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Nourishing a healthier tomorrow: Exploring holistic nutrition's potential in the consumer industry

| 13. december 2023

In recent years, the snack industry has undergone a significant shake-up, redefining consumer preferences and forcing businesses to adapt to new industry trends. This disruption in the snack industry can be attributed to the growing emphasis on holistic well-being and changing lifestyles, as individuals increasingly seek healthier alternatives to traditional, less nutritious options.

The demand for nutritious and convenient snack choices has surged, fueled by a growing preference for healthier food options and the emerging trend of food supplements. As a result, healthy diet products have become a focal point for both consumers and businesses, leading to a reevaluation of strategies and a notable impact on executive search within the industry. In this article, we’ll share insights from recent discussions with industry leaders about the holistic nutrition movement and its potential in the consumer industry, shedding light on the snack industry's transformative journey in alignment with overall well-being.

Executive summary

Industry Shift: Growing consumer demand for healthier snacks is driving significant changes in the snack industry, emphasizing nutrition and well-being.

Consumer Trends: Increased awareness of health, sustainability, and ethical concerns, especially among flexitarians, is influencing the rise of plant-based products.

Integration Challenges: Adapting to holistic nutrition involves navigating complex supply chains, regulatory compliance, and leveraging e-commerce for market expansion.

Leadership Evolution: Leaders in the food industry must develop skills in consumer understanding, regulatory knowledge, and global cultural intelligence.

Future Direction: The industry is trending towards more plant-based, nutrition-focused products, necessitating agile, innovative leadership and rapid market adaptation.

Holistic nutrition's influence on consumer food product evolution

According to Silvan Brauen, Co-CEO at Rivella, Switzerland, consideration of the concept of ‘holistic nutrition’ is prompting to reflect on the evolving behaviours of consumers, particularly within younger target demographics. Rising transparency in information has heightened awareness of ingredients and their impact on the body. Modern expectations now encompass holistic well-being, including physical health, mental wellness, emotions, and environmental considerations, alongside taste. Innovations in food products should integrate holistically to meet diverse needs, considering various perspectives. To succeed in the market, clear and precise communication of a holistic value proposition is crucial.

Per Riet Steiger, Co-Founder & CFO at EggField, Switzerland, contends that given the pressing global environmental problems, flexitarians in particular are increasingly interested in environmental issues and ethical problems related to factory farming. Flexitarians, like Western customers, are looking for practical, tasty, and plant-based alternatives. Changing customer behavior presents challenges for the food industry, traditionally reliant on eggs. Processors must swiftly adapt products and recipes to meet emerging demand and tap into market opportunities, often facing limited know-how on plant proteins' use and functionality.

‘Key market drivers for plant-based egg replacement include the price trend of chicken eggs, which will increase in Europe due to higher production standards and stricter regulations (e.g. cage farming). Added to this are pressures to cut subsidies for the production of animal-based proteins, as well as increasing problems with epidemics and diseases such as H5N1,’ says Riet Steiger.

HIRO Drinks offers a low-caffeine, nootropic energy drink and a sleep tonic that were developed and designed in Bali, Indonesia. Their philosophy has always been to put emphasis back on the benefits of raw ingredients and unknown superfoods - the magical things that nature gives us. ‘We leveraged science and traditional production methods, enhancing them with modern technologies to harness the inherent benefits of nature, which provides the ultimate nutrition and health benefits without humans having to interfere much at all,’ Cath Worthington, CEO at HIRO Drinks.

‘I believe that there is a discernible trend in emphasizing the impact of gut health, particularly concerning whole foods possessing inherent nutritional attributes that promote the enhancement and restoration of the gut microbiome. There is a burgeoning market for food products tailored to support gut health, with specific attention given to addressing conditions such as IBS or Crohn's disease. Furthermore, there is a noticeable shift towards the consideration of brain health, evidenced by the emergence of products like C8 and MCT oils,’ adds CPG Food & Beverage Executive based in British Columbia, Canada.

Challenges and opportunities in integrating holistic nutrition into the consumer industry

Thomas Warring, MD at HACO, Switzerland, emphasizes the need for nuanced integration in the face of challenges and opportunities. Adaptable companies gain a competitive edge by meeting evolving consumer needs in the complex supply chain, emphasizing transparency and sustainability. Educating consumers about holistic benefits, ensuring regulatory compliance and managing costs for quality ingredients are crucial. New products must be both healthy and appealing to adapt to the industry's fast-paced dynamics. ‘Aligning with consumer interest in overall well-being allows for differentiation and innovation in product development. The surge of e-commerce offers a broader audience for companies to reach through targeted marketing and personalized communication, driving sales and building brand loyalty,’ states Thomas Warring.

‘The integration of holistic nutrition into the consumer industry presents a spectrum of challenges and opportunities. These factors manifest across the entire value chain and the broader food system. Consequently, successful innovations in holistic nutrition necessitate a comprehensive approach that considers the entirety of the system, rather than focusing solely on isolated components,’ says Simone Jones, Member of the Executive Board at Betty Bossi (Coop).

The cost associated with personalized nutrition may limit market demand, especially as consumers reassess their budgets during economic downturns. However, there is a rising demand for personalized products catering to individual health goals and lifestyles, spanning from general value-added features to data-driven recommendations. ‘Moreover, with shifting demographics, such as an aging population, there are opportunities to innovate in life-stage nutrition by creating products tailored to address prevalent health concerns in different age groups. Balancing these factors is crucial for successfully integrating holistic nutrition into the evolving landscape of the consumer industry,’ adds Egberto Torres, CEO at Suiza Dairy Corp P.Rico (part of Gloria Group Peru).

From Planted’s perspective, one of the key challenges is overcoming consumer perception and education. Many consumers may not fully understand the health benefits of holistic nutrition or how it can fit into their daily lives. Therefore, education and awareness-raising initiatives may be needed to encourage more people to explore this type of nutrition.

‘While challenges exist, the potential benefits of integrating holistic nutrition into the consumer goods industry are significant. The growing market for nutritionally rich and tasty products aligns with the increasing interest in plant-based diets and healthier foods. Advancements in technology and innovative ingredients provide avenues for creating appealing products. Planted remains committed to focusing on sustainable, nutritious plant-based meats that excel in taste and convenience,‘ states Vicky Kummer, Head of Corporate Communications at Planted, Switzerland.

Emerging Leadership Needs in the Holistic Nutrition Industry

As per Simos Louloumaris, Country Manager at Danone, Greece, this disruption creates the need to adopt new leadership skills and attributes, particularly for executives in the food & nutrition industry. In addition to essential skills like strong business acumen, team leadership, commercial and financial expertise, and emotional intelligence, executives in this field should cultivate new attributes.

‘Executives need to authentically embrace a comprehensive nutritional approach, promoting wellness with passion, while excelling in identifying and addressing diverse consumer needs. Today's consumers seek highly personalized solutions, requiring a blend of traditional methods (qualitative and quantitative research) with emerging approaches like social listening, big data and competition tracking. Deep sector expertise, encompassing regulatory frameworks, emerging technologies, and scientific concepts, is essential. An omnichannel approach is vital to meet consumer demands for specific products and diverse fulfillment options. Building effective distribution networks and robust customer support is crucial for connecting with consumers across various touchpoints,‘ adds Simos Louloumaris.

‘At Puratos, through our initiative Taste Tomorrow, we actively track global consumer trends. In this dynamic environment, leadership demands specific skills.’ Antonis Salevourakis, General Manager at Puratos, Greece, highlights the importance of leveraging the latest trends, research, and nutritional advancements for a solid understanding of consumers and the industry. ‘Understanding human behavior in the modern era, especially in the realm of nutrition, requires a diverse skill set, encompassing various scientific disciplines like biology, neuroscience, and environmental science. This interdisciplinary approach is vital for addressing intricate health and wellness challenges. Effective communication skills are essential for conveying complex nutritional concepts clearly. When solutions are global, cultural intelligence becomes crucial to comprehend and harmonize with the diverse needs of populations worldwide. Maintaining high ethical standards, with a transparent consideration of the impact of decisions on individuals and society, is of significant importance.‘

‘To meet market demands, a rethinking of food innovation is required. Quick market launches and smaller upfront investments are prerequisites for success. This in turn requires flexible production options, even in small quantities, and iteration. The leadership task in this rapidly changing system is demanding. The ability to think entrepreneurially and with a certain “beginner's mind” is at least as important today as experience,‘ adds Marcin Niedzielski, CEO & Co-Founder at Agilery, Switzerland.

Summary

The future of holistic nutrition in the consumer industry looks dynamic, with a continued shift toward healthier snacks. Anticipated trends include a focus on diverse well-being aspects and innovations in technology and ingredients. Companies emphasizing transparency and sustainability are poised to gain a competitive edge, especially in the growing market for nutritious, plant-based products. The role of executives is evolving, requiring skills in social listening, big data analysis and regulatory understanding. Overall, the future envisions a redefined approach to leadership and continued growth in the holistic nutrition landscape.

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