11 January 2019, 08:14 AM
  • What is ‘wellness’, and should independent retailers cash in on the growing trend?
Health and wellness: what does it mean for the speciality food sector?

It’s all too easy to write off ‘wellness’ as a trend which, for the most part, starts and ends on Instagram. At the time of writing, the social media platform hosted 22,844,321 images with the hashtag #wellness and that number is constantly growing, and yet this isn’t a passing fad and neither is it a philosophy upheld only by ‘like’ hungry teens and Millennials.

Although probably not definable as a ‘movement’, at least not just yet, the health and wellness approach has cause and effect throughout the food and drink industry.

Think about it: these days we’re all – excuse the generalisation – continuously wanting to eat better, look better and generally go about life in a ‘better’ way in terms of caring for ourselves, the environment and the wider planet. We’re waking up to the realities of too much sugar and processed food at the same time as the realities of the environmental and social impact of our actions. Your everyday consumer is conscious of the pressure to ditch plastic bags and lessen their consumption of unhealthy food and drink; as retailers, you’re probably looking to better support local producers (smaller carbon footprint) and find an alternative to conventional packaging and distribution. Believe it or not, this all comes under the health and wellness umbrella – it’s an approach, not just a craze for those who live and compete on social media.

The message is – don’t assume that wellness isn’t for you and your business. If anything, it’s an opportunity to cash in on the growing number of shoppers who are looking for quality, locally-produced products with an ingredients list and story they can understand; in short, probably exactly what you’ve been pushing for.

A couple of years ago it seemed as though we were reaching peak superfood – new foods with bold health claims were appearing out of the woodwork like never before, and trends like ‘clean eating’ and ‘raw diet’ were being adopted in full force by twenty-something ‘influencers’. That appears to have quietened as the realities of leaping headfirst into these lifestyles, without doing your research, are being realised, but what has been retained is a recognition of the importance of consuming simple, healthy foods. And if a product contains health-boosting ingredients, all the better.

While clean ingredients lists containing benefit-laden foods can sometimes be tricky to pronounce, shoppers are looking for formats which take the trickiness out of preparation. Enter Super U, a young brand launched by Charlotte Bailey and Sean Ali to feed the consumer appetite for nutrition without the faff. Charlotte explains, “We know that health and nutrition are becoming increasingly important to UK consumers and more than half of all UK adults state they now try to eat healthily most of the time (Mintel).“But we also know it can sometimes be a challenge to find interesting, easy to prepare and great tasting healthier options when we all lead such busy lives.”

The simultaneous development of the vegan market in the UK has paved the way for wellness products. “We’ve seen a real growth in the number of vegan and plant-based products in the market in the last year as shoppers become more interested in buying healthier options,” she continues. “These new products have driven sales growth of 14% to over £352m (Kantar Worldpanel), so it’s becoming a big category. Yet at the core of this sales growth are products that deliver nutritious, great tasting alternatives with maximum convenience.”

The seeds of Super U were sown as a result of Charlotte’s own symptoms as a coeliac, but the pair “soon realised that it had the potential to help so many more consumers. Super U delivers not just for people with digestive issues but also those who are looking to incorporate healthier solutions into their everyday diet.” As ever, convenience is king. “Our unique blend of superfood powders means that consumers get the maximum nutrition whether they decide to make a simple smoothie or shake, or get more creative with recipes including energy bars and desserts – it works in whatever way is easiest for the consumer.”

FROM THE RETAILER… Ben Aveling, Radmore Farm Shop

With January approaching we enter the zone of healthy living. It’s no secret that we all strive to get our health in check. The majority of us search for a way to detox and get healthy as fast as possible after a Christmas binge. The wellness product market is reported to be worth in the regions of nearly trillion dollars worldwide if you include every lotion and potion, so one would assume there is something to learn from this statistic, and that is that we all want to find the magic pill, potion or lotion.

In all my years of food retail and production I have had the luxury of having access to delicious and fresh food and have never felt the need to turn to a wellness product. In my opinion I feel that a lot of wellness products sell a promise that can’t be fulfilled and prey on our inherent need that we have to look for an easier and more convenient way to get nutrients and goodness into our bodies.

My experience is that good food holds the key to success in healthy living because your relationship with food and food processes are where the long term health goals lurk! My customer base would be pigeon holed into the ‘healthy’ category for sure, but this is very much because of their attitude to food and cooking. Sourcing fresh food, cooking from scratch and watching the amount of additives in their food seems to be all the wellness productivity they need. I would also fall into this category.

There will always be health crazes, magic lotions and potions but nothing beats fresh fruit and vegetables, quality meat and dairy products, whole foods and unrefined produce. I have no doubt that food wellness products are great for some people and hold the key to filling nutrient voids but my honest opinion would be to enjoy the products alongside a healthy diet as an added bonus.

In short, my opinion is cook and eat your way to wellness the old fashioned way with plates full of colours, variety and taste!