Adapting to the changing game of nutrition

By Peter Wennström, originally published in Natural Products Insider

Holistic human and environmental health are changing the game for the nutrition industry, allowing for innovative brands to win in tomorrow’s marketplace.

When nutrition merges with sustainability, when consumer health beliefs are stronger than scientific facts, when small brands are winning over big, and when online takes over from in-store, will brands change their game in time—or will they wait until someone changes it for them?

Numerous companies have changed the game in the food and beverage market. For example, a decade ago, Benecol developed a global brand strategy that merged food and health, represented by a new generation of functional foods and driven by both consumer demand and scientific advances. The idea was that the addition of a scientifically proven ingredient should add value to normal processed-foods categories. The mission was to give consumers a complement, and even an alternative, to pharmaceuticals.

A few years later, Valio dove into the growing “free from” market with its Valio Lactose Free, where the absence of an ingredient created the consumer value. This was at the start of the global “free from” trend. It emerged as a reaction to processed foods that were perceived by consumers as full of chemicals and processing additives that were being shown to be harmful for human health.

More recently, Oatly has worked to move its brand away from “functional nutrition” and into “sustainable nutrition,” becoming an ambassador for change. Health is now merging with environmental concerns. The brand’s slogans “wow no cow” related to the environmental impact of dairy, and “made for humans” referred to the nutritional positioning that oat milk supported humans’ need for macronutrients better than cow’s milk. The subsequent legal battle with the dairies became another driver for the brand and underpinned its rebel position, which attracted a loyal following of disciples Oatly described as the “no milk generation.”

Oatly is a good example of the growing number of game-changer brands that have put change on their agenda and become easy-to-choose tools for consumers to make change happen in their everyday lives.

Globally, companies are looking for guidance on what direction to take with their brands in a quickly changing market, where health is merging with sustainability, driven by a combination of consumer preferences, technological developments and government interventions.

The trends are merging into a paradigm shift—a tsunami of change—where nutrition as a holistic idea has the center stage. It boils down to a simple question: How do we feed the globe in a healthy and sustainable way? This leads to other critical questions for the future:

  • – What is the role of food for health and wellbeing?
  • – How we will manage our resources?
  • – How can we produce healthier foods that serve the different needs and demands of all people?
  • – What role will nutrition science play?
  • – How can technology enable these changes?

These forces are changing the game for the nutrition industry, and each one will define a nutrition innovation strategy that can help brands win in tomorrow’s marketplace.

Wennstrom will be discussing “The Nutrition Game is Changing. How Do You Change YOUR Game?” on Friday, Nov. 9 at SupplySide West 2018.