What consumer health can learn from food trends

A big trend we have seen in our food and drink work recently is towards polarisation – dirty eating vs clean eating. Think macrobiotic grains and activated almonds for breakfast and a 2lb burger for dinner. Both clean and dirty are expressions of a very current obsession with authenticity and realness. Neither extreme pretends to be what it isn’t.

There is obvious relevance here for food and drink brands. But consumer health brands need to watch these trends too. Food and drink mean something. Your choices say something about who you are. And that self-image is carried over into how people behave outside meal times too.

Take Berocca for example. They built a huge success on delivering 900% of your recommended daily allowance of various vitamins. Why so much? Nine times more than your recommended amount isn’t 9 times better. But the brand saw success in the UK right around the time of Britain’s early 2000s moral panic over binge drinking. The links here are more than purely coincidental or functional (lots of hangovers needing the soothing restoration of an energising pick-me-up). They are also cultural: a needlessly excessive dose of good stuff makes sense to a society where excess has become a national pass-time and a tabloid obsession.

So what about the dirty/clean eating trend? The most obvious implication is that it poses a risk. Like trends for superfoods and functional foods before it, clean eating offers a vision of health purely through diet. And worse, the mind-set contains a strand of Puritan zeal that lectures against the synthetic or artificial. Not great for brands in the pills-and-tablets business.

But more positively we think there are three possible responses for consumer health brands:

  • Copy
  • Complement
  • Challenge

The Berocca example takes the copy route; the product reflects the mindset behind the wider trend. If the world wants excess, give them excess. If the world wants authenticity and Puritan zeal, given them that.

Complement means finding ways in which consumer health brands can work alongside the clean eating regime – explicitly recognising its value but helping in times of crisis, maybe.

And there’s always the third option: challenge it. Trends come and go and despite her undoubted medical knowledge, Gwyneth Paltrow attracts her fair share of cynics too. As brands from Ronseal to Trump have shown there is an appetite for self-styled straight-talkers.

We’d be happy to tell you more about our food and wellness research and how it relates to consumer health. If you’d like to know more get in touch.