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With January behind us, many are abandoning their post-festive diets and returning to the normal routine. Cakes and fried foods may be back on the menu, but that doesn’t mean that concerns over unhealthy eating disappear for the rest of the year.
A big problem
According to recent research from Nielsen, 49% of global respondents believe they are overweight, and 50% of those are trying to lose weight. This is supported by other statistics. For instance, the 2013 Global Burden of Disease Study claims that over the past 30 years, the percentage of people worldwide considered overweight (BMI ≥ 25 to <30) or obese (BMI ≥ 30) increased 28% in adults and 47% in children. You have only to look at recent high-profile campaigns to improve the healthiness of school dinners to see that obesity is now a recognised problem. Furthermore, once the preserve of developed countries, now 62% of the world’s 671 million obese individuals live in developing markets— and rates are accelerating by the day. So what can be done to tackle this trend before it’s too late?
Fighting for health
The good news is that people seem to be doing something about health themselves. The 50% of consumers actively trying to lose weight in the Nielsen survey are doing so by making healthier food choices— with help from food and beverage companies. There is an opportunity for retailers and manufacturers to help these consumers, by offering those looking to manage their weight or with specific dietary requirements a range of healthy alternatives in store. Offering a wide range of private label products with reduced overall calories and low sugar alternatives to leading brands can allow consumers to closely manage their diet, while still retaining the level of choice that is so important to shoppers. Furthermore, accurately displaying information on calorie contents and proportions of fat, protein and sugars can help consumers make informed, responsible decisions.
While Type 2 Diabetes continues to rise with the level of obesity, and so retailers increasingly need to offer low sugar alternatives in store, other changes in healthy private label products can also depend largely on culture or trends perpetuated by the media. For example, fat’s reputation as dietary enemy No. 1 is fading in North America with the number of respondents from the Nielsen research saying they are cutting down on fats (59%) dropping by double-digits (14 percentage points) in just three years; presumably partly due to the “Atkins diet” trend. Over the same period, the number of North American respondents following a low-carb, high-fat diet (23%) increased 10 percentage points. You have only to look at the rise of consumers without Coeliac disease consuming gluten free products to see that health foods are as much about perception as dietary requirements. However, retailers can cater to both: offering the right level of choice to meet new consumer demands while responsibly catering to those with strict health requirements.
Ultimately, it is up to consumers to make the right decisions, but retailers and manufacturers can play an important role. By offering a wide choice of heathy private label products to consumers managing their weight, they can allow these consumers to retain choice over the products they consume. Similarly, accurately sharing information on packaging can also help consumers make informed, healthy decisions.