Health trends: Three steps to sort the fads from the opportunities for business success

As a new year starts predictions of the next health, nutrition and superfood trends are widespread but, before you start planning or developing your products take a look at how you can make sure these trends are a true opportunity to achieve your business goals.


The challenge of health trends

As a dietitian working with food businesses, one of the biggest challenges I face is creating nutrition campaigns that deliver meaningful business outcomes, for products developed to meet a specific health trend or trending superfoods (from now on I’ll lump both these under the term “trend”).

The challenge is two fold:

Differentiating your product

Often trends have no deeper significance than being on trend. As a result, differentiating your products from other products addressing the same trend is challenging. Often you’re left with one dimensional messages focusing solely on a single product feature that is the trend (snooze). Offering no compelling reason for repeat purchases or long-term loyalty.

Providing a true benefit

Health trends generally imply a benefit – higher nutrient levels, improving health or addressing specific health concerns. However, often this intended benefit can have very little impact on what you can say or the benefit your consumers feel by choosing your product. The challenge here comes from:

  1. The claims you can say about a specific food and its impact on health are limited and must comply with regulations
  2. The nutrients may not be those that are under consumed in the diet and as a result there is no compelling reason for your customers to truly need the product – its not solving a problem or creating a benefit they can feel.

While consumers may say they want it, that they value it or even that they’ll pay more for it – at the end of the day if there is no true benefit that comes from it (apart from the social status, Instagram opportunities or fleeting good feelings that come from being a part of the latest health trends) they won’t continue to buy or consume it.

Sorting the facts from the fads

Finding the right health trend opportunities is about identifying a trend that differentiates your product and meets a true health desire of your customers (beyond just being trendy), Creating awareness and usage of your product that ultimately results in a positive impact for your business.   

1. Assess the evidence base

The two key questions here are:

  • What evidence is there that the trend has potential to contribute to your business success whether its short-term sales or longer term brand trust?
  • What evidence is there that the health trend is addressing a true health need or desire of your target customer?

If there is evidence to suggest that either or both of these are true it’s a good indication the trend has potential for your business.

2. Identify the true differentiators

Find trends or ingredients that have true potential to differentiate your product or business by considering:

  • Is the trend something that your category isn’t usually associated with? (Think: snacking and vegetables, burgers and plant-based foods or non-dairy probiotics)
  • Does the trend have the potential to address a true health need or desire of your target customers? (Think: digestive discomfort, low calcium intakes in women)
  • Can you deliver the nutrient or health benefit at a level that your customers will see or feel a difference from using your product?
  • Do you have an operational or technological difference that means you can do this trend better than your competitors? (Think: convenient and tasty vegetable snacks, product customisation)

3. Develop with the end in mind

Start off by identifying what your preferred key messages are. From here make sure you know the product requirements to enable your key communications, messages or claims. This last step is often the most important as, what we can say about many health trends is limited by both the nutrition claims regulations and the science available to substantiate any health claims. Some considerations:

  • Can you currently make those claims? (That is, are they allowed by law? And if you can’t what can you say?)
  • What is the required amount of the substance you want to make a claim about?
  • Are there any other considerations for making the claim? (other nutrient criteria (e.g. NPSC) or nutrients that are important to consider for the health benefit you want to claim?).

With this you can identify the nutrient and ingredient targets you need to reach to enable your key messages. This can then be translated into the key ingredient parameters for your product and the start of your blue-print for developing a product that successfully addresses a health trend opportunity.


Follow these three steps to help ensure you find the true health and nutrition opportunities that support not only your business but also your customers in achieving their goals (And also avoid me (or someone like me) having to put the "nutrition police" hat and tell you that you can’t say the one claim you just developed a whole marketing campaign on).