3 Global trends for 2024 highlighting the shift to healthy food

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Since the pandemic, healthy eating has been gaining importance. More studies on the dangers of processed foods are changing how people eat, leading to a focus on healthier choices. 

More people are choosing natural food instead of processed food. They are also paying more attention to mental health. Additionally, they are focusing on how their diet impacts their health.

This trend indicates that healthy eating is gaining popularity and acceptance among the general public. This shows that healthy eating is becoming more popular and accepted by the public. 

Some context on the trends in healthy food

Before we dive into the latest trends in healthy eating, it’s worth talking about the economic challenges we are facing. They have caused healthy eating to become less of a priority for some consumers.

Most Germans typically eat healthily. In 2022, a Mintel study discovered that over half of Germans were concerned about money rather than concentrating on eating healthily. This means that many Germans were more preoccupied with financial matters than with their diet.

The study revealed that the majority of Germans were prioritizing their financial well-being over their physical health. This indicates that financial concerns were a higher priority for Germans than maintaining a healthy diet. This highlights how times of economic stress can make healthy eating habits less prevalent.

Is this setback alarming for the healthy food evolution? Not really. Discounting short-term economic challenges, healthy food quickly gains importance.

Mintel’s market research has confirmed the global shift towards health-conscious eating. In the UK for example, 68% of consumers claim to be eating healthily all or most of the time. This highlights that despite ongoing challenges, healthy eating is still at the forefront of many consumers’ minds.


All-Natural food is not black-and-white

Across the globe, consumers are prioritizing natural foods over processed ones. Consumers want transparency and natural ingredients in their food, leading to the clean label trend. Almost half of Italian consumers agree that ‘natural ingredients’ are a top factor for them when food shopping.

Consumers like minimally processed foods, but most won’t pay extra for them. This is tough for natural food brands during tough economic times.

Luckily all-natural is not necessarily a black-and-white thing. Today, consumers are becoming more aware of the different food processing levels and distinguishing between processed and ultra-processed foods.

Consumers are deciding what they think is good or bad processing. They like foods that are minimally processed, healthy, delicious, and not too expensive.

For example, 68% of UK consumers are ok with processed foods, as long as it is in moderation within a balanced diet. The consumer is growing up and this is to the advantage of brands. As long as they provide clear communication to help consumers make informed decisions about how processed foods fit into a balanced diet, they can be seen as a ‘good’ option. If brands can provide non-processed alternatives to popular ultra-processed comfort food, they leave the choice to the customer, and that is always appreciated.


Healthy food as a driver for mental health

The definition of healthy is becoming more holistic, and this has affected many consumers’ approach to healthy eating, as a good diet is an essential part of good health. Dieting for holistic health focuses not only on physical health and weight management but also on mental and social wellness. Consumers are not just looking for healthy food in a traditional sense (low calorie, sugar-free, etc.), but also foods that nurture mood and mind. Over two-thirds of German consumers claim that what you eat has a direct impact on your emotional well-being.

A popular example, being increasingly recognized by science and consumers, is the link between the gut microbiome and overall health. This has been reflected in the market. There is an opportunity for brands with new product development and on-pack health claims. Other trends also present an opportunity, such as anti-inflammatory diets linked to cognitive health.


Healthy food as medicine

Aging populations have created a growing adoption of eating patterns that support consumers’ long-term health. Nowadays, many people view food as a type of medicine. They focus on how diet and nutrition can prevent health problems.

Driven by rising concern over the prevalence of diet-related health issues, the longevity dieting trends focus on developing foods and eating patterns that support an extended lifespan, while enhancing the quality of life. The emphasis is on the protective role of diet on health.

Innovations in longevity dieting also address weight management. Therefore, the demand for less-processed foods is expected to further increase. Some products can help regulate appetite, like those with fiber and chromium. Research also shows that texture can affect appetite, which could be important for creating new products.

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