Healthy eating: we answer your questions

March 16, 2018
6 min read

Following Mintel’s Bitesize Briefing on healthy eating on 15th March, our analysts answer a selection of questions posed by the audience at the Briefing on a range of topics from social media’s influence, what impact veganism is having, to what the biggest motivators to healthy eating are.

1. From Lucy: Healthy eating and wellness is huge on social media, with countless people becoming almost healthy celebrities on Instagram. Do you think there is a chance this could lead to increased pressure on the younger generation and be potentially damaging?

Jack Duckett, Senior Consumers Lifestyle Analyst (JD): I think celebrity culture full stop is increasingly becoming a heavy weight under which the young are struggling. And, despite the undeniably positive enthusiasm that health bloggers/vloggers have garnered for healthy living and the importance of diet and exercise, Instagram and Snapchat photos of Adonis-like men and Amazonian women are also making many young people feel that they also have to look like this.

The impact that this is having on young girls is well-documented, with a number of studies on how this hyper emphasis on healthy eating risks fueling eating disorders. But there has been less said of its impact on young men, with the exception of a few headlines regarding growing steroid usage amongst younger men. Data for Mintel’s Marketing to Men UK 2016 report shows that 17% of 16-34-year-old men say that male models make them feel more self-conscious of their own looks. I think this show that younger males are by no means ignorant to these pressures and they risk feeling under the same pressures long felt by women, to meet unattainable physique goals.

2. From Marzena: Does health food industry need to adjust to Generation Z, who are not so interested in sharing beautiful food pics on Instagram, colourful food etc?

JD: Generation Z are a mixed group – including what we count as Young Millennials (1990-1999) through to what we define as the ‘Digital Generation’ (2000 onwards). This crosses two sets of research – Young Millennials and Teens. According to Mintel data, Young Millennials are just as focused on health and social media as the rest of the wider Millennial demographic, so I am not sure there would be any need to adapt here.

On teenagers, Mintel’s Lifestyles of Children and Teens UK 2017 report showed that this group is much the same. They seem just as interested in eating healthily (they are very concerned about sugar intake!) and they appear to be keen media sharers online, so this wouldn’t quite fit here either.

3. From Andri: I am a food blogger who has recently converted to veganism, what is your response to the vegan trend, do you think it will continue to grow?

Kiti Soininen, Category Director, UK Food & Drink Research (KS): Vegans still make up less than 1% of the population, so are a fairly small group. I think the big opportunities for brands are with the much larger group of “flexitarians” (if you want to use the trend term) or people who do eat meat a lot of the time, but are taking active steps to reduce their meat intake. This has implications also for related markets. For example, our data shows that a lot of people would like cooking sauces to help them pair these with vegetables rather than meat.

What is your response to the ‘clean eating’ trend, as this has recently come under huge scrutiny? How should the food industry respond to that?

KS: We see a level of concern around anything seen as artificial or processed, and that aspect of the ‘clean eating’ phenomenon I think is grounded in a bigger, more overarching trend. However, I think the label does now come with baggage, and it seems to me that the idea goes against the broader trend of people not tending to want to be told what to do. I’d generally see more longevity in trends that make it easy or fun for people to nudge themselves towards good behaviour. So-called flexitarianism, for example, fits well here, because it’s about making small changes, flexibly.

JD: I agree with Kiti. The clean eating trend continues to be buoyed by concerns about processed foods, and a desire to know more about exactly what is going into meals. And it’s still true that if you search for ‘Clean eating’ on Instagram, there are over 37 million results. But I think that the heavy control aspect is one that people struggle with. In a culture that is increasingly focused on “treating yourself”, clean eating leaves little room for these treats. I think the food industry can “clean up” some of this confusion by being very honest about how their products fit in a daily diet – whether they are a treat or not, allowing people to better see where they have indulged and where they have remained on track.

4. From Anonymous: What’s the biggest motivation behind eating healthily? Are people really worried about health, or are they just doing it because they want to look good?

JD: I think it’s a mixed bag. There can be no doubt that much of the healthy living trend is born of aesthetics – and we can see that in significant changes that representations of “healthy people” have gone through over the last 10 years. Previously being healthy just meant not being overweight, but it’s changed a lot, with men and women now expected to be leaner and more muscular. From this angle, much of the healthy eating and fitness trends can be seen as reflecting a desire to fit in with this aspiration.

But we do also see amongst older adults in particular, a realization that health matters and a genuine desire to work with what they have to maintain their health as they get older. This is particularly true when it comes to Emma’s discussion on cognitive claims. Mintel’s Marketing to the Over-55s UK 2017 report shows us that dementia is the leading fear for this group as they get older, and slightly older research into this age group showed a desire to keep fit and healthy for their younger families. So, in this sense I would argue that this group is very genuine in its efforts to be healthier.

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Jack Duckett is a Senior Consumers Lifestyle Analyst at Mintel. He specialises in reports exploring the attitudes and behaviours of different demographic groups.

Kiti Soininen is Category Director for Mintel’s Food & Drink research.

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