Sleep quality was the most voted health aspect, with four in five respondents (82 per cent) prioritising sleep quality as important to their wellbeing.
Cognitive and immune health came in second and third, with 79 per cent and 78 per cent of the respondents citing these two as an important aspect of health.
A total of 5,000 individuals across seven countries, including China, Japan, South Korea, Germany, France, the UK and US were surveyed in August 2021.
The survey report, titled “The Global State of Health & Wellbeing – Volume 1”, was published by Nutiani and market research agency IPSOS.
A breakdown of the data from Asia showed consumers in China tend to associate good health with cognitive function, such as the ability to think clearly.
Consumers from Japan and South Korea, on the other hand, tend to associate good health with high quality sleep, Dan Luo, acting director of active living at Fonterra told NutraIngredients-Asia.
“In China, eating a healthy diet is one of the top three actions but in Japan and South Korea, consumers would prioritise high quality sleep,” Luo said when elaborating the steps that respondents said they would take to manage their health.
“The other interesting thing is that each market has a very distinctive definition of what being healthy means.
“In China, consumers are more likely to prioritise cognitive health, such as the ability to think clearly and having sufficient energy to go about their day.
“But in Japan, hardly suffering from illness or ailments takes precedence and in South Korea, maintaining physical performance is perceived as being healthy,” she added.
In South Korea, more are also consuming protein for healthy ageing in the last two years.
Nutiani is the health and wellbeing brand of Fonterra which was launched to offer nutritional concepts and services to B2B clients.
Luo said the company planned to conduct the survey again next year to monitor changes in market trends and consumers’ mindset, attitude, and behaviour towards health and nutrition products.
Factors affecting nutrition uptake
Eighty-eight per cent of the respondents across the seven countries surveyed believed that well-balanced diets were important in preventing major illnesses.
However, only slightly more than half of the respondents (56 per cent) chose to eat a healthy diet to maintain their wellbeing.
A reason for not consuming nutrition products was due to a lack of trust towards health claims made by existing health products – an opinion held by 16 per cent of the respondents.
Among the Asian countries surveyed, respondents from China were the most sceptical of health claims.
“One-quarter of Chinese consumers do not believe that the existing products have proven benefits, especially when the claims are related to stress.
“I think it is probably because a lot of products in the market do not really deliver the claimed benefits.
“But we also think that the lack of trust could have stemmed from insufficient understanding and awareness of the benefits of certain ingredients,” Luo said.
Another factor is because they perceive healthy lifestyles as too expensive, which was the case for 31 per cent of the respondents. Another 15 per cent said that existing products were too expensive.
As compared to China, consumers in Japan and South Korea were more concerned about product price.
“Consumers in markets such as Japan and South Korea indicated that price is one of the most important factors that they consider when purchasing products.
“But price was ranked lower in importance in China as compared to other factors such as ingredient list, clinical approval, and health benefits that the products claim to offer.”
Nonetheless, product price is not the sole factor. Across all seven countries that took part in the survey, factors that affect their decision to purchase a product include whether there is any long-term side effect, a lack of discipline (42 per cent), and busy lifestyles (22 per cent).
“The overall key takeaway for us from this research is that consumers' decision to switch to healthier diets is never solely based on price.
“Among consumers who choose not to adopt nutrition solutions to support wellbeing, they often cited preference to rely on their natural diets, concerns about the products long term side effects, and doubts about the products efficacy.”
Holistic health NPD
Luo pointed out three areas for new product development, namely 1) providing holistic health benefits 2) providing convenient product formats and 3) providing scientific evidence to back up the product claims.
In the case of holistic health, Luo highlighted that a product could strive to satisfy both mental and physical health.
“Globally, consumers are increasingly prioritising their holistic health, they place significant importance on all aspects across inner, mental, and physical health.
“This demonstrates their understanding of the interconnected nature of wellbeing, with a focus on holistic health. Products that are able to address multiple concerns are likely to appeal to today's consumers.
“In particular, consumers have shown greater concerns around sleep quality, immunity, digestive health, memory, and cognitive abilities.”
Preferred dosage formats
As for dosage formats, convenient, on-the-go formats would be preferred.
According to the survey, the top formats that consumers preferred were capsules, tablets, and ready-to-drink beverages.
However, consumers have a different preference when it comes to products for managing stress.
“Ambient, chilled, and frozen foods are among the formats considered to manage stress, many of which are available as Permissible Indulgence snacks associated with providing emotional comfort,” said the report.
Permissible Indulgence refers to products that are both healthy and palatable.
To encourage the consumption of nutrition products, the report advised brands to launch products in recognisable food and beverage formats, such as snack bars, yogurts and drinks.
“It is clear that consumers are prioritising their health and wellbeing, and preventative action is here to stay. The fact that many struggled to manage their nutrition as well as they would like suggests that existing products are not effectively meeting their needs.
“Coupled with consumers’ determination and interest in holistic wellbeing, there is a white space opportunity for brands to start delivering accessible and convenient nutrition solutions such as ready-to-drink protein beverages, to support them in achieving their health goals,” Charlotte Ortiz, Nutiani Global Brand Marketing Manager said.
Lastly, brands could also build consumer trust by proving the products' efficacy through randomised controlled placebo trials, as well as showing the provenance of the ingredients used.