Health has been a dominant trend in the United Kingdom in recent years, affecting the food and beverage industry through the reformulation and introduction of new “healthier style” products in a number of categories. According to a new report from Leatherhead Food Research, a U.K.-based independent research organization, this trend shows no signs of abating with an increasing number of consumers indicating a greater awareness of health and well-being.
Leatherhead Food Research’s new report, “Diet, Health, and Obesity in the UK: State of the Nation 2012,” reveals that more than 80% of consumers in 2012 claimed to follow a healthy diet (an increase of 10% since 2004). Furthermore, compared to research conducted in 2004, there is a broader level of understanding towards what constitutes a “healthy” diet, which now includes a greater emphasis upon factors such as eating fresh fruit and vegetables (95% see this as important in 2012), having a balanced diet (87% in 2012), and drinking enough fluid (74% in 2012); these are increases since 2004 of 20%, 24%, and 26%, respectively. A higher intake of oily fish and a diet low in salt/sugar are factors which have also increased in importance since the previous research in 2004.
At the other end of the scale, there is also a change in what is perceived as unhealthy. Of course, fat is still perceived as the main contributor to an unhealthy diet (for both years reviewed around two-thirds of consumers believe too much fat in the diet is unhealthy); however, consumers now possess a more diverse opinion of unhealthy foods. Factors such as too much carbohydrate (19% of consumers in 2004 vs. 45% in 2012) and not drinking enough fluid (18% of consumers in 2004 vs. 43% in 2012) are thought to be important by greater numbers of consumers since this was first measured in 2004.
“Broadly speaking, this research indicates a greater engagement with our health and the food we consume. According to Leatherhead’s findings, a greater proportion of consumers now, compared to 2004, find time to cook from scratch, exercise, and are generally more informed and engaged with food. This presents numerous opportunities for the food and beverage industry to create products which meet these needs,” said Laura Kempster, Senior Analyst in Leatherhead's Sensory, Consumer, and Market Research department.