“Wellness practices like Chinese medicine and yoga have been around forever, but have increased in popularity in the modern wellness lifestyle” and are starting to influence the American diet, said Carl Jorgensen, director of global consumer strategy of wellness at Daymon Worldwide, a company focused on brand building, sourcing and retail driven services.
He explained that he is seeing more interest in using tried and true traditional Chinese and ayurvedic herbs as ingredients in food and beverages. For example, he noted, Ashwagandha – an herb that comes from the same family as the tomato and purports to have rejuvenating properties that can ease stress and improve concentration – is finding its way into more products, such as Sherpa Power ready-to-drink tea from a California based startup.
The boom in probiotic-packed fermented foods and beverages, which is just beginning, also draws from “ancient wisdom” in Asian cultures that pairs these foods with digestive and overall health benefits, he said.
Likewise, the emerging focus on ancient grains is based on the idea that many of the grains used in food processing today, particularly wheat and corn, have been bred to “barely resemble their ancestors cultivated and eaten by mankind a millennia ago,” Jorgensen said. “They were bred to develop characteristics that made them easier to process or bake or grow and not so much for their nutritional properties. But now, going back to the original cultivars of these grains” consumers can access all the nutrition, fiber and micronutrients our ancestors consumed.
In particular, he sees a strong future for millet at the crossroads of health and wellness and food in the future.
“One of the really big grains will be millet, which is this tiny bead of a grain and relatively tasteless, but which has a lot of protein and fiber,” and is drought- and insect-resistant so is easy to grow in the face of food insecurity, Jorgensen explained.
Six other trends influencing health and wellness
He predicts, other influential trends that will influence health, wellness and food and beverage in the future are:
An “accent on the positive” – “It used to be everyone wanted to see that there was no MSG or no artificial colors or no artificial flavors or too much fat, sugar or sodium. But now that is the baseline, and what really counts with consumers are the positive attributes of the food,” Jorgensen said. He explained these attributes include nutrient density, special ingredients, Fair Trade, whether animals were humanely treated or the environmental impact on food. In the future, Americans will think not just about their own health and wellness but of that of others and the planet.
Food and wellness communities– CSAs, community gardens and fitness groups are helping people better understand where food comes, how to prepare it and how it impacts their bodies, Jorgensen said. These communities also are driving the current demand for fresh, local and artisanal foods. Going forward he sees opportunities for food manufacturers and retailers to partner with local fitness groups and farmers to bring branded products to consumers. These also are good retail channels for small, new brands to gain footing because of the focus on community values within these groups, he said.
Clean labels – “Clean” ingredient decks will continue to be influential in how healthy consumers perceive products, Jorgensen said. “Part of this trend is dejunking. So reformulating a product that wasn’t clean before and reengineering it to get rid of artificial flavors and colors, reducing the salt and sugar content significantly while still having the product deliver the same or better experience than before.” He acknowledged that this is a “huge challenge” for the industry, but he said he is “really encouraged and impressed by how well food manufacturers are accelerating the clean label trend and innovating.”
Digestive health –While not new, Jorgensen predicts digestive health will remain a “purchase driver globally,” especially as consumers better understand the role of digestion in their overall health and how probiotics, fermented beverages and cultured foods can aid them. “You are going to see so much more innovation around products for digestive health in the future.”
Plant based proteins – Again, consumers’ perception of health and wellness is expanding beyond themselves to include the environment, and they increasingly are understanding that plant based proteins are just as healthful to them and more sustainable to the earth than animal proteins, Jorgensen said.
Health tracking wearables – As wearable health technology evolves beyond just counting steps and calories burned, it will play a pivotal role in creating customized diets and activity regimens that will contribute to preventive health, Jorgensen said. He also noted that apps that can track moods also could help consumers in the future better understand how food impacts their emotions and mental state.