The future of nutrition: Five trends to watch out for in 2022

Prioritising wellness is not merely for the young – senior consumers will also be searching for health solutions catered to their needs

To formulate better products for their customers, brands must understand the trends that have shaped consumers’ priorities and preferences in recent years.

By Vicky Davies, global marketing director, performance, active and medical nutrition, FrieslandCampina

The food and nutrition industry has seen rapid change in the trajectory of consumer trends in recent years. The pandemic caused a heightened focus on issues like health and immunity, while the constant evolution of technology and social media is redefining how consumers educate themselves on everything – including nutrition.

FrieslandCampina Ingredients has used the latest consumer and market insights to identify and analyse five of the key trends influencing the nutrition industry in 2022 and beyond. As a healthier and more sustainable future is within reach, these top trends are poised to inspire brands to develop new innovations that offer consumers what they want.

Putting the planet first

In 2021, consumers listed “health of the planet” as their top global concern – surpassing “health of the population” for the very first time1. While environmental concerns are not new, more people are increasingly concerned about the health of the planet, leading to more demand for action.

Nearly half of global consumers made changes to their diets in the last two years to align with their sustainability goals2. However, consumers know they cannot reverse global warming alone – 65% want food and nutrition brands to do more to protect the environment2, but greenwashing and contradictory information generates challenges for consumers.

Brands need to earn consumers’ trust by adopting sustainable practices that are meaningful and tangible. Consumers are not looking for vague label claims, they want the companies they choose to make a real difference. Transparency is key here, and brands that can demonstrate the clear positive effects they are having on the planet will hold the most weight with consumers. However, consumers could be particularly sceptical of brands that claim multiple sustainability benefits without evidence. One UK study suggests that as many as two-thirds of adults are wary of environmental business communications, but seven in 10 would trust a brand’s claim more if they have a proven track record of delivering benefits to nature and people3. One thing is clear: genuine sustainability efforts, communicated honestly, are the way to go in 2022.

Staying resilient against life’s challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic might be the most significant and recent example of global physical and psychological challenges. From concerns over immune health to the stresses caused by lockdowns and restrictions, the pandemic has caused higher levels of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychological distress and stress in eight countries4. Consumers are eager to recover and fortify themselves through building resilience in both body and mind. In fact, 60% of consumers say that improving their general health and wellness is their top priority in 20222, and they are achieving this by focusing on health, mood, and physical fitness.

With more people searching for ways to improve mental health, sleep – one of the key functions in mental wellbeing5 – remains a core priority. Consumers are taking action, with 38% having made changes to improve their sleep in the past 12 months6.

Physical health is also a priority. The restriction of outdoor activities over the past few years has given many a new appreciation for the importance of physical activity for overall well-being. Hence, 60% of consumers now say they exercise at least three times a week2. Consumers are looking for solutions that can help keep them feel strong, and this trend offers a great opportunity for brands to own the space and explore the best formats, health benefits and habits that will convince consumers to trust their product.

The future is flexitarian

For some time, protein has been the dominant macronutrient. However, in 2022, more consumers are making the switch to plant-powered protein. However, with the rise of the flexitarian diet, consumers can exercise more freedom in their diets, without completely removing certain foods. Today, over 25% of consumers consider themselves to be flexitarian2.The reasons for adoption may vary but health is the main driver.

In 2021, the top reason for consumers including plant proteins in their diet was health1.Where traditionally, plant-based diets were followed as part of an individual’s values or religious or cultural beliefs, the emphasis on health has led to more people embracing a flexitarian diet. While 41% of consumers say they would not be able to give up dairy long-term2,they may include plant-based alternatives as a part of a balanced diet. The freedom to choose between animal and plant-based products is incredibly valuable for consumers and brands.

Through this newfound flexibility, consumers are free to choose what feels and tastes best to them, allowing brands to develop plant-based foods that satisfy consumers’ tastebuds as well as their nutritional needs. FrieslandCampina Ingredients has developed Plantaris, a new plant protein powder built on pulses, perfect for creating plant-based solutions for health-conscious consumers. The constant development of technology in the plant-based nutrition industry has also made this a good time for brands to innovate.

Holistic health starts in the gut

Gone are the days of diet culture. Today’s health-conscious people are focusing on balance and holistic well-being – and the gut could be the key to achieving it. Consumers are increasingly linking the gut to other areas of health, believing immune health to be most influenced by the gut. They also recognise that the composition and activity of gut microbiota also impact energy levels, sleep and mood, and much more1 – health concerns that are already fore of consumer priorities.

Nutritional supplements that influence the balance of gut microbiota and offer multiple health benefits will be popular. However, it is important to consider consumer knowledge on the topic: although two in three consumers recognise the importance of gut health in achieving overall well-being, they are not necessarily aware of the ingredients that support the gut1.Research shows that people are more likely to believe in a product’s effectiveness if they are familiar with the ingredients1. Therefore, clear labelling on the benefits of emerging ingredients, such as prebiotics or combined synbiotics, is a must. Going back to basics and emphasising familiar ingredients like protein, vitamin C and iron can also build trust, while continued off-pack education is crucial for building consumer awareness around emerging solutions.

Growing old, going strong

By 2050, one in six people will be over 65 years of age – an increase from one in 11 people in 20197. With an ageing population comes new perceptions on what it means to age. As there is no longer a set blueprint for ageing, older populations are discovering for themselves what makes them feel good. It is unsurprising then, that 55% of over 55s agree that ageing healthily means staying fit and active8. For many, this means staying strong, but the impact of ageing on the body leaves half of over 65s worried about their strength as they age9. Therefore, brands have the opportunity to develop solutions that help to combat loss of strength and keep consumers leading active lives for longer. Moreover, with 90% of older consumers preferring food and drink over traditional supplements, it is key that brands take formats into consideration10. Tasty treats and drinks are still popular with older people – a protein-packed cookie with benefits to support strength can provide a moment of indulgence to a customer group that often suffers from pill fatigue.

Brands that are not targeting older populations will be missing out on a large demographic. Healthy ageing is at the forefront of many minds in 2022, and the trend is expected to grow and evolve in line with the ageing population.

In such a fast-moving industry, it can be difficult to keep up with the constantly shifting trends at the top of consumers’ priorities. However, these ever-changing trends create a wealth of opportunities for brands to earn their place in consumers’ hearts and minds. By embracing these changing priorities, brands can offer new and exciting products for consumers, shaping the future of the food, drinks and supplements industries – in 2022 and beyond.

This article was first published in the April/May 2022 issue of Food & Beverage Asia.

References

1 Innova, ‘Top Ten Trends’, 2022.
2 FMCG Gurus, ‘Top Ten Trends’, 2021.
3YouGov poll, 2021
4 Jiaqi Xiong et al., ‘Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on mental health in the general population: A systematic review’, Journal of Affective Disorders, 277, 2020.
5 Sleep Foundation, ‘Mental Health and Sleep’, 2020
6 Innova, ‘Health and Nutrition Survey’, 2021.
7 United Nations, ‘World Population Prospects: the 2019 Revision, 2019
8 Innova, ‘Beauty and Personal Care Survey’, 2021.
9 FMCG Gurus, 2019.
10 Innova, ‘Ageing Well Report’, 2021.