing in momentum, according to Datamonitor, with 59 per cent of European and US consumers seeking a combination of the two selling points.
In 2004 Datamonitor drew attention to a number of 'megatrends' in the food and beverage sector - of which health is said to be the most dynamic and "widely regarded as the most important in shaping marketing and product development strategies".
Its updated New Developments in Global Consumer Trends report for 2006 has shown that this is very much at the forefront of shoppers' minds, leading the market analyst to advise manufacturers to keep up efforts to attact the health-conscious.
But Datamonitor says that in the past it has been hard for consumers to keep up with healthy eating and drinking when time-pressed, because on-the-go or quick and easy options can be nutritionally lacking.
This is starting to change, however. For instance, more bar and beverage products are becoming available that delivering grains and fruits, amongst other ingredients, in highly-portable packages.
Moreover efforts to reformulate packaged foods to make them lower in trans- and saturated fats, sugar and salt are underway on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as new curbs on advertising of less healthy foods to certain groups, such as children.
"Successful businesses and innovations are rooted in satisfying consumer needs. This is significantly assisted by an intuitive understanding of trends, especially the consumer values and attitudes driving them," said Daniel Bone, senior consumer market analyst and author of the new study.
"Trend evolution reflects changes in consumer needs and behavior must therefore be reflected by evolving product portfolios".
One trend that may drive home the market potential is that 36 per cent of Americans and Europeans reported making a conscious attempt to improve their work-life balance in 2006 (53 per cent in Spain) - one of the stress factors that can contribute to the need for healthier convenience foods, either for easy in-home preparation or eating on-the-go.
The indication is that much of the industry is already on board the health wagon. In its new survey of industry executives Datamonitor found 41 per cent ranked health as 'very important', and only 9 per cent said it was 'unimportant'.
However Datamonitor's report also shows up an interesting contradiction.
"Consuming fresh food and drinks is considered to be the most important route to a healthy diet. Concurrently, consumers are expressing a strong desire to limit processed food & drink intake."