Join the health club

No longer the pursuit of premium consumers, health is fast becoming one of the most important agendas for wholesalers to put at the top of their stocklists

It seems strange to consider being healthy as a trend. But with more people keeping a close eye on what they’re putting into their bodies, and the lifestyle they lead, it seems health is something that can’t be ignored.

And with a new year – and the resolutions that come with it – on the horizon, there’s money to be made in wholesalers making sure they’re offering products that appeal to those on a health kick.

Looking after yourself is nothing new and people have always been concerned about their health, although younger consumers are beckoning in a lifestyle that’s here to stay.

“Every week we hear about climate change, animal welfare or the health benefits of eating good-quality food, so it’s no surprise that we’re seeing a surge in healthy vegetarian living,” explains Suma’s Marketing and Comms Manager Giles Simon.

“We’ve been supplying wholefoods and everything vegetarian for more than 40 years, so the healthy food market has always been big for us. But there’s no doubt too that we’ve benefited from a recent spike in interest.

“The prominence of vegan diets and organic produce, for example, has led to a growth in the range of customers, with more retailers and cafés stocking our products.”

A new wave

It isn’t just the specialists that are benefiting from the upturn in healthy trends. While it’s been Suma’s purpose for decades, a new more-conscientious age that considers personal health and the impact choices have on the environment is creeping in.

Many suppliers are jumping onto the bandwagon. Some new products, such as sugar-free options, may be a reaction to new laws, but there’s a wave of lines that are spurred on by the sway of consumer behaviour too. And Trade Marketing Executive Chloe Salt, from London-based food distributor Leathams, says the numbers stack up for that to continue.

“Health has been an increasingly important part of consumers’ lives for a while, yet it’s still predicted to be one of the biggest trends over the next two-to-three years,” says Salt.

“The number of vegans has grown by 350% in the past decade and health is one of the driving forces. Although the number of vegans is well over 500,000 in the UK, the number of flexitarians is significantly more and that will be a real driver going forward.

“The appeal is in the name: flexibility. Choosing from day to day whether you want to be vegan without taking the plunge into committing every day is why the number of flexitarians far exceeds vegans.”

For many people, the years of limping from one fad diet to the next, and starving their body of important nutrients depending on the extreme rules dictated by the regime they’re following is being dismissed as either unhealthy or unsustainable. Nowadays, it’s about evolution, not revolution.

Trends such as meat-free Mondays have created an easy way to reduce consumption. Whereas for others, it’s about making smaller, more regular, healthy choices.

Changing tastes

One company to jump on this is Indie Bay Snacks, a brand that prides itself on offering a “better and smarter way to snack”. That means producing snacks that are natural, low calorie and a source of nutrition.

“There was no tasty, healthy, classic savoury snacks on the market that could be enjoyed at work, as a pre-dinner bite or in children’s lunchboxes,” says founder Dafna Bonas.

“Ultimately, Indie Bay isn’t about the latest fads, but about reimaging classic snacks that people know and love – snacks that have stood the test of time – to make them better and smarter. People constantly tell us they love the classics, but expect more: high protein and fibre, no hidden fats, new ingredients and interesting textures. Bland empty calories are just not good enough.”

Protein is one of the key drivers in health and and one smoothie brand, Savsé, is in tune with thanks to its high-protein range. “The biggest driver behind the growth has been a better understanding, from both the public and brands themselves, of nutritional science,” Savsé CEO Paul Gurnell adds.

“Previously protein was associated with muscle growth, but now people are understanding that foods high in protein can also help with weight loss due to keeping you feeling fuller for longer.

“The accessibility of added-protein lines in all categories has meant that whatever the shoppers need – or the time of day – they can find a way to get a fix.”

Breadth of range seems to be the answer for wholesalers, although keeping an eye on trends is crucial. This spreads across retail and foodservice, with Bidfood’s Insights Manager Lucy Pedrick suggesting the biggest
new flavours people want are now vegan, as healthier substitutions grow in popularity.

“A growing number of people are choosing a meat-free diet, with 44% of Brits either not eating meat or reducing the amount of meat they eat,” says Pedrick. “Jackfruit is the latest vegan ingredient everyone is talking about. It can be shredded, giving it a similar texture to pulled pork, and can be used in tacos and burritos, or as part of the American trend.”

So, is health here to stay? Suma’s Simon says so. “It’s dangerous to make predictions about future trends,” he adds. “But we expect more people to turn to plant-based diets and natural foods. The market is growing and it’s a trend that’s likely to continue.

Bidfood flexitarian Health Indie Bay Snacks Leathams protein range Savse Suma trends vegan vegetarian whole foods