Three health and wellness trend hot spots for UK food operators in 2023 (and beyond)

With health and wellness trends continuing to evolve amid booming UK consumer demand, Egg Soldiers identifies and discusses three food and drink focus areas within this space for 2023
A collection of healthy foods and spices
Food and drink continues to play a central role in the broadening of health and wellness trends in the UK, with consumers increasingly dedicated to bettering their eating habits to reap long-term physical and mental rewards.

Here at Egg Soldiers, we’re tracking the evolution of these health & wellness trends to help UK food brands adapt to meet ever-growing and diversifying demand. The playing field has arguably never been bigger, nor has consumer interest, with careful analysis of four macro trend cycles key to plotting the trajectories of multiple wellness trend interest areas over the coming years.

By mapping the evolution of these macro trends – Economic Insecurity; Earth Impact; Technology Evolution; and Social Status – we’re able to isolate effective responses and reactions from the world of professional food and drink across categories, with our robust methodology and collective culinary expertise combining to deliver immediately actionable insights for clients.

This month, we’re keen to share some of our health & wellness trend insights, with our Insights Lab identifying three focus areas, with action points for food-focused brands and businesses in the UK.

Wholly Unprocessed
Jade & Joy's recently launched, HFSS-compliant 'Wellbeing' range comprises six plant-based protein bars that are free from dairy, gluten and palm oil. The range, which is low in calories and sugar, was "created to support the wellness and wellbeing of both the body and mind."
Natural eating trends have been on an upward trajectory for a while, with UK consumers increasingly conscious of the negative impact ultra-processed options have in terms of a healthy diet.

This has even extended to plant-based meat alternatives options of late, specifically those proven to have high fat, salt and/or sugar contents. On that point, expanding HFSS laws are forcing UK retail brands to reformulate existing products across a range of food and beverage categories, from soft drinks and confectionary to baked goods and ready meals, in order to comply.

And in UK hospitality, chefs are prioritising local, seasonal and sustainable produce to reach health-hunting diners, harnessing innovative zero waste strategies to deliver more with less.

Over the next five years, continued investment in both food tech and agriculture will aid the food industry as it moves away from much-maligned ultra-processing techniques, with more traditional preservation methods, such as air-drying, pickling and fermentation, also increasing in appeal for UK consumers.
Insights Lab: Action Points
  • Clean label wins
    Shorter, cleaner food and drink ingredient decks continue to appeal to health-minded consumers.

    To meet demand, emphasise 'all-natural' benefits and free-from attributes, with minimal processing techniques ringing true across generations.
  • Back to our roots
    The wide-ranging health benefits of fermented food and drink are becoming increasingly understood and valued by UK consumers, with the rise of Japanese food trends in the UK certainly connected.

    Look to traditional Japanese preservation techniques, which are synonymous with minimally processed, nutrient-rich dish components and gut health-aiding fermented ingredients.
  • Fibre first
    One of (many) nutritional issues with ultra-processed foods is that they are distinctly lacking in fibre.

    Fibre is key to improving and maintaining gut health, which has a huge impact on one's mental health (indeed, the gut provides approximately 95% of total body serotonin).

    Consumers are increasingly aware of the importance of fibre for a healthy diet, so formulate with the complex carbohydrate in mind.
Food Trend to Food Concept

What to expect:

  • Understand the state-of-play with Asian-inspired chicken with an expert-led overview, innovator examples, and a spotlight on potential opportunity areas for the UK market.

  • Journey with us through fried/breaded chicken seasoning opportunities, exploring viable retail applications and digesting analysis.

  • Discover a brand-new retail seasoning concept as an example of our 'trend to concept' methodology, with the team discussing ingredient builds and suitability for the UK market.

  • Understand possible range expansions, backed up by AI-led product concept showcases.

Sans-Sweet Sips
In March, Starbucks launched its new olive oil-infused Oleato range in the US, following on from its debut in Italy. Later this year, the range will also launch in Japan, the Middle East, and the UK.
In the realm of drinks, as part of the pursuit of reduced sugar, demand for a broader range of options driven by savoury base flavour profiles is on the rise, with consumers seeking genuine newness as an alternative to the sweet, unhealthy embrace of sugar.

For example, low/no innovators within the ever-broadening cocktail scene are enjoying increasing success with creatively savoury sips, often dovetailed by bold spicy notes and a shedload of umami (with some proclaiming 2023 the year of the savoury cocktail, period). Functional ingredients such as adaptogenic mushrooms are finding a new audience as part of this emerging scene, lending naturally earthy notes to richer, complex flavour builds while delivering appealing health benefits.

Coffee is also starting to enjoy more savoury spins, with Starbucks a particularly heavy-hitting entry with its new Starbucks Oleato - a range of coffees infused with premium Partanna extra virgin olive oil for a smooth, velvety, savoury drinking experience.

While Starbucks hasn't spotlighted any health benefits as part of its launch campaign, olive oil has long been associated with improved cardiovascular health, being rich in antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, which will only increase the appeal of the new offering for many health-hunting consumers.
Insights Lab: Action Points
  • Sideline sweet
    In line with evolving consumer palates and sugar's ever-negative health perceptions, look to give sweet flavours a less crucial role in beverage blends, exploring opportunities with savoury components to meet rising demand.
  • Bitter & Sour
    Along with savoury, consider both bitter and sour flavours, which are also on the rise in the UK, with various vinegars, distillates, shrubs and cordials being used by innovators to deliver intriguingly complex drinking experiences.
  • Back to nature
    Superfood ingredients such as seaweed, adaptogenic mushrooms, and ayurvedic herbs and spices are becoming go-to's for innovators in this space, with the rise of alcohol-free pairing menus in restaurants allowing for bold creativity beyond sweet.

Health, Personalised
Trifecta became the official meal delivery partner of CrossFit in 2022, gaining access to its 6,000 affiliated US gyms. The company, which targets consumers seeking to lose weight, offers personalised meal plans delivering the precise daily amounts of protein, carbs, and fat each member needs to reach their goals.
Personalised health represents a new dawn for food and drink brands seeking to reach health-minded consumers, with advances in tech key to the ongoing rise of this game-changing trend.

In the US, nutritionally personalised gummies are all the rage, with Nourished a market leader. It offers bespoke, plant-based, 3D-printed gummies on a monthly subscription following the results and recommendations of an online lifestyle quiz, which isolates specific health requirements.

This concept already extends to meal-shakes via the likes of Nutri-Genetix (US), which pegs itself as the world’s first genetically personalised nutrition shake; personalised meal plans from innovators such as Trifecta (US); and even hyper-personalised, AI-led nutrition planning from UK-based startup ZOE (which only this month received an extra £2m investment from Dragons' Den star Steven Bartlett).

Looking to the future, expect combinations of medical and cosmetic health benefits across a greater range of both food and beverage categories, with hospitality eyeing collaborations with tech innovators to bring personalised nutrition to the dining room.
Insights Lab: Action Points
  • Think drinks
    While gummies, tablets and capsules are the go-to vehicles for personalised vitamins, there may be opportunities within the beverage space, not just for vitamins and minerals, but perhaps even personalised energy for those seeking tailor-made stimulation for specific occasions.
  • Concentrate on convenience
    The key to keeping consumers happy and engaged within what is a complicated, tech-centric arena is convenience and ease of access. Ensure your offering is concise and easy to use, keeping health quizzes short and to the point. And, as ever, keep formulations as clean as possible.
  • Find a niche
    Consider personal health needs beyond blanket nutrition, such as sleep, gut health, oral hygiene, skin care, fatigue and bone health. Broadening your personalised offering to appeal to multiple consumer cohorts will give more weight to your operation.
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