Food and mood:
Consumer motivations behind food choices related to mental wellness.

New HMT research in cooperation with Masters of Applied Cultural Analysis (MACA) at Lund University.

”It´s important to understand the consumer motivation behind food choices related to mental wellness, not only focusing on ingredients and claims. It´s therefore important to understand the connection between food lifestyle and beliefs.”

”From a trend’s perspective, we see that it´s a strong trend in holistic health understanding. We can also see how food is not just fuel but more a mediator between consumers’ society, and between the physical and mental connection.”

This blog post highlights the most interesting findings from the MACA research regarding the interaction between food and mood.

The MACA researcher’s specialty is to provide qualitative knowledge that enables a better understanding of the deeper emotional drivers for consumer behavior. Thus, this report does not provide quantitative statistics around consumer purchases but rather an understanding of how consumers understand the connection between food and mood and what they are seeking when purchasing food regarding mental health.

I met with HMT’s project leader of the MACA research, Ida Mao, who told me more about this year’s key insights.

Ida explains how: “The research showed how stress seems to play a huge role related to mental wellbeing and food consumption.”

During the pandemic, some people have been able to work from home. Working from home has reduced their stress level and enabled them to spend more time on cooking and on their physical and mental health. Others felt increased stress from lost job opportunities and family issues.

Ida highlights how the increased level of stress tends to result in less healthy food choices which then have an additional negative effect on the mood.

She additionally states: ”On the other hand, a good mood is sometimes related to selecting an unhealthier consumption which provides a quick boost in the mood. In other words, the unconscious mind accepts junk food as contributing to the risk of mental disorders.”

Food can also enhance our brain function and helps to improve our mental wellbeing, through reduced stress levels, anxiety and forgetfulness.

In the research the MACA students interviewed industry experts to include their perspectives on the latest trends and innovations. Talking to industry experts made it clear how the gut microbiome and the brain are communicating. Maintaining a healthy gut to boost mental wellbeing is scientifically proven and will probably play a greater role with an increased awareness of the relationship between food and mood.

Food that nourish your gut and mood! – click to find out more on HMT Instagram

Today’s restrictions around health claims in the EU create some barriers for companies to promote certain health claims, like probiotics and prebiotics. This does of course create barriers for companies to communicate some benefits around gut health, which may be a reason why we haven´t seen a boom in products communicating gut and brain health.

The consumer interviews made by the MACA students showed how tradition and rituals seem to be important when it comes to food and nutrition. Many of the respondents tend to go back to family recipes which both were associated with nutrition and comfort. Going back to the familiar recipes was also expressed as a way of saving time and money.

I asked Ida, what in her opinion is the main take-out that the industry can apply?

”From the trend’s perspective, we see that it´s a strong trend in holistic health understanding. We can also see how food is not just fuel but more a mediator between consumers’ society, and between the physical and mental connection.”

Ida adds:

”It´s further important to understand the consumer motivation behind food choices related to mental wellness, not only focusing on ingredients and claims. It´s therefore important to understand the connection between food lifestyle and beliefs.”

 


This blog post is written by Oscar Abelin

I am studying MSc. Sustainable Food Systems at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. I am now doing an 8-week internship at HMT and am enjoying the ride. Besides scouting shelves for interesting food products, I also love sports and emphasize holistic health. Thus, understanding my body’s interaction between food, exercise and sleep is of great importance for me.

I finish my master’s degree in the spring of 2022. For business inquiries please reach out at oscar.abelin95@gmail.com