Ceuta’s International Business Development Executive, Lizianne Bueno, was at the Vitafoods Europe Conference 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland, a global nutraceutical event where the industry come together to create innovation, connect with business leaders and find effective solutions. Here she discusses what she learned about how consumers are inspiring the industry thinkers and shaping food industry trends for optimal health through science and innovation with a personal touch

For those not familiar with the industry, what does nutraceutical mean?

It’s about empowering people to make better decisions about the kind of food and things people put in their body to look after themselves. We often focus on the physical health benefits of functional foods but changing consumer lifestyles and demographics means cognitive health is coming to forefront of consumer minds

Consumers are increasingly taking health and wellness into their own hands; they are more informed, more adventurous and are embracing lifestyle changes. People are becoming more active, and naturally this influences what and how they eat. For brands in the healthcare and food & drink industries, this presents an opportunity to tap into consumers’ desire to be empowered to take proactive decisions about what they put in their bodies.

In marketing terms, this blurs the traditional boundaries that used to exist between food & drink and healthcare and this is how nutraceutical evolved.

What are the key learnings you took away from Vitafoods 2019?

The trend I saw throughout the sector is that of sustainability. To drive sustainability, companies want to explore the key issues, the emerging trends affecting the global health and the nutrition industry, helping consumers in making informed decisions and driving change.

Sports nutrition and fitness have gone mainstream

No longer confined to gym fanatics, today’s proactive consumers are looking for ways to advance their health – including losing weight, boosting immunity, increasing energy and building muscle mass. These are all benefits of protein, which creates great opportunities for protein-rich products. One of the stats that caught my attention was that the market for pea protein has grown by 65% – making it the fastest-growing plant-based product in sports nutrition.

Plant power and protein innovation

Consumers are changing direct habits, making conscious decisions and efforts to cut down meat and focus on a more plant-based food. One of the drivers is price – plant-based food can be easily be incorporated in daily consumption, plus there are obvious ethical and health reasons.

This shift towards more plant-based options suggests that developing new protein sources and improving existing ones will be the drivers of innovation in this space. People are no longer content that foods and supplements are simply effective, but widening their concerns: objecting more strongly about animals been treated unethically and  – as plant-based options rely on soil quality to be sustainable – being more vocal about environmental concerns.

In less than two decades, plant-based diets and supplements have gone from being fairly niche, to mainstream, with meat alternative products that are both tasty and guilt-free  very much aligned with the Millennial generation. Brands need to listen and respond to these shifts in consumer behaviour and attitudes.

Growing opportunities in the snack market

In line with the realisation that the body needs the right nutrients to function properly – not just physically, but for emotional and mental wellbeing – consumers’ expectations are evolving when it comes to snacking. They know that they need to eat little and often to maintain their metabolism, for example. This is a backlash against fast food and the obesity crisis – bear in mind that 80% of fatal diseases are caused by obesity. Lifestyle trends drive diet change – 51% of UK consumers reported changing eating habits/diet in the past year (Innova Market Insights survey, 2019).

Companies that manage to deliver on this expectation for taste and nutrition in the snacking market will stay one step ahead.

Personalisation is key

In today’s digital world, it’s easier than ever to get close to your consumers and offer them bespoke solutions and experiences. Some interactive innovations I learnt about at the conference were apps that create challenges for customers by asking them to record their food intake, how many hours they spend sleeping, and the exercise they’ve taken, then establishes targets for them to hit. This allows for true personalisation and allows innovative brands to build closer relationships with their audience. Look at the popularity of MyFitnessPal, which allows users to scan food labels and create and track a food diary. There are so many opportunities in this market.

What’s the challenge for brands looking to break into or grow their share of the nutraceutical market?

Consumers expect companies to be honest with them, so your brand needs to practice and demonstrate a transparent and ethical approach. Customers are paying more attention to their health than ever, and looking for trustworthy replacements to unhealthy alternatives. They are reading labels and expect to be offered sustainable products from brands that take environmental concerns seriously.

Consumers are forcing brand marketing to open up; they want to know the full story of the brand, and talk about the very beginning and very end: the motivation for creating the brand, the chemicals used in the products, where the packaging goes, if it is biodegradable.

As a brand, you need to inspire your customers and show that you understand them and their concerns. Smart brands are working a lot more on their marketing and communication strategies, and are realising they need to create an eco-system around their brand. That eco-system has to encompass multiple channel, it’s exciting, but can also be overwhelming for brands.

Go2Grocery International replicates the successful model established by Ceuta International, which offers brand strategy and category management to healthcare and OTC brands who want to grow their presence in other countries. Go2Grocery International works with small challenger brands, as well as well-established brands in the food & drink sector to deliver targeted and sustainable expansion propositions for their brands globally. It offers strategic brand positioning in international multi-markets and we support the brand with three-year business plan for each of these markets.

For more information on how we can help you brand to grow or break into the international healthcare or food & drink industries, contact us today.