Julian Mellentin, co-director of the Center for Food and Health Studies and editor in chief of the New Nutrition Business newsletter, got the conference off to a snappy start with his presentation, ‘Five for the Future: Setting the Table.’
Mellentin pointed out that it is often difficult know what is going to work in the marketplace, as what consumers say in a focus group turns out to be different than their actual buying habits. This is because they are motivated by a broader range of things, such as packaging. But several things are becoming clearer, he said. People increasingly are self-defining health. That is, if they believe they feel better when they eat gluten-free foods even if they don’t have celiac disease, then they will buy them. If they feel better after drinking a lactose-free milk, even at double the price of regular milk, they will buy it.
Consumers want to feel the benefit of a product as quickly as possible, he said. It is one the reasons that energy drinks and other drinks for functional health are by far the biggest in the market.
And increasingly, Mellentin said, buying is becoming an individualized experience as people’s beliefs about health fragment. Claims such as ‘natural’ and ‘free from preservatives,’ for instance, have become standard mass marketing, not enough to distinguish new products in the marketplace. As an example, Mellentin pointed to digestive health, which is probably the biggest trend. A niche of people, only five percent, and their belief about digestive health are driving this trend.