A meaningful impact on children’s health can only be achieved with natural ingredients at competitive price points, says Bobby Patel of Appy Food & Drinks.
The world of formulating drinks and competing in the current retail marketplace is a growing and increasingly complex challenge. Government-led ‘responsibility deals’ and public pressure has shed a negative light on commonly used ingredients such as artificial colours and flavours, and now sugar.
A significant increase in the rate of childhood obesity and type II diabetes is leading the UK government, health authorities and brand owners to think seriously about the use of sugar in their products and reducing overall levels. Yet, making customers aware of healthy eating still represents a great challenge in this country, where just 12% of people get their 5-a-day, and there’s a significant increase in health problems due to unhealthy eating habits.
This situation is occurring with a backdrop of 1,000 calories costing £7.49 compared to non-healthy alternatives at only £2.50, according to recent research carried out by Cambridge University. It’s difficult to encourage customers to buy healthier products in this period of austerity. With the real cost of living on the increase, never before has the need for focused and exact beverage formula development been greater than it is now.
Many new food and beverage companies are entirely focused on these points and are taking the lead in areas where perhaps traditional and larger companies are failing, as they’re using old, established, cheaper solutions that do not tick what today’s consumer demands. Mums are now increasingly more educated and discerning in their consumer choices, especially for children, and are warmly responding to more responsible and healthy food options.
Another important factor is customers’ price expectation. With economic growth relatively sluggish and consumers more savvy in their spending patterns, many are still expecting stable prices conditioned against a backdrop of low wage increases.
Traditionally, cost and retail price have been somewhat of a compelling set of objectives and a very important consideration for producers, which has led to products sold by UK retailers having a mass appeal not entirely health-driven. Any meaningful impact on children’s health can only be achieved with natural ingredients at competitive price points.
Although producing healthy products at a competitive price is a challenge, it’s not an insurmountable one. New brand developers and existing ones are conducting extensive research to nurture and develop innovative products, utilising new ingredients and product formulations to create their brands. The above is only possible in partnership with the production companies, selection and standard of facilities, adherence to quality control standards, and health legislation (among other important contributing factors).
This has led to the emergence of a new ‘Mid Calorie’ category that allows trusted brands to establish their products as part of a daily consumption for all, away from seasonal, more niche diet products that may only appeal to one consumer type.
Cutting calories is key to today’s supermarkets, with -30% to -50% calories (with no compromise on taste) being the way the market is shifting. Brand manufacturers therefore have a responsibility, as much as retailers do, to help consumers by providing affordable access to better products for their families. However, consumers are still being taxed a higher rate for healthy products, and being penalised for choosing healthier options on the shelves – this, despite the products themselves being generally lower in production outlays.
With new, innovative companies leading the way by producing healthier and affordable products, other brands and retailers are being forced to step up and finally address the issue.
Bobby Patel is founder of Appy Food & Drinks. This is a personal blog and views expressed are his own.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2021
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