The market for targeted health and wellness foods and beverages is a dynamic and promising one, driven largely by the growing recognition—among scientists, government, practitioners and consumers—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.
As defined by market research firm Packaged Facts in a just-released report on "Targeted Health and Wellness Foods and Beverages: The U.S. Market and Global Trends," these products are packaged foods and beverages that are specially formulated and distinctively marketed as addressing a specific health concern or disease. This category is distinct from, but related to, product categories including functional foods, nutraceuticals and condition-specific nutritional supplements, as well as the FDA-defined categories of foods for special dietary use and medical foods.
According to David Sprinkle, publisher of Packaged Facts, "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."
Packaged Facts survey data show that targeted health and wellness food shoppers are 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. 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 indicate that doctors are one of their key sources of information about nutrients in food, and about one-quarter cite other medical professionals. Furthermore, one-quarter of shoppers say a recommendation by a health professional is an important factor when buying grocery products targeting a specific health concern. Therefore, marketing to healthcare practitioners can be a rewarding strategy.
At the same time, grocery shoppers are very proactive about conducting research to educate themselves about diet. Just over half of the grocery shoppers surveyed by Packaged Facts consider health, nutrition and wellness websites to be among the most valuable sources of information about nutrients in food.