Nutrition plays a key role in the buyer decision process. But these days, not all consumers are solely focused on a product’s fat, salt, and sugar content. Growing interest in ‘holistic nutrition’ is feeding through to the food and beverage sector.
At least two main factors are driving this trend, according to Alon Chen, CEO and co-founder of Tastewise, an Israeli start-up that analyses restaurant and delivery menus, social media interactions, and home recipes online to help food and beverage innovators identify opportunities in the market.
Firstly, the COVID pandemic made society more conscious about health and wellness, he told FoodNavigator. And secondly, the rise of social media – and more importantly, nutrition-related content on social media – means that consumers are more exposed to this topic.
“Consumers today spend hours and hours a day watching TikTok, YouTube, and getting Google Push [notifications]. Their friends are Snapping them [via SnapChat], WhatsApping them, [they’re reading] so many articles with tips and tricks on how they can improve their wellbeing.
“This is a new era for all of us as humanity, but for the food and beverage industry specifically.”
Social media influencing what, how, and when consumers eat
At the same time, shoppers are purchasing a greater variety of products. Whereas traditionally, the average consumer repeatedly bought the same SKUs from the supermarket, SKU variety in shopping baskets is growing. Chen identifies this an opportunity for industry.
Again, he links this back to the influence of social media. “If you spend more than a couple of minutes on TikTok, you probably notice how many people give you advice on what you should [and should not] be eating, even how you should be eating: should…you start with fibre first, and then your protein, and then your carbs to reduce the level of glucose?”
That means that consumers, from Gen Z through to Millennials and older, are now talking about glucose levels and insulin resistance. They’re talking about digestive health, bloating, cleansing and detoxing, we were told, as well as ‘carb-free’, ‘sugar-free’, and ‘cholesterol-free’ food and drink.
“We thought that people would be talking about general diets, but that’s no longer the case. These new topics and concepts are rising by a lot.”
The overall trend observed by Tastewise is that consumption is becoming more ‘sophisticated and granular’. And not just during mealtimes, but ‘almost every day, with every bite’.
The snacking opportunity, from gut health to high protein
Snacking presents a big opportunity for food and beverage makers wanting to tap into the holistic nutrition trends. In this category, for example, gut health is a ‘rising star’, Chen explained.
Food and beverage formulations could include fermented ingredients, such as cottage cheese, or probiotics and prebiotics. Tastewise has also observed an uptick in ingredients such as tiger nut, spirulina, and millet to support the digestive system.
In protein, energy bars are here to stay. But at the same time, consumers are looking for new concepts in snacking, we were told. Egg white, for example, is back in the spotlight, with social media suggesting Instagram-worthy air fryer recipes.
Consumer interest in ‘cleansing’ in snacking is also on the rise, presenting opportunities for the inclusion of ingredients such as celery, kale and spirulina.
“It’s a great time for industry to adapt…to come up with more exciting and healthier options,” advised Chen. “The opportunity for the food industry is to adjust product lines and understand there is now a long tail of solutions consumers are expecting.
“But there is also an opportunity to position, and reposition, your existing products for the different ingredients and experiences people need.”
You can listen to FoodNavigator’s full interview with Alon Chen, co-founder and CEO of Tastewise on The FoodNavigator Podcast here, or wherever you access your podcasts.