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How health and sustainability trends are driving changes in customer behaviour

October 26, 2021

Consumers are becoming more aware of health and sustainability – and make more conscious daily choices

The Food Awareness Revolution investigates how the disruption caused by Covid-19 has accelerated trends in health and sustainability, which in turn, are driving changes in consumer behavior. It observes the rise in plant based and free-from diets, and the increased demand for organic, transparent and clean labels with reduced environmental impact. Furthermore, it highlights the increasing need for change in corporate strategy including product innovation and branding and marketing, to prevent businesses falling behind the curve.

Covid-19 has undoubtably brought upon us an era of change: from local businesses to large corporates, the winning strategy for the future is very different than it was a few years ago – and the food industry is no exception. Consumers in the UK have slowly been shifting towards a healthier lifestyle, seeking increased personalisation, increased accessibility to information and benefiting from an increasing pool of choices. Covid-19 has pushed these trends into hyperdrive, placing a spotlight on the UK's health. And it's not just physical health, it's environmental health, food health, mental health, social health, etc. that are capturing the minds of consumers, drawing attention to everything from clean labels and transparent supply chains to carbon reduction and fair trade - it’s a growing market that is ripe for the taking. Sustainability has become an essential in this modern world, and for good reason, with many consumers changing their purchasing behavior based on sustainability factors. This increased environmental awareness has led to the rise of plant-based diets, declining consumption of red meat, and the continuing growth of the UK's organic market, which has more than doubled its growth over the last 10 years and also benefited from a Covid-19 boost. Not only are customers proactively on the hunt for sustainable options, but they are increasingly willing to pay to get it.

The pandemic has not only accelerated these trends, but it has changed the fundamental nature of what they mean. Pre-pandemic, consumers were looking for low calorie and low sugar foods, however, the focus has now evolved to encompass clean and transparent labels, foods that are high in proteins or antioxidants, and superfoods that are believed to increase the immune system. Consumers also have greater choice of healthy options available and are increasingly favouring brands that offer this transparency and who offer healthier options. Social media has, unsurprisingly, also accelerated these shifts with celebrity endorsed plant-base lifestyles becoming ever more present and influential in an increasingly online world.

Retailers and consumer goods companies are embracing these trends with the trialing of packaging-free refill stations, the development of alternative plant-based options and the adoption of sustainability targets to reduce plastic or cut carbon emissions. Furthermore, the UK government has begun to take action, having already commissioned an independent review in the form of the National Health Strategy and introduced restrictions on the advertising and promotion of HFSS (high in fat, salt, sugar) food, so we expect legislation to follow sooner or later. It is critical in any case for food businesses to incorporate these aspects into their strategies and adapt to this new world via product innovation, expansion via M&A, changes in branding and marketing to name a few. We at Roland Berger believe in the benefits that can be harnessed by adapting to this change – and we are here to help.

Read our report to deep dive into these consumer trends and see how companies can respond and create propositions which meet this new dynamic.

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How health and sustainability trends are driving changes in customer behaviour

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Covid-19 has impacted businesses and individuals alike, this publication outlines how health and sustainability trends are driving changes in customer behavior.

Published October 2021. Available in
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