Consumers are taking a proactive approach to health maintenance and are actively looking to improve their diets. Whilst doing this, they are taking a broader approach to what constitutes healthy eating and drinking. Indeed, focus is no longer associated just on avoidance and moderation but instead, ensuring that they have ingredients in their diets that offer a health boost beyond basic nutrition. This is something that the fats and oils industry needs to respond to, educating consumers about how “good” fats are something that can help address issues such as heart health and immunity

 Over the last twelve months, consumers have become more conscious about their health. For instance, in 2020 a total of 57% of consumers said that they deemed themselves vulnerable to disease and illness – compared to 38% who said this a year before. At the same time, satisfaction with immune health declined from 54% to 49% over the same period. This is due to the impact of the pandemic. Originally, concerns about the virus was about vulnerability to it, especially when less was known about how deadly it was. However over the last twelve months, consumers have had chance to re- evaluate and have taken a broader approach to health, recognizing that even if they were not necessarily vulnerable to problems arising from COVID-19, they were at risk of other long-term health problems. This is due to consumers recognizing that their dietary habits are not as healthy as they could be. As such, they are wanting to take a proactive approach to health maintenance – with 76% saying that they plan to eat and drink more healthily over the last twelve months.

As consumers take a proactive approach to health maintenance, they are focusing more on the concept of positive nutrition. This means that consumers are not associating dieting with avoidance and moderation in order to lose weight but instead, believing that if they adopt a well balanced diet, they will be able to improve all aspects of their health. The focus on this means that ingredient-  led claims are becoming more influential on purchasing  behavior, with consumers wanting to see active ingredient and claims on products that offer a health boost beyond basic nutrition. Although  it  is   important to not over-estimate consumer awareness of fats, they do recognize that some in moderation and part of a balanced diet can have a positive impact on health. For instance, 42% of consumers associate monounsaturated fats with having a  positive  impact on health, whilst 39% say this for polyunsaturated fat. Meanwhile, 47% of consumers say that they are prone to looking for these ingredients on product packaging. Over the last couple of decades, sugar has replaced fat as the number one dietary evil in the eyes of the consumer, and this research shows that consumers believe that fats, in moderation, can have a positive impact on health.

 “Good” fats such as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats can have a variety of benefits, such as helping aid with weight loss, improving heart health and boosting overall immunity. These areas of health are important to consumers. For instance, FMCG Gurus research shows that in 2020, a total of 70% of consumers say that they have looked to make changes to their diets and lifestyles to improve their immune health – compared to 53% who  said this a year earlier. Meanwhile, 65% in the same year said  that  they  wanted to improve their heart  health.  Finally, in 2021, a total of 34% of consumers said that they were on a diet to lose weight (around a ten percent increase compared to when  the  survey  was run three years earlier). The focus on health maintenance reflects the extent that COVID-19 has had on consumer attitudes to health, as more focus is placed on disease maintenance than ever before.

 Given that many consumers believe that there will be  future  waves  of the virus and one in five believe that it is something that will impact  on daily lives for several years, increased concern about vulnerability to disease will remain for some time. At the same, it is important to recognize that even before the pandemic, consumers were not conscious about their health, and were focusing on trying to stay   fit and active until as late in life as possible. This is something that the fat and oils industry needs to respond to, educating consumers about the benefits of products and highlighting the benefits these ingredients have when consumed in moderation and as part of a balanced diet. At the same time, it is important that brands are not seen to be making exaggerated or misleading claims around these benefits.