Industry news
The Market For Health & Wellness
〖 03/02,2013 | Hits 1180 〗
The consumer quest for health continues to play a pivotal role in the growth of the health and wellness product market, according to a new study titled "Targeted Health and Wellness Foods and Beverages: The U.S. Market and Global Trends," from New York, NY-based market research firm Packaged Facts. The report assessed the market for healthy foods and beverages and found it to be “dynamic and promising,” and “driven largely by the growing recognition—among scientists, government, practitioners, and consumers alike—of the instrumental role diet plays in a wide range of health conditions.”
Diseases that are linked to eating habits, including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, some types of cancer, and diabetes, are among the leading causes of death in the U.S. The risk of developing diet-related chronic diseases increases with age, so the graying of the U.S. population is a key factor in this market. Escalating healthcare costs that prompt consumers to seek alternative ways of managing their health also draw attention to these products and spur sales.
The analysis reported packaged foods and beverages that are specially formulated and distinctively marketed as addressing a specific health concern or disease are a category distinct from, but related to, product categories that include functional foods, nutraceuticals and condition-specific nutritional supplements, as well as the FDA-defined categories of foods for special dietary use and medical foods.
“Two-thirds of U.S. grocery shoppers have purchased a food or beverage in the past year for the purpose of addressing one or more specific health and wellness conditions or concerns, with cholesterol management and digestive health of particular concern,” commented David Sprinkle, publisher of Packaged Facts. 
Mr. Sprinkle went on to point out that the two largest targeted health and wellness segments by purchase rates were cholesterol management and digestive health, driven by the credibility of the claims made for plant sterols/stanols and probiotics, respectively. “These ingredients have demonstrated clinical efficacy in countless studies, and they are found in a growing array of food and beverage products,” he said. 
“Probiotics are also understood to support the immune system, and this is the segment that will show the most dynamic growth over the next few years,” he added. “Interest in healthy immunity has soared as consumers increasingly recognize its role in everything from reducing risk of illness and chronic disease to staving off the cosmetic signs of aging. Antioxidant powerhouses such as superfruits and tea extracts currently predominate in immune-boosting foods and beverages, but expect more novel formulations and evidence-backed products in the foreseeable future.”
Packaged Facts survey data found food shoppers to be “exceptionally willing” to pay more for “better-for-you” products, as well as to shop for these products in a wider range of outlets. “The health benefit reputation of a food, beverage, or ingredient is the most significant factor when grocery shoppers are making a purchase decision based on a specific personal or household health concern,” the report stated. “This underscores that it is important for marketers to convey health benefits credibly, clearly, consistently and frequently.”
Nearly half of grocery shoppers in Packaged Facts’ survey indicated that doctors were one of their key sources of information about nutrients in food, and about one-quarter cite other medical professionals. Furthermore, one-quarter of shoppers said a recommendation by a health professional was an important factor when buying grocery products targeting a specific health concern. Therefore, the researchers asserted marketing to healthcare practitioners could prove to be a rewarding strategy.
At the same time, grocery shoppers were very proactive about conducting research to educate themselves about diet. Just over half of those surveyed by Packaged Facts considered health, nutrition and wellness websites to be among the most valuable sources of information about nutrients in food. Interestingly, information from product and/or company websites only resonated with 24% of consumers polled. Twenty-four percent of consumers polled said they considered product labeling and packaging as a source of product information. 
Data for the report was generated by Packaged Facts’ May-June 2011 Food Shopper Insights Survey, a survey of 1,395 shoppers who bought in the last 12 months any food or beverage products because they contain high amounts of antioxidants, beta-carotene, calcium, fiber, omega 3/omegas, phytoestrogens, probiotics/prebiotics, protein, superfruits, vitamins/minerals, and/or phytosterols/stanols.
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