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The new definition of health

The trend of healthy eating is one that has evolved significantly since it began almost 30 years ago.

Before, healthy was about avoiding the negatives like salt, sugar, calories, or carbs, or looking for the positives such as omega-3 fatty acids, added vitamins and enrichment, antioxidants, etc.

In the past few years, health has moved more towards natural goodness or benefits provided by the ingredients or natural attributes.

While all of those things still have relevance, particularly among the generation that created those trends, there is an emerging approach to health that could be construed as defying everything we have followed before.

Boomers continue to live by the same types of healthy eating standards because they are the generation who invented them:
– 58% Avoid processed foods
– 83% Expect to eat at home more
– 65% Eat foods high in fibre
– 73% Eat fruit/vegetables at every meal
– 62% Look for foods rich in Omega-3s

The availability of information at lightning speed has led to a curiosity about food like we have never seen before.

An increasing number of people are judging the quality of their food by where it comes from, what it is made with and how it is made. This is the new definition of “healthy” that’s been driven by the millennials, and is spreading quickly.

This new definition is three-pronged:

  • Local
  • Clean Label
  • Sustainable / socially responsible

Products that are produced locally, have a clean label and can claim a sustainable element, such as organic, uses renewable energy, or is perceived to be socially more responsible such as fair trade, will likely be able to command a higher price and gain some of that much coveted brand loyalty that can be fleeting.

In some cases this new definition of health will trump the traditional definition. For example, a product that contains recognizable and pronounceable ingredients will be favoured over a product that is claiming high fibre, low salt but contains additives and preservatives even if it might contain higher levels of fat, salt and no fibre claims.

The French’s vs Heinz ketchup scenario from this past summer is a clear indication that local is preferred over imported, but from a health perspective, especially for foods like fresh fruit and vegetables, people have come to believe that less travel will mean more nutrients.

Whether you’re a manufacturer or retailer looking for health focused products to put on your shelves, keep in mind that, like many things, the definition of health is no longer simple and straightforward.

It is good to have a mix of products that satisfy the traditional definition but do not discount products that might not meet those traditional parameters as long as they are either locally produced or sourced, have a clean label, and/or could be considered sustainable or more socially responsible.

All attributes of the product need to be considered.  Understanding what your consumers are looking for in different categories will determine the product mix you should carry or manufacture.

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