Healthy eating felt more than just at meal time
Healthy eating is a trend that sure seems to have staying power. Its impact isn’t just felt in people’s waist lines; it’s also felt in the bottom lines for consumers and businesses. From household food budgets to what’s on the menu, dietary changes are making a big impact on the food industry.
Willing to Spend More
According to Choosi’s 2017 Modern Food Trends report, six out of seven Australians try to make health-conscious eating decisions, and eating habits changed for more than 80 per cent of respondents in the five years before the survey. People are willing to spend more to eat healthily, as well. Families are spending $5,000 or more annually to maintain healthy diets, Choosi’s survey found. That translates to nearly $15 billion nationwide each year. Fast food tends to be less expensive but also less nutritious. With more access to nutrition information than ever before, people are really taking a hard look at what they’re eating before choosing a meal instead of grabbing something that’s quick, easy, and cheap.
Another factor driving increased spending is sourcing. While in the past price might be the determining factor in the choice between two brands of the same food on a grocery shelf, more people are deciding to pay extra for a product that is sustainably and ethically sourced. Perhaps it’s a carton of free-range eggs, a couple kilos of grass-fed beef, or organic milk instead of a lower-cost alternative. Locally sourced products are gaining favour over cheaper preservative-laden imports. Also, many are eating more than the traditional three meals per day. Even as these micromeals are in smaller portions, they add up to an overall increase in food budgets.
What’s Hot, What’s Not
Even when eating on the go, Australians are making an effort to eat better, with IBISWorld market research report showing fish and chip shop sales declining as sandwich shop sales grow at a 3 per cent annual clip. High-sugar, high-salt foods are giving way to superfoods such as Kakadu and Davidson plums, quandong, and riberries. Common easy snack foods such as crisps are being replaced with such items as granola, unsalted nuts, or yoghurt. If a food is high in protein and low in carbohydrates and saturated fats, it’s seeing an increase in popularity thanks to healthy eating.
Australians are eating out less and cooking at home more. Forty-nine per cent of respondents to Choosi’s survey said they’ve been cooking more in the five years prior to the study. The rise of meal kit delivery companies has definitely fuelled that trend. Weekly subscription services such as Hello Fresh and Marley Spoon offer vegetarian or pescatarian plans or an option to eschew red meat. While meal kits still represent less than 5 per cent of grocery e-commerce sales, such services didn’t even exist five years ago, and the US market has grown to more than $5 billion annually. YouFoodz delivers premade healthy meals and snacks, as well as being available in groceries, and offers vegan options.
As people cook more at home, they gain more interest in food preparation and seek inspiration for new dishes. Enter the cooking show. Choosi’s survey found that 61 per cent of respondents watch cooking shows “often” or “sometimes,” with 74 per cent of them saying the shows ignite their creativity when cooking at home. Among Generation Y, 87 per cent of those who watched cooking shows at least sometimes drew inspiration from them.
Australians are still preserving such traditions as Sunday family dinner or Friday evening takeaway, even if the foods they’re eating tend to be healthier, Choosi found. With concentration on healthy eating, people are investing more time in food preparation, making their own meals to control the nutritional value and caloric content. While home gardens take time and effort to cultivate, they provide nutritious snacks on the go that are flavourful and far more healthy than processed foods.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2018 health report found that 63 per cent of Australians were overweight or obese in 2014-15, when the data were taken. The rate doubled from 1995 data. Healthy eating can help lower these levels, increasing life expectancy and lowering costs for the national health system.
Social media is flooded with self-proclaimed foodies posting pictures of their meals, and it actually does have a peer pressure/herd mentality impact, with 40 per cent of Choosi’s respondents saying photos on social media affected their meal choices. As you might imagine, that percentage is higher the younger the respondents were, with 64 per cent of millennials reporting an impact. Trying to take advantage of that, restaurants have begun adding healthier options to menus. New restaurants opening, such as Melbourne’s Supernormal, are skipping the bad-for-you stuff altogether.
Even fast-food chains are adding healthier items, such as the McDonald’s seared chicken tandoori wrap. In fact, as its sales in the US have stagnated, McDonald’s has taken to testing new products in Australia, where it has seen consistent growth. Its Create Your Taste platform allows patrons to customise their meals with an emphasis on healthy, “gourmet” items. A marketing campaign leaned into the change, noting how new choices were “very un-McDonald’s.”
Given the sheer numbers of Australians joining the healthy eating trend, especially among younger generations, it seems like one that’s here to stay. That’s probably not a bad thing.