When Less Is More: Two-Thirds of Global Consumers Follow Specialized Diets


Around the world, consumers are increasingly opting for specialized diets that address their desire to eat organic, low-fat, low-carb, or eliminate ingredients based on food sensitivities, allergies or personal convictions. Two-thirds of global consumers  said they were willing to pay more for foods without undesirable ingredients.



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Consumers want to eat in ways that address real dietary concerns, but they can’t do it alone. They need help from food manufacturers to offer products formulated with an eye towards food sensitivities and other specialized diets, and they need help from retailers to stock shelves with a proper assortment of foods that cater to a wider variety of consumer needs,” said Andrew Mandzy, Director, Strategic Insights, Nielsen. “This is a significant opportunity for food retailers and manufacturers, but even within individual markets, health and wellness is not a one-size fits all approach. Retailers and manufacturers need to identify high-potential segments and the drivers of engagement for these consumers and, then tailor their messages and products accordingly.”

Key drivers of these eating trends include:

Food sensitivities on the rise: More than one-third (36%) of global survey respondents say they or someone in their household have an allergy or intolerance to one or more foods. Dairy or lactose and shellfish allergies are the most common self-reported food allergies or intolerances, each cited by 12% of global respondents.



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Regional dietary preferences: Dietary restrictions are higher than the average due to both cultural and religious customs in both Africa/Middle East and in Asia-Pacific. More than 8 in 10 African/Middle Eastern respondents follow a special diet that limits their consumption of selected foods, with Halal being the most commonly cited diet. Respondents in Asia-Pacific are also more likely than the global average to say they follow a special diet and most likely to adhere to a vegetarian diet. Nielsen retail sales data suggests that many North American and European consumers are cutting back on foods that are high in fat, sugar and sodium.


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Food as medicine: Seventy percent of global respondents said they actively make dietary choices to help prevent health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol or hypertension. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer are expected to account for 73% of deaths globally by 2020, up from roughly 60% in 2001.