Australia’s Health Concerns Drive Changing Consumer Preferences

Australia has amongst the highest rates of obesity and being overweight in the world. This has been a key driver for health and wellness food and beverages across all health and wellness categories: organic, fortified/functional (FF), naturally healthy (NH), better-for-you (BFY) and food intolerance. Whilst BFY recorded gradual growth over the the last five years, it has been other health and wellness categories such as organic, NH and food intolerance that have captured consumers’ attention and recorded high growth.

As consumers have health and wellness in mind, Australians are increasingly interested in less-processed foods and have a growing preference for NH foods. NH high fibre pasta is one example, delivering double-digit current value growth each year for a decade and growing by an additional 27% in 2015. These variants are not typically marketed as being high in fibre, but as wholemeal pasta. A similar trend is occurring in rice, where NH rice – specifically brown rice, or increasingly red rice or wild rice – grew by 3% in current terms in 2015, as consumers searched for intriguing new alternatives to white rice.

Outlook

Making food and drink choices can be a difficult task for consumers. Products that are claimed to be low in fat can often be full of sugar and high in calories, for example. In addition, claims of added vitamins and minerals can often be masked within a product by having other nutritional features. The Health Star Rating system was voluntarily introduced in 2014, primarily for packaged food, but 2015 saw many brand owners in beverages adopting this system. Packaged food and beverages are rated on a scale of five stars according to an algorithm that takes into account quantities of both “negatives” such as sugar and fat, and “positives” such as protein and fibre. The new regime has already had an impact on BFY packaged food, an impact that is likely to intensify.

Through this system, consumers now have an easy to understand means of determining the nutritional value of packaged food and drinks. Brand owners are also endeavouring to change the formulation of their products in order to improve their Health Star Ratings score, and this could thereby further negate the need for specific BFY products. Another limitation is the system will only truly help consumers make decisions if most (and if not all) food and drinks companies get on board.