New year, new diet? AHDB explores health food trends

New year, new diet? AHDB explores health food trends

After an indulgent Christmas period, many consumers will be taking a closer look at what they eat as they strive for healthier lifestyles in 2024. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) explores health related shopper habits, and how attitudes towards healthy food have changed over time.

Contrary to popular belief, the proportion of food chosen for health reasons is not typically at its highest in January. Consumers are actually more likely to stay in during the colder, longer nights and turn towards comfort food options. It is in the summer months that consumers tend to eat lighter meals and seek out healthier alternatives, with many opting for summer salads instead of winter warmers (Kantar Usage 4 w/e 22 January 2023 vs 4 w/e 06 August 2023).

When looking at daily consumption habits, consumers generally eat a healthier diet Monday to Thursday, whilst at the weekend they are more likely to want a treat, dine out or indulge in a takeaway, so enjoyment and taste become a greater priority (Kantar Usage 52 w/e 03 September 2023).

Health as a reason for consumption has also experienced consecutive decline since May 2022. As food and living costs have continued to rise, many consumers have had to change their shopping habits and have traded down to value tier products. Within red meat, the value tier has grown by 35.6% (YoY) and within the dairy value tier, milk volume has grown by 56.3% and cheese by 56.7% (Nielsen, 52w/e 12 August 2023). To substantiate this trend, in recent research by AHDB/Blue Marble, 40% of consumers expressed their concern for ‘affordable healthy food’.

Despite consumer habits changing, one thing has remained consistent; over 78% of consumers choose their food and drink for enjoyment, and this increases to 83.8% for meat, fish and poultry. (Kantar Usage, 52 w/e 03 September 2023).

When looking more closely at health, consumers are choosing foods with added health benefits (fibre/vitamins) and that are more natural. To support this desire for natural foods, Mintel report that 70% of UK consumers say they try to avoid ultra-processed foods (Attitudes Towards Healthy Eating UK 2023, Base: 2,000 internet users aged 16+).

This is also confirmed in AHDB’s recent research by Blue Marble, where a large proportion of consumers see meat and dairy to be preferrable to plant-based products for both health and value across all age ranges. Over the last four years, meat-free has remained a small part of the market, with just a 2% volume share (Kantar).

AHDB’s Retail & Consumer Insight Manager, Vanessa Adamson said: “There is a real opportunity to promote the natural health benefits of both red meat and dairy to provide accurate information and reassurance for all consumers.

“AHDB’s recent ‘THIS and THAT’ campaign champions the art of balanced eating, blending a bit of this with a bit of that to showcase the role of meat and dairy in a well-rounded, healthy and nutritious diet. Campaigns like this one highlight that British beef, lamb, and dairy aren’t just delicious; they’re naturally rich in protein and a source of vitamin B12, which can help reduce tiredness and fatigue as part of a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle.”

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