Self-Health: Food & Beverage for Holistic Health

October 7, 2021
Trends Innovation
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“Health” has always meant so much more than just nutrition, and the events of the last year have only highlighted the importance of other types of health: mental, physical, emotional and more. While a holistic approach to health has long been a fixture of traditional medicine, it has been gaining steady ground with mainstream consumers as they seek out food products that can help them manage needs that go far beyond satisfying hunger. Read on to learn about the opportunities for brands to support their consumers’ whole self while still keeping taste front of mind.

What is Wellness?

Whereas “being healthy” might have once meant eating your veggies and going for a brisk walk, today’s consumers understand that there’s much more to it. Not only that, but they’re prioritizing wellness in their lives: a McKinsey survey  found that 79% of respondents believe that wellness is important in their lives, and also found a significant increase in those prioritizing wellness in recent years.

In addition to nutritious foods that provide their bodies with fuel, consumers are increasingly turning to products that can improve other areas of their lives, such as sleep, concentration and energy. In fact, 65% of consumers  are looking for additional functions from their food and drinks.

What does this mean for brands? It means that the market is ready and waiting for innovation and products that combine functionality with great taste are more in demand than ever.
“In the coming years, the focus on mental and emotional wellbeing will continue the shift away from health decisions that are motivated by the desire to look good toward a desire to feel good.” - Mintel

Feeding the Mind, Body and Soul

What does “healthy” mean for the different aspects of our lives?

Mental: Mental health can be affected by countless factors, but one example that consumers consistently cite is poor sleep quality. This is often accompanied by anxiety, and both can be caused by an excess of stress. Ingredients like ginseng, L-theanine and melatonin can help soothe anxious nerves and promote better sleep hygiene.

Physical: Physical health includes a wide range of components, from healthy guts to painless joints. Some products, like kefir, pack a one-two punch, with probiotics for gut health as well as protein and calcium for strong bones.

Emotional: Foods that improve emotional health are often those that bring us comfort. This can take many forms, from a warm bowl of noodles to a sweet indulgence after a meal. Brands can combine these occasions with stress-relief ingredients like omega-3s or maca root for increased effectiveness.

Products of Note:

Objective: Fast Asleep Chocolate-y Sleep Square s feature GABA, a neurotransmitter with calming properties, and saffron, which studies have linked to improved sleep quality.

Poppi probiotic soda contains natural probiotic apple cider vinegar combined with fruit juice and no artificial ingredients for a gut-healthy drink that comes in classic flavors like root beer as well as more unique ones like raspberry-rose.

Healthy Delights Naturals Luscious Acai Berry Flavored Collagen Shots are naturally flavored and are said to support radiant and glowing skin and healthy joints and connective tissues including skin, ligaments and tendons that support muscles.

25% of consumers responded that they likely or definitely would buy this product

Yasso Vanilla Bean Poppables feature vanilla flavored with other natural flavors Greek yogurt coated in a dark chocolate quinoa crunch, with only 60 calories per poppable.

33% of consumers responded that they likely or definitely would buy this product.

Consumers and Covid-19

Covid-19 has changed everything about how we eat and drink, from where it happens to what we’re seeking in our products.

With the ever-changing news cycle, it’s no wonder that consumers’ feelings are similarly volatile, swinging from motivated to stagnant. McKinsey reports that more than half of consumers want to prioritize mindfulness; brands can tape into this need with snacks that promote relaxation or emotional comfort.

Physical health and immunity are also top of mind. Mintel reports that, as consumers fight to hold onto the healthy habits they’ve developed during lockdown, they’re also looking for products that support their immune systems to protect against a range of illnesses.
“Post-COVID-19 snacks can play up their creative side with innovative flavors, ingredients and packaging as consumers seek ‘something new’ after being constrained for so long.” - Mintel

Products of Note:

Pepsi’s SoulBoost is a sparkling water that comes in two functional flavors: blueberry-pomegranate “Lift,” with ginseng for energy and concentration, and blackberry-passionfruit “Ease,” with L-theanine for relaxation.

Good Source Evening Chill Snack Clusters contain calming ingredients like cherries, lavender and walnuts to help you ease into a good night’s sleep.

Who’s Healthy?

As with all things, there are generational differences in how consumers approach their health and related decisions. However, there are some things we can all agree on: According to Mintel, 78 percent of adults think eating well is important to their emotional wellbeing. A few more important things to consider:

  • Millennials are most likely to look for healthy food options, with 51 percent seeking them out. Gen X follows at 45 percent, and Gen Z is close behind .

  • Boomers focus on functional foods for both physical and mental health and are particularly interested in personalized nutrition options  .

  • Millennials and Gen X are looking to improve their mental health and increase happiness .

  • More millennials said they were proactive with their health (71%) than Boomers (66%) and Gen Xers  (64%).

 78 percent of adults  think eating well is important to their emotional wellbeing. - Mintel

Functional Foods in the Digital World

We’re increasingly living more of our lives in a digital space, and Covid-19 has accelerated that. Screen time increased  during the pandemic as we all spent more time at home, and, as a result, 36 percent of adults are concerned with how screens are affecting their vision and 40 percent are concerned with how screens affect their children’s vision .

Looking at these statistics, it’s clear that eye health is more essential than ever, but few foods make functional claims in this space. This presents a huge opportunity for brands. In addition to using ingredients such as lutein and Vitamin E that are shown to improve eye health, Mintel suggests that brands can “create functional formulations that add an ‘in real life’ (IRL) experience to virtual events,” like energizing products to consume while watching an action movie or relaxing products to consume during a meditation tutorial .

eSports and Functional Foods

As eSports, or competitive digital games, move into the mainstream, their participants’ needs are becoming more commonplace. Eye strain is a common issue for players, as is the desire for quicker decision-making capabilities. Helpful ingredients include lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidant compounds that reduce some of the harmful effects of blue and ultraviolet light.

Read more in our Gaming & eSports Insight here.

Products of Note:

DHA Omega-3 Chocolate Organic Lowfat Milk by Horizon Organic  is fortified with Vitamins A and Vitamin D as well as DHA omega-3, all of which are thought to improve brain and eye health.

Babybel Plus+ Dairy Snack with Vitamin A & Vitamin B12 is said to provide a good source of protein and calcium per serving. It is enriched with B12 said to support converting food to energy and Vitamin A for eye health support.

43% of consumers responded that they likely or definitely would buy this product.

Raspberry Flavoured Gummies for Digital Eye Health by TwinLab contain Lutemax, a proprietary lutein extract that is supposed to help eyes filter out the blue light emitted by digital devices.

Nature's Bounty Brain HP Jelly Beans are targeted at gamers. They contain L-theanine, citicholine and lutein to filter out blue light and improve reaction time and visual perception.

Health for the Whole World

Consumers are increasingly understanding wellness to include not only their own health but that of the world. These three pillars of whole-world health all work together to create a better future for everyone.

Climate Change - Americans of all ages are increasingly worried about climate change, with the fear being especially prevalent among younger generations . Mintel suggests that this will compel brands to become more sustainable to remain competitive in the space .

Natural Ingredients - Many consumers are also concerned about the ingredients in their products, gravitating toward natural ingredients, which are perceived as healthier. A McKinsey  report found that 20 percent of customers would choose a more natural product over a more effective one.

Nutrition Justice - The concept of nutrition equity, meaning that everyone has equal access to nutritious foods, is emerging as a priority for many consumers. Mintel  predicts that the pandemic and accompanying social justice movements will make nutrition justice a progressively more important issue in the next five years.

Plant-Based Power

The rise in plant-based products is an example of how these concepts go hand-in-hand. Plant-based foods typically have a smaller carbon footprint, produce less methane, and require less water than animal-based products. Sales in this category have grown 11 percent  in the last year.

Products of Note:

Force of Nature Ground Bison features regeneratively sourced 100% grass fed bison with 24g protein per serving. The manufacturer claims that livestock can play a critical role in developing ecosystems that provide habitat for wildlife, sequester carbon, capture water and reverse climate change.

24% of consumers responded that they likely or definitely would buy this product.

Boulevard Beverage Co. Quirk Seltzers include the following flavors: strawberry, lemon & basil, pear yuzu, and blackberry sage. This spiked and sparkling product with alcohol is free from gluten and added sugar, contains less than 1g sugar, is claimed to be made with real fruit juice, provides 90 calories and is made with all natural ingredients.

29% of consumers responded that they likely or definitely would buy this product.

The Takeaways

Self-health is more than just a trend or a buzzword: it’s a new way of understanding how to take care of ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally. This holistic view dovetails perfectly with the functional foods movement and provides brands with myriad opportunities to develop products that meet one or more of their consumers’ needs. Whether it’s a moment of indulgence that also helps them sleep, or a pick-me-up drink to improve concentration, consumers are relying on their food and beverages more than ever for support. Just don’t forget to make it taste great too!

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