According to Mintel’s latest Healthy Lifestyles, Ireland 2017 Report, almost half of Irish consumers believe they are healthier than they were a year ago, indicative of the the healthy lifestyle trend that is sweeping across Ireland. However, obesity rates remain high and physical activity is low among Irish consumers, reflecting the fact that healthy habits are hard to adopt and even harder to maintain.
In this article James Wilson, Research Analyst at Mintel, discusses how brands can inspire consumers in Republic of Ireland (RoI) and Northern Ireland (NI) to improve their health.
The state of the nation’s health
Over four in 10 NI and half of RoI consumers think that they are healthier than they were 12 months ago, with 13% of NI and 17% of RoI consumers viewing themselves as a lot healthier, underpinning the healthy eating and living trend pervading across Ireland. This indicates that there is a gap between how Irish consumers view themselves and how health professionals view them. This difference could be possibly explained by consumers cutting out or reducing their intake of unhealthy foods and ingredients, such as sugar, and therefore considering themselves to be healthier. Lifestyles are, however, about more than cutting out one aspect and involves a holistic approach that includes improving diets, increasing physical activity and mental health. Brands that can inspire consumers to continue their healthy living habits for longer will create positive brand associations among consumers. Moreover, they could look to provide more resources to educate consumers on simple everyday changes that they can easily incorporate into their daily lives. Such an approach would likely be welcomed by older consumers, who may be put off going to the gym, therefore helping them to improve their overall health.
Concerns about ingredients in food and drink
Within food and drink products, sugar is the ingredient Irish consumers are most concerned about, according to Mintel research. Over half (55%) of NI and 59% of RoI consumers have actively reduced the amount of sugar in their diets in the last 12 months. Additionally, 39% of RoI and 35% of NI consumers have switched from sugary snacks (eg chocolate) to no-added-sugar alternatives (eg fresh or dried fruit) in the last 12 months, while similar percentages have switched from sweet snacks to savoury snacks.
This likely reflects the significant media attention around its impact on health and could explain why Irish consumers are reducing the amount of sugar that they are eating. While food and drink manufacturers have taken steps to reduce the sugar content of their products in recent years and prominently display low, no, reduced sugar claims on packaging, consumers are still concerned. Clearer labelling on food and drink products will make it easier for consumers to know how much sugar they are consuming. Such an approach will help food and drink manufacturers to demonstrate an increased level of transparency over the contents of their products and therefore assuage any concerns consumers have regarding sugar. Additionally, continuing to reduce the sugar content of food and drink products will help brands to tackle Irish consumers’ concerns and avoid punitive legislation, such as the upcoming sugar taxes in Ireland.
How consumers maintain healthy lifestyles
Cooking from scratch is an easy way for consumers to control what ingredients go into their meals and therefore better manage their weight. As many as 66% of NI and 71% of RoI consumers state that they eat meals that are cooked from scratch, making this the main way Irish consumers look to maintain their healthy lifestyles. However, this peaks among consumers aged 55+, while early Millennials are the least likely to eat meals that have been cooked from scratch. This reflects that younger consumers may not have time to prepare a meal from scratch due to their busier lifestyles, but also that they may lack the knowledge to prepare meals from scratch.
To encourage greater numbers of young Irish consumers to cook from scratch, the NI and RoI governments could introduce initiatives that provide younger consumers with the skills to prepare meals from scratch and improve nutritional education. Such an approach could be included within the school curriculum to help tackle the issue of obesity from an early stage. Brands could look to a similar approach, holding cooking master classes with their celebrity chef ambassadors and competitions within university campuses, for example, to further encourage young consumers to maintain the cooking skills that they developed during their school years and therefore reduce their consumption of typically less healthy takeaway meals as they get older.
Finally, choosing the right nutrients also plays a significant role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Over four in 10 Irish consumers use lean proteins in meals that they prepare while two NI and three RoI consumers in 10 include at least two portions of fish in their diet per week. This reflects that consumers are increasing their protein intake as a result of their growing awareness of the role that protein plays in maintaining proper muscular function. Overall, consumers in RoI are significantly more likely to meet their recommended daily five portions of fruit and vegetable, while consumers in NI are slightly more likely to track their diet and exercise using an app or wearable technology such as a Fitbit.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As a research analyst with Mintel, James researches and writes in the retail, technology and leisure sectors for Mintel’s Irish series of reports. His specialist areas include all things digital with a focus on social media and consumer shopping habits. He has featured in radio interviews and national publications such as The Times.
Mintel’s Healthy Lifestyles report is available to purchase. For more information on this report and how Mintel can help your business, contact Ciara Rafferty, Director Mintel Ireland on +44 (0)28 9024 1849 or firstname.lastname@example.org.