As concern about the environment rises, or – more cynically – as marketers look for new ways to entice customers, the link between what is good for us and what is good for the planet has grown. Organic, natural and plant-based options are becoming a more prominent part of the supermarket vista. We see signals in the ubiquity of brands such as Hippeas (organic chickpea snacks) and Rude Health, which were previously only common at health food shops, in supermarkets, while bigger brands jostle to position their products in the ‘natural’ space. Even Babybel, a cheese which (if not processed) would be an odd choice for a dinner party, has an organic version of the classic snack. However, how do consumers feel about their health and wellness? Is fitness as aspirational as it once was, or do we have bigger fish to fry? Are people really consuming more conscientiously – or just claiming to?
Nearly nine in ten people want to be fitter. This is becoming a near unifying concern in some areas; in China and Indonesia more than 95% want to improve their physical health. This is unsurprisingly higher among older generations, though not by as much as one might assume. Baby Boomers are only 3% more likely to want to be fitter than Gen Z. This perhaps bodes well for the 75% of us who find that, the older we get, the more we worry about our health. The feeling that we need to do more to look after ourselves is equally strong among all age groups; peak fitness, it seems, eludes us all.
Eight in ten think eating right is central to good health, but at the same time there is a global obesity and diabetes crisis. Concern is not leading to meaningful change. There is a generational difference too: Baby Boomers are 7% more likely than Gen Z to agree that good food is the route to good health.
However, when it comes to food and the environment, the opposite is true. Despite Gen Z’s youthful disregard for healthy eating, they are most likely to make it a priority to eat organic – 6% more so than Baby Boomers. Millennials and Gen Z are also slightly more likely to be willing to pay more for products that don’t harm the environment. This difference in perspective is even more pronounced in terms of strong agreement, where more than a quarter of Millennials and Gen Z prioritise the planet, compared to one in five Baby Boomers.
At a global level, interest in organic food and willingness to pay more for sustainable ingredients have risen since 2016, however, the strength in uplift among the younger generations suggests this sentiment will continue to grow – perhaps even more strongly – in the 2020s and beyond. Globally, we see something of a cultural convergence, with countries which previously valued environmentally friendly food such as Spain maintaining their position, while those previously below average, such as Poland and Great Britain, have been catching up (the latter has seen a 12 percentage point increase since 2016).
In the 2020s, environmental awareness will become something of a hygiene factor for all brands, as we move towards a more conscientious position globally. Climate concerns become more pronounced, it may be that the balancing act between our own health and the planet’s wellbeing becomes increasingly visible.