Lanre Odusile writes that companies are making the necessary adjustments to meet consumer demand for healthier choices

Consumers are increasingly interested in a lifestyle focused on well-being. This implies that they are particularly aware of what they are putting in their body, what they are consuming.

This awareness covers their choices of food, drink, snacks, fruits, and other consumables. These consumers closely monitor the calorie intake and nutrients of everything they consume.

Data from Symphony Retail (a retail analytics company) shows that health-conscious consumers now represent 25-30% of all grocery store customers in the United States and Europe. A study by Food Dive, another retail research company, shows that 65% of consumers seek functional benefits in the foods and beverages they consume, omega-3 fatty acids, green tea, honey, coffee and probiotics ranking in their top five favorites. Ingredients.

Businesses and governments are also making the necessary adjustments to meet this growing consumer demand for healthier choices. The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity reports that the 2010 United States Health Care Reform Bill legislation requires restaurant chains to disclose calorie information on all forms of menu. This was caused by an increase in consumer inquiries about the calorie and carbohydrate content of various meals served in restaurants.

Companies have also taken up this challenge to satisfy their customers and also to participate in this growing category of activities. For example, health-conscious consumers consider plant-based foods to be healthier, and the plant-based food market grew 11% last year to a value of $ 4.5 billion, according to the Plant-Based Food Association.

The case is no different in Nigeria. The recent popularity and ubiquity of companies offering healthy snacks is a clear indicator of the growing number of health-conscious consumers in Nigeria.

Food and beverage companies, for example, have responded to demand for healthier options as people attempt to address issues such as obesity (including childhood obesity), diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and other ailments.

This has resulted in offerings like low-sugar or sugar-free variations of some popular drinks, including soft drinks and juices, malt drinks and even beers. These options provide alternatives for people who are consciously seeking healthier food choices as well as others who, due to certain existing health issues, should refrain from regular drinks but are unable to refrain.

In addition, adult consumers of combustible tobacco, especially cigarettes, opt for smokeless tobacco products such as electronic cigarettes, heated tobacco products (which heat tobacco without burning it), sachets, patches and gums. nicotine, and other reduced risk products. . Those consumers who choose to continue to consume tobacco products without the risks inherent in tobacco combustion, thereby mitigating any harm that would result from inhaling tobacco smoke, are able to do so due to the availability of these alternative products.

Dairy farmers are not left out either. Some people experience a certain incompatibility (sensitivity, allergy, intolerance, etc.) to dairy products. Many people develop lactose intolerance in adulthood (lactose is a major component of cow’s milk). Non-dairy milk has long been an option for people with lactose intolerance who want or cannot eliminate milk from their diet, with offerings such as soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, non-dairy coffee creams and the like.

Now, cow’s milk manufacturers have expanded the options as they now offer different brands of lactose-free cow’s milk as well as low-cholesterol milk. Interestingly, this healthier brand extension sparked competition among popular milk brands. Again, more choices have been made available to consumers looking for healthier choices or who want to avoid the discomfort of regular offers.

Just as research has shown in the United States and Europe, demand for organic food is also on the rise in Nigeria as health conscious consumers demand healthier food without chemical or synthetic additives or preservatives. Nigerian consumers are also increasingly demanding fortified variants of regular food products in their quest for healthier foods.

Why do these consumers choose these products? This is because they want to lead healthier lives and also reduce the perceived harm that may arise from consuming the regular offers.

This practice is a form of harm reduction, although in many settings harm reduction is viewed primarily in the context of drug or substance use and abuse. Harm reduction should indeed encompass the whole concept of improving health and well-being for all members of society.

Harm reduction can be described as a strategy aimed at individuals or groups that aims to reduce the harms associated with certain behaviors. It also seeks to address the social and legal impacts associated with policies and laws.

However, more and more people are taking up the challenge. As they have become more aware of the science of products and options for a healthier life or less risky options for mainstream brands, they personally choose to switch to their preferred options.

They choose healthier or less risky options for products that encompass dairy, soft drinks, beer and other alcoholic beverages, tobacco, confectionery, coffee, etc., and the results can be quite significant in many cases. many cases.

Current world number one tennis player Novak Djokovic rose to fame from a player who often retired mid-match as arguably the greatest tennis player in men’s tennis history because he discovered – perhaps by chance – his gluten allergy and switched to gluten. free plan. Gluten, present in wheat products, proved to be harmful for him and he chose to reduce the damage by opting for gluten-free alternatives,

Harm reduction policies and practices or products are based on a strong body of evidence, supported by scientific evidence, that shows that products and interventions are practical, achievable and effective in delivering safer, healthier or healthier outcomes. less risky to consumers who switch to these products or adopt the lifestyle changes.

However, in order for health-conscious consumers to freely switch to their preferred alternatives or less risky options, it is imperative that alternative products are readily available and that national and regional laws or policies do not interfere with human rights. consumers to access these alternatives.

Odusile is a specialist in public health communication



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