10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition & Health 2017

10 Key Trends 2017 Report Cover

Which are the real GROWTH trends in food and health?

The ones that will still matter 5 years from now?

Our annual trend survey, now in its 20th year, gives you the answers.

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Recent Case Studies You can catch the wave but you can’t create it If you think that your company’s ownership of a long-established brand – known and loved by consumers, backed by significant marketing and distribution muscle and holding a market-leading position – is a reliable and continuing source of competitive advantage, think again. read more Can makeover spark digestive health giant’s stalled sales? What do you do when you have built the world’s biggest digestive health yoghurt brand, made it a pillar of your business and then that brand hits maturity – or worse, starts to decline? Faced with this challenge, Danone believes that it can breathe new life into its 25 year-old Activia brand. read more Fermented drinks find their rhythm? Founded by a pair of entrepreneurs, Rhythm is using HPP to create a product that joins the dots on a number of trends – dairy-free, coconut, fermented with a variety of cultures. read more Is the time right for “hummus cheese”? Product developer Jenny Hogan never thought she’d launch her own food brand, but demand from friends and family for her cashew nut spreads with probiotics wouldn’t go away – and she realized the time was right for a plant-based alternative to dairy spreads. read more Australians embrace the trendy turmeric latte The rapid emergence of turmeric as the next big “naturally functional” ingredient success is a perfect example of how you don’t need health claims to succeed. Today’s health-conscious consumer does their own research and more and more people have been discovering that turmeric is backed by plenty of science – particularly in relation to fighting inflammation (see NNB 10 Key Trends, Key Trend 5). read more Turmeric tonic pioneer builds on its roots What gives birth to surges of consumer demand for new ingredients? What creates new markets? Very often – perhaps always – it’s the willingness of entrepreneurs to create new products that make an ingredient familiar, that enable people to try novel tastes. read more Coke-backed start up aims to make aloe business glow Could aloe vera-based beverages finally make it out of the health food store? The progress of Coca-Cola-backed start-up Aloe Gloe suggests that they might finally be at the tipping point. read more Talking Rain keeps on sparkling By focusing on the idea of fruit flavours, water and zero calories and appealing to mainstream Americans who wanted something instead of diet colas that they could enjoy without guilt, Talking Rain has achieved a level of brand success which is getting more and more unusual – and done so while maintaining a super-premium price and seeing off competition from flat-footed me-toos from Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. read more “Milk” reinvented – without the cow A pair of entrepreneurial scientists have set out to reinvent milk with a milk-like drink manufactured from dairy proteins but not from animal products. It will be a complicated idea to sell to consumers, so either they have come up with a solution for modern nutritional and ideological sensibilities – or a pipe dream that ultimately fails because of its ambiguity. read more Cutting sugars’ calorie sting Food and beverage brands looking for ways to cut sugar from their products have shied away from artificial sweeteners but often experienced mixed results with natural sweeteners such as stevia. read more
Activity trackers: game changers or bathroom scales for the 21st century?
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Activity trackers: game changers or bathroom scales for the 21st century?

After millions of dollars of investment and hundreds of thousands of hours of work by code-writers and engineers, it looks as if we might have re-invented the bathroom scales.

Admittedly, what we have now is shinier, hi-tech, and more portable. But also more expensive than traditional bathroom scales.

Personal activity trackers such as Fitbit, Apple Watch and others are much-loved by fitness-oriented 20-35 year-olds, helping them keep track of their personal best runs, cycle-rides, steps or whatever.

Silicon Valley and the world of tech loves to promote itself as “game-changing” and making the world a better place in which technology is “the answer” to whatever problems we messy humans have. But the great hope that trackers could help fight the overweight crisis is beginning to look over-blown.

The unthinking naivety of the tech world was neatly summarized by a professor of preventative medicine at the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre, who was quoted in USA Today as saying: “If you put a scale in someone’s bathroom, that doesn’t mean they are going to lose weight. The tracker is not going to tie your running shoes and move your feet.”

The evidence? A study published in the medical journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology1 investigated the extent which an activity tracker – with or without cash incentives – could increase physical activity and improve health outcomes among working people during a 6-month period.

Employees from 13 organizations in Singapore were randomized into 4 study groups, ranging from a control (with no tracker) to a group that was given a tracker plus cash payments if they logged more than 50,000 steps per week.

The result? No evidence of improved health outcomes because of the trackers. Within 6 months, 40% abandoned the Fitbit and by month 12 that number increased to 90%.

The researchers say that because there are beneficial effects among participants in the Fitbit group at month 12 (despite the lack of wear), it is possible that participants wore the unit for a brief period of time, learned about their activity patterns, and then stopped wearing it.

The cash incentive was most effective at increasing physical activity, but this effect stopped after the cash payments stopped.

Another study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association2 , investigated the effect of wearable technology on weight loss, body composition, fitness, physical activity, and dietary intake over 24 months among 470 adults aged 18-35.

The 470 participants were divided between a group that followed a conventional behavioral weight loss intervention and another that had the added advantage of wearable technology.

The result? Both groups had significant improvements in body composition, fitness, physical activity, and diet.

But the conventional weight-loss group had an average 5.9kg weight loss after 24 months in comparison to 3.5kg in the technology-enhanced group.

The PR engines of the tech companies behind the tracker market burst into life, with their own critique of the study results: “We would strongly caution against any conclusion that these findings apply to the wearable technology category as a whole.”

As health researchers, food companies, drug makers and doctors know very well, there’s no magic bullet when it comes to fighting overweight and obesity. It has to be tackled from many different angles. The tech industry has overlooked this complexity and may have over-promised in its excitement about its gadgets.

It’s people taking action that produces change. Technology is not “the answer”. Technology can at best be a handy tool to back up people’s own efforts – rather like a set of bathroom scales, perhaps.

1 Effectiveness of activity trackers with and without incentives to increase physical activity (TRIPPA): a randomized controlled trial. Finkelstein et al. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol 2016; 4: 983–95

2 Effect of Wearable Technology Combined With a Lifestyle Intervention on Long-term Weight Loss, The IDEA Randomized Clinical Trial, Jakicic et al. JAMA. 2016;316(11):1161-1171. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.12858


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Julian Mellentin

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