That was the message from two leading market analysts speaking at the Federation of Bakers’ annual general meeting and conference in Birmingham last month.
Giles Quick, director at Kantar Worldpanel, told delegates that a combination of growing consumer concern about their health, retailers responding to that concern, and government pressure to combat obesity were creating a “perfect storm” that manufacturers were finding difficult to ignore.
Despite finding that retailers were increasingly specifying that new products should meet certain health requirements, Quick said there was currently a 60% chance that the healthiest lines in any given category were underperforming.
Clive Black, director and head of research at Shore Capital, told the conference that the health and wellbeing category was undoubtedly a “structural phenomenon” that survived the recession, and therefore was destined to continue growing.
“Product innovation is still valued by UK customers, and that can only benefit healthier products,” he said.
“In the past, the health and wellbeing agenda was focused on the over 60s and those under 20. Now, the big health problem is centred on the people between those ages.
“They were the ones who grew up on a diet of pizzas and curries – and now they are still eating pizzas and curries.”
Black pointed out that the organic sector had bounced back after the recession, while Quick said that the free-from and functional markets were performing well.
Other positive trends
Quick also noted a number of other positive trends: “In the past year, total grocery volume has grown by about 2%.
“Fibre has grown by about double that figure in that time, sugar hasn’t grown at all, and calorific content is growing at half the rate of overall grocery.”
However, both agreed that product taste remained king.
Quick said: “About one-in-three consumer choices are based on health reasons, and consumer concern, particularly around some of the less desirable nutrients, such as salt and sugar, is growing.”
However, he added: “But a word of caution – don’t be fooled by the growth of health – taste still comes first. Only about 50% of those consumers who profess significant concern about healthy eating actually act on it.”