The self-identifying health-committed consumer group—which devotes nearly three-quarters of shopping to healthy products—has increased 38% since 2009, according to data collected on more than 700 million households worldwide.
“We see this as a sustained trend rather than a fad, triggered by both heightened sensitivity about health in general and improvements in economic conditions since the recession,” David Ciancio, Dunnhumby’s senior customer strategist, told FoodNavigator-USA. “More disposable income has been converted into healthier purchases.”
Although this group tends to be more affluent and higher educated, health-committed consumers are willing to spend more on healthy products regardless of demographics, Ciancio noted. “For retailers and brands this is especially important because they spend more and shop more frequently than customers on the opposite end of spectrum.”
Most primarily seek out fresh fish and produce (still, Dunnhumby found, to the detriment of frozen fruit and vegetables, despite their being equal to fresh in vitamin and mineral content). But they’re also open to new, healthier, greener alternatives to pantry staples—particularly those with more fiber, less saturated fat, reduced sugar or “natural” sweeteners and cleaner or less-processed sounding ingredient decks. The more stringently health-committed shoppers are proving the most willing to shop multiple locations and channels to find products that fit this bill.
“They’re also concentrating their purchases, making longer lists at places that they can find those options,” Ciancio added.
More shoppers putting ‘healthy’ onus on brands, retailers
According to Dunnhumby’s data, some 90% of consumers worldwide equate healthy, fresh food with better overall health. At the same time, 72% believe that they are less healthy than previous generations because they eat less healthy.
An overwhelming majority of consumers (90%) takes responsibility for eating better, but 62% expect food manufacturers to play an important role in helping them lead a healthier life, and 53% say supermarkets should help. (This in comparison to 37% and 30% for government and restaurants, respectively.)
“They’re returning to brands and retailers and saying ‘help me,’” Ciancio said. “Huge importance is being placed on institution of supermarkets and the overall grocery industry to take leadership in that space.”
These shoppers are not only looking to supermarket departments to provide a wider selection of what they deem healthy—meaning “high-quality,” “organic,” “local” and “natural” options—they’re also counting on them to provide more services that support healthier living, from recipes and nutritional information to staff dietitians who can help them establish healthy eating plans.
For brands, this translates to adopting a strong framework for what Ciancio calls “trend diffusion,” or capitalizing on their association with a popular product by expanding its possibilities. He used coconut milk as an example.
“As coconut milk continues to enjoy strong growth, the trend is moving to coconut oil and coconut sugar both positioned as healthy alternatives in their own categories,” he said. “The box needs to be reflected by what’s in the box.”
Go ahead: take my data!
Perhaps owing in part to the explosion of health- and lifestyle-tracking apps, consumers appear more willing than ever to surrender their own data to retailers and brands as a means to get healthier, Dunnhumby found.
“Health-committed shoppers are more and more aware of and interested in having their data used for a good and healthier lifestyle,” Ciancio said. “That could be unpacking how I shop, how many calories are in the foods I’m buying—any data surrounding purchases that can shed more light on health.”
One intriguing outcome of this increasingly connected consumer, he added, is that shoppers are ahead of many brands and manufacturers when it comes to food trends.
“The manufacturers are really behind consumers, who have picked up on hot new things quickly,” he said.
So what has global and health-committed foodies excited for 2016? Pine needles, flax, figs, beet juice, duck eggs and cocoa nibs—to name a few, Ciancio said.