COVID-19 gave proactive healthcare a shot in the arm

Focus on health maintenance and healthy aging is now front and center.

COVID-19 has fundamentally changed consumer attitudes about health. In short, it’s given proactive healthcare a shot in the arm.

Even before the pandemic, consumers were becoming more conscious about the impact of their current diet and lifestyle on their health. The pandemic, however, intensified focus, placing greater emphasis on health maintenance to stave off disease. FMCG Gurus research shows that any reaction to the virus amongst consumers is not short-term; on the contrary, consumers appear to have changed their attitudes and approach to health long-term.

More than ever, consumers are embracing the notion of healthy aging, seeking to become fit and active until as late in life as possible. This, in turn, is influencing dietary habits. Consumers want nutritious products they know and trust and can easily incorporate into their daily health regimen.

FMCG Gurus research in 2020 shows that 42% of global respondents say they have adopted a long-term approach to health maintenance. Many are recognizing that their diet and lifestyle are not as healthy as they should be, increasing the risk of immediate and long-term health problems.

For instance, 41% say that in the last 12 months, they have experienced health problems that impact their quality of life. Up to 23% describe their diets as unhealthy. And 52% say they are concerned about the amount of time they spend indoors on digital devices.

Even before the pandemic, consumers realized the need to make improvements; however, this realization intensified over the past year and will continue to do so. Indeed, 58% of global respondents say they are concerned about a third wave of the virus, while 19% believe it will continue to impact our day-to-day lives for years to come.

Before the pandemic, health goals were often aspirational and less urgent. The pandemic changed all that. Consumers are now questioning their vulnerability to disease and illness and looking to take steps to minimize their exposure to germs like viruses and bacteria. Research in February 2021, for instance, shows that 65% have become more conscious about their immunity as a result of the virus.

This highlights two key issues. Firstly, more than a year into the virus, instead of developing COVID fatigue or believing the pandemic to be sensationalized, consumers remain concerned about their health. Secondly, concern about vulnerability to disease and illness is not just restricted to those more vulnerable to COVID-19, such as the elderly.

In laying out their proactive plans, 76% of consumers say they plan to eat and drink more healthily as a result of the virus, while 75% say they plan to lead an overall healthier lifestyle. These sentiments have remained steady over the course of the pandemic, with minimal change in the proportion of people saying this in February 2021 compared to when the survey was last run in July 2020.

Consumers remain committed to leading a healthier lifestyle. When looking to improve their diets, they will most likely strive to increase their intake of functional ingredients while reducing those deemed to be dietary evils. Ingredient-led claims will become more influential on purchasing habits.

When it comes to diets, however, consumers can often demonstrate attitude/behavior gaps. This is why the prevalence of lifestyle-related health problems continues to rise despite more people than ever saying they are committed to improving their eating and drinking habits.

Helping Consumers Overcome Barriers

These barriers are still present in a pandemic environment. Research conducted in 2019 showed some of the key obstacles cited by consumers when trying to lead a healthy lifestyle: 1) healthy food is seen as bland and boring (31%), 2) time-scarcity means an overreliance on convenience food (45%), 3) better-for-you products are often more expensive (48%). The cost barrier is likely to have intensified as a result of the recession created by the pandemic.

This means that if brands are to truly help consumers facilitate healthy-aging plans, they need to ensure products are nutritious and hassle-free so they can be easily incorporated into daily diets. In addition to being convenient, affordable, and tasty, products must be high in good ingredients, low in bad ingredients, and carry credible claims on packaging.

Author’s note: This article is based on the following FMCG Gurus surveys: 1) FMCG Gurus Personalized Nutrition Survey (2020), and 2) FMCG Gurus COVID-19 Survey Series (February 2021).

Will Cowling is the marketing manager at FMCG Gurus. For more information about FMCG Gurus’ latest reports, including its COVID-19 survey series, please e-mail info@fmcggurus.com.